2017

Kottan Baskets and Athangudi Tiles: New Directions

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Contemporary use of heritage crafts

Chettiar Crafts: Traditional use of the Kottan, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Contemporary use of Kottan baskets and Athangudi tiles
Athangudi tiles and Kottan baskets are two primary crafts associated with the Chettiars, a successful trading and entrepreneurial community, mostly concentrated in the south of India. Their heritage has been shaped by their exposure to the world through trade and migration over a long period of time. 
Chettiar Crafts: At the tile workshop, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The art of creating Athangudi tiles is a homegrown craft that Chettiar patronage gave birth to; a local solution to the European-origin tiles that the prosperous trading community favoured.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The old Kottan baskets were an important part of various rituals and were also used for everyday use.

Chettiar Crafts: At the tile workshop, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Athangudi tiles
Tiles, which were otherwise imported, were made locally in the village of Athangudi, when the Chettiar community was at its prime. 
Chettiar Crafts: Inside a Chettiar Mansion, Late 19th century, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Fates turned and the Chettiars’ fortunes declined, which directly affected the local tile industry.

Chettiar Crafts: Inside a Chettiar Mansion, Late 19th century, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

However, tile-making did not disappear altogether.

Chettiar Crafts: Inside a Chettiar Mansion, Late 19th century, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

In recent years, small scale and exclusive productions saw renewed interest, giving the Athangudi tiles a new lease of life. There is a demand for both traditional and new designs.

Chettiar Crafts: Inside a Chettiar Mansion, Early 20th century, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

These tiles have gained popularity across the country and are transported to various locations to be used in the construction of private homes and heritage resorts.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Kottan baskets
Unlike the tiles, the Palmyra basketry is predominant in various parts of the state.
Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

This skill has been revived based on the skills and designs of the womenfolk in the Chettinad region.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The old Kottan baskets were an important part of various rituals.

With time, Kottans decorated with beadwork and crochet slowly stopped being made.

Chettiar Crafts: Traditional use of the Kottan, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

One of the rituals, where these baskets were used, were weddings. Kottan baskets were prepared to be carried to the house of the in-laws, along with other gifts.

Chettiar Crafts: Traditional use of the Kottan, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Gifts and offerings were also exchanged in these baskets.

Chettiar Crafts: Traditional use of the Kottan, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Offering of Areca nuts and betel leaf arranged in a heritage Kottan.

Chettiar Crafts: Traditional Kottan, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kottan baskets also found significance for everyday use.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Not only have the old designs and forms been revived, but the craft itself has also been reinterpreted.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Traditional skills are horned to make a variety of colourful and attractive designs.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kottan is now woven in a wide range of colours, into products of regular use and for gift packaging, for weddings, festivals and other celebrations.

Chettiar Crafts: Kottan baskets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A line of personal accessories like clutches, potlis and bags are also available.

Kottan is also woven into contemporary home accessories like waste paper baskets, trays, tissue boxes and placemats.

Chettiar Crafts: At the tile workshop, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about Chettiar crafts here:
- Chettiar Heritage
- Athangudi Tiles
- Kottan Baskets

Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Lakshmi Tile House, Ganapathy Tile House and M.Rm.Rm Cultural Foundation
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Ground Facilitator: Shalini Shashi
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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