The arts and crafts village Shilparamam at Madhapur in Hyderabad turned 25 on March 25;a host of events were planned for its silver jubilee celebrations. But with an indefinite closure due to COVID-19, the authorities have instead used the period to give it a facelift. Shilparamam had never been closed for so many months; we are using the period to spruce it up, says Kishan Rao, IAS, Special Officer.
The village-themed crafts bazaar was designed as a one-stop destination for urban folk to connect to their roots. It celebrated Indian elements and gave visitors a feel of rural life with its brick structures, thatched huts, walls decorated with traditional rangoli designs, natural rock formations, handicrafts stalls, workshops, sandstone statues, village museum, cultural events and an amphitheatre.
Rao informs that this restoration work has been done to retain the originality and spirit of the place. The beautification project began right from the entrance; the two terracotta horses that were installed 25 years ago were in a precarious position. We have replaced them with a new pair, he says and adds, New rangoli designs have been added to the existing ones. We have repaired, rearranged and got some new sandstone sculptures, changed the damaged thatched roofs, got the lawns mowed and lakes cleaned. Every space has been given a fresh lease of life to create a beautiful ambience.
A former lecturer, Marisetty Rajya Lakshmi has been visiting Shilparamam for the past 15 years now. She used to bring her 10-year-old daughter to watch classical performances. This is the best place to introduce music and dance to children. Unlike a closed auditorium where children can get restless, the open-air amphitheatre is relaxing. I have a good collection of handicrafts too, bought from the bazaar. Boating, watching rocks and lawns make you feel closer to Nature.
Visitors, especially students coming here for workshops, can relax in a new multi-purpose hall being constructed with water facilities. The Birds Park, a tie-up with Nehru Zoological park is being given a new look. Kishan Rao calls it a special attraction for kids. The bird collection was a haphazard one, hence we are creating an exclusive space in an organised manner, he adds.
At Mini Shilparamam, a branch of Shilparamam in Uppal, a multi-purpose auditorium with amphitheatre is being constructed to accommodate craft bazaars, cultural programmes, weddings and private functions.
Rao looks back at Shilparamams 25-year-journey with pride and satisfaction. He shares how artisans across India call the office to find out when they will open again. Shilparamam had been able to recreate village environs highlighting our customs and traditions; We celebrate regional festivals, especially Sankranti and Dasara, in a traditional way here in the backdrop of gobbemmalu, jammi chettu, palapitta, and puli veshaalu. City dwellers could relate to the space and felt like a home away from home, he says
The team had planned a photography exhibition documenting its journey and show how they have been able to uplift artisans from across the country and sustain their livelihoods. While hoping for normalcy to set in, he observes, We encouraged different arts; Shilparamam also positively contributed to the dance community and provided a platform for dancers like Alekhya Punjala, Mangala Bhatt and Ananda Shankar Jayant for them to become artistes of repute.
During the lockdown, Madhubani artist Rajesh Kumar Jha missed the buoyancy of the summer art workshops he conducts here. We used to come to Shilparamam in December to melas to sell our artworks. For the past six years, I have been taking art sessions for 50 children. I miss the excitement of preparing for a session and meeting new students. Ive heard that Shilparamam has a new look and hope to see when it reopens.
Rao informs he has been asked by the government to create such Shilparamams in Mahboobnagar, Karimnagar and Warangal as well. Converting abandoned/wasteland into a beautiful place is our speciality. We have identified such land in Mahboobnagar, he says, adding they plan to open another mini Shilparamam in Yadagirigutta. Irrespective of opening more Shilparamams, we plan to have craft melas so that we can promote craft persons.
He adds, I am driven by a passion to culturally connect; my only intent is to create a beautiful ambience which forces even people in a hurry to stop and experience it.