Every year Shilparamam's crafts festival gets bigger and bigger. It's a formula
you can't beat - shopping+food+bargains. Of course, there is a lot of the usual.
But we're not complaining.
Looks-wise, things have obviously gotten more tourist-savvy, and unmistakably upmarket. Prices are as pocket-friendly as ever, but you think you're getting a much better deal, because you've seen the same thing at a department store, its price marked up ten-fold.
A major tourist attraction, the fair is also a favourite with any householder looking for a good deal. Tree-huggers and other persons of the green persuasion will also be happy with what they see. There is a major swing toward eco-friendly material, with jute effectively taking over the craft festival. Jute bags and footwear are hot buys this year.
Rajasthani jhoothies, wrought iron curios, and kalamkari paintings are as much in evidence as every year, and as popular. This year there is also a stall selling stained-glass paintings for as low as Rs. 350 per piece.
Then of course, there are the ceramics. Another section that always attracts people in swarms, the ceramics, like the rest of the fair, have also gotten more with it. Coffee mugs, soap dishes and even fruit bowls, in some pretty neat designs.
The best buys this year:
1. Toward the centre of the fair and near the chat stalls is a boy selling earrings for Rs 10 each. Lovely colours in glass, funky styles and some nice metal work. They won't last you forever, but that is one of their principal charms.
2. Pots. Where there was an unfortunate tendency to go overboard with ornate designs, there is a more sophisticated style now. The wide, squat mud pots ones (Rs. 200 each) are particularly lovely.
3. Handloom bedsheet stall, toward the beginning of the fair, on your right. This little stall has shades and colour combinations you usually associate with the higher-end textiles houses in town. And they're quite a steal at Rs. 350 for a double bedsheet. People, of course, still bargain, but we suspect that's just for the look of things.
4. A Rajasthani artist also sits along this corridor of stalls, and his paintings (at Rs. 90 each for fair-sized square ones) are a great buy. There is an entire series with the most fluid renditions of a dancer's movements and the swirl of her skirts. Plus papier-mache baubles, an interesting addition to your chritmas tree, and tribal pen stands (the demon series here, with the most droll monsters this side of hell). Artist Koushal is talented, reasonable and does not entertain bargainers.
5. Bags - plenty of them everywhere. Jute, cotton (with waterproof lining, thank god), and other eco-friendly bags are just about available in every size, colour and strap length. And the prices are pretty reasonable also, starting from Rs 15 and going up to Rs. 175 for shopping bags. Never has there been a better time to sling it.
6. Bamboo furniture, in the most rugged and minimalist of designs. And at Rs. 3,000 for an entire set of sofa, two chairs and a centre-table. Cushions you will have to buy seperately, but it's still a good deal for decorators on a budget.
7. Punugulu, at the "ethnic food" stall, which has Rayalseema dishes like
jonne rotte, and bringal curry, plus the fried punugulu, served with a
tangy chilli chutney. Very popular with the shoppers.