Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kalakshetra - The Holy Place of Art

One week in India, and what a rich week it has been.  We are growing accustomed to our new home, to the new sights, sounds, smells and tastes.  We are even getting used to the new time zone.  I had my first good night's sleep last night.  We've had a lovely balance of activities and time to relax.  We went shopping and now have clothes that make us feel like we fit in a little better.  

    Dasa likes Kelley's new look, and so do all of us!

There are so many things I would love to share!  Perhaps I need to blog more often.  For today, I want to tell you about our visit to Kalakshetra, the Holy Place of Art.  Kalakshetra is located on 100 acres in southern Chennai.  "It provides a holistic education in arts amidst a serene and inspiring natural environment cultivating a spirit of reverence."

We arrived in time for the opening prayers under the Banyon tree at 8:30.  The prayers were in multiple languages, including Sanskrit, English, Hindi, Tamil and Urdu.  They were from a variety of religions, including Hindu, Christian, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikh.  It was a very moving ceremony, and visually beautiful with all the colorful saris and kurtas.  No photos were allowed, but I was able to get a photo of just the tree later.

Part of the Banyan tree we gathered under for prayers.  The tree is much too big to fit in just one photo.

After the prayers, we were permitted to wander around the campus, which consists of small open air cottages where the students gather to practice music and dance.  We watched and listened from outside, so as not to disrupt the learning.  We sat in the auditorium and watched a rehearsal for an upcoming dance concert.  I wish I had a video to share, but no pictures or video were permitted.  This will give you an idea The energy and precision required were impressive.

On the other side of the campus, the emphasis is on textiles.  Here we saw people weaving saris in both silk and cotton on big traditional looms.  We saw others doing block prints on fabric, dying fabrics, and finally hand painting saris!  The people here were very gracious and invited us in to take a close look and described what they were doing.  A few times we asked if we could take a picture, and they consented.  The gentleman who showed us around turned out to be the artist who drew the pictures the women were painting.  He grabbed a pencil and a piece of cotton and proceeded to draw a picture of Ganesh, free hand and complete in just a few minutes!  Amazing. We were delighted, and this is a place I will likely return to during my four month stay here.

The campus is beautiful, inspiring and serene.

The kolam at the entrance to the auditorium was quite large.

That is a garland of real flowers around the neck of the statue.

It takes a seven step process to fix the dyes.  Here a couple of the women got right into the water vat, and didn't seem to mind getting their saris wet.

This gentleman is weaving in cotton.  It takes two people to do the silk weaving.  The thread is so fine that many more threads are required.

Hand painting material for a sari.  All the dyes are from natural materials.  It takes 20 days to paint a sari.

In about five minutes this gentleman had created a beautiful sketch of Ganesh, the Hindu god who removes obstacles.


  1. Are you supposed to step on the kolam - or _not_ step on it? And trust you to find a big awesome enormous beautiful tree! :) Love the dance and the hand-painted sari. Thanks granny!

    1. It is okay to step on the kolam. They seem to last pretty well through the day even with traffic, and are done fresh every day. Its amazing how quickly the women here can do them!

  2. What incredible experiences in such a short period of time since you've been there! The pictures of the Holy Place of Art and the textile work are exquisite! Your pictures really enhance your blogs, and give us a greater sense of the beauty and uniqueness of what you are seeing!