Stone Carvings

Stone carving is an ancient craft of Tamil Nadu and the temples of Chennai are famous for their mesmerising stone carving structures. The stone carvers belong to the Viswakarma community and are skilled in carving idols out of black and white granite, locally known as karappu kal and vellai kal. The first step for stone carving involves stencilling the granite stone by cutting it according to determined lines. Once the final product is ready, its surface is cleaned and smoothened to give it a shiny lustre. It is then painted as per the needed design. The themes used in making most of the stone carving articles revolve around incidents from Hindu mythological epics. Some of the articles you can shop for include small dolls, animal figurines, incense stick stands and other decorative items. 

Stone Carvings

Wood craft

Made from fine quality wood, handicrafts of Chennai are known for their neat finish, impressive designs and termite resistance. Wood craft is popular across the entire state and towns like Nagercoil and Suchindram are particularly known for their exquisite articles. The traditional craft is used to make beautifully carved and intricately designed articles that help in adding style and elegance to living spaces. The attractive wooden craft items can also be gifted on special occasions. Woodwork in Chennai mainly involves the use of wood from palm trees along with bamboo shoots, cane, grass and reeds. Besides wooden barks, the artisans also use coconut fibres to make products like baskets, ropes, mats and other items. Some other articles include tables with floral motifs or panels with scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The handicraft stores in Chennai display a wide range of wooden artefacts and daily use items, which make for great souvenirs to carry back home. 

Wood craft

Shopping

There are many opportunities for shopping in Chennai. These include high-end boutiques, arts, crafts, souvenirs and textiles. One can head to T Nagar to shop for Kanjeevaram sarees and gold jewellery; Pondy Bazaar for leather goods, clothes for men and women and trinkets; Kader Nawaz Khan Road for branded shops and boutiques. While Ritchie Street is popular for electronic items, Anna Salai is famed for the Spencer Plaza Mall, which is one of the oldest shopping complexes in the city. There are a wide variety of malls located in Chennai that house international brands too.

One of the best buys in the city can be the renowned Tanjore paintings, an indigenous art form, which can be a great way to beautify the interiors of your homes. Wood carvings are a speciality of the city and you can indulge in shopping for various furniture and home décor items. Chennai is also noted for basket and fibre products that are made with palm trees, along with bamboo shoots, cane, grass and reeds. Besides the use of wooden barks, the artisans also use coconut fibres to make products like baskets, ropes, mats and other items. Found across the temples of Chennai, stone carvings are an exquisite attraction of the city, and tourists can buy souvenirs like figurines and sculptures reflecting duplications of those carvings. Moreover, there are many unique and handcrafted items available that make for great buys. 

Shopping

Government Museum

Started in 1851, it is the second-oldest museum in India and has an enviable set of archaeological, Roman and numismatic collections. Moreover, one can find exhibits of Buddhist ruins from Amaravati. A key highlight here is the Bronze Gallery that has sculptures from the modern times to the Pallava era dating back to the 7th century. Check out the statues of Lord Shiva as Nataraja (the cosmic dancer) and a Chola bronze figurines of Ardhanarishvara, the manifestation of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. There are several archaeological representations of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sculptures as well Anthropology galleries that actually trace South Indian human history back to prehistoric times! In fact, it is said that it has the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe.

Located in Egmore, the Government Museum is spread across an area of 16.25 acre of land. It is made up of six independent buildings and has 46 galleries. It celebrated its centenary in 1951 that was attended by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India.  This is an excellent museum that also has the National Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery and Children’s Museum. 

Government Museum

Cholamandal Artists� Village

Started by KCS Paniker, who was not only a legendary artist but also a revolutionary thinker, Cholamandal Artists’ Village was established in 1966. The village is the perfect place for anyone who has even a slight inclination towards art, culture and craft. So, whether you are an artist, art buyer, art lover, art connoisseur or simply someone curious about Indian art, Cholamandal Artists’ Village has something to offer to everyone. Housed within the campus are museums, art galleries, an open-air theatre, a bookstore, a craft shop as well as a restaurant where you can spend your time enjoying the essence of everything handmade. 

As you enter the quaint premises, the countryside and pleasantly refreshing vibes are evident. Just past the main gate, the sculpture garden dotted with absolutely stunning artwork in stone is a fitting preview to what can be expected inside. The pieces that range from traditional to abstract are not only magnificent in appearance, but also stand out in terms of their craftsmanship and finesse. There are exquisite pieces made of granite, wood and bronze. Some of these are the works of visiting international artists as well. The village also has two art galleries, the Labernum in the HK Kejriwal wing and Indigo in the Tulsyan wing where artworks are displayed. The pieces range from a wide variety of handicrafts to unique art forms, and include sketches, paintings, Batik, woodwork, terracotta, pottery and ceramics. The myriad items on display are sure to give you a perspective on the various kinds of art forms in the form of a pleasant art attack! There is an open-air theatre where you can catch a dance, music or a theatre performance. The amphitheatre is also used for poetry reading sessions at times. Apart from artists, books and coffee, you can also view the homes of the artists who reside here. Replete with old world charm and resonating with character, the houses are distinct and speak volumes about the kind of lives artists lead. If you are lucky, you may even witness artists teaching budding students or catch them working on their art pieces and also interact with them over a cup of coffee.

Cholamandal Artists� Village

Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore paintings are a great way to beautify the interiors of your homes and are presented as gifts on special occasions. They are an indigenous art form of Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu. They employ relief work and intense compositions involving religious figures and motifs. Semi-precious stones, pearls and glass pieces further add to their beauty. They are one of the most popular forms of South Indian paintings, which are known for their surface richness and vibrant colours.

This art form is believed to have originated during the 16th century, under the reign of the Cholas. Patrons of these paintings include the Maratha rulers, the Nayakas and the Rajus communities of Tanjore and Trichi and the Naidus of Madurai. The theme of most of the paintings revolves around Hindu gods, goddesses and saints. Some paintings also feature birds, animals and floral patterns. Done on solid wood planks, the main figure is painted in the centre. These paintings are also called Palagai Padam.

Read More
Tanjore Paintings

Kalakshetra

In 1936, the Kalakshetra Foundation was established by Rukmini Devi Arundale. The aim of this organisation can be summed up in her own words: “with the sole purpose of resuscitating in modern India, recognition of the priceless artistic traditions of our country and of imparting to the young the true spirit of art, devoid of vulgarity and commercialism." Several notable and famous bharatanatyam performers have learnt the art form here.  The place is a testimony of Rukmini Devi's dreams. She wanted to create a space where the Indian thought would find expression through artistic education. The institution is spread over 100 acre by the seashore. It is an important centre for the study and performance of fine arts. The Government of India recognised the institute as an Institute of National Importance by an act of Indian Parliament in the year 1993 and it is now an autonomous body under Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Here, the students are taught dancing and are educated to become more that just an artiste. Their training includes learning the right attitude to life and art. Across the road, one can also visit the Kalakshetra Craft Centre. One gets a chance to see Kanchipuram-style of handloom weaving, block printing and the art of kalamkari. The centre also gives an opportunity to tourists to join various courses and learn them. 

Kalakshetra