March 16, 2002

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Vasudevan Achary of Chakka, Thiruvananthapuram

Like Aranmula mirror, Nettur Box and Vechur Box are marvels of traditional Kerala handicraft.  These have their utilitarian value too as they can be used for keeping jewels.

For the last 40 years, Vasudevan Achary of Chakka, Thiruvananthapuram has been engaged in making these and similar artifacts.  For him this is more of a sadhana than a means of livelihood.  That is why he has discarded offers of better paying jobs to concentrate on his chosen profession.

These ‘Malabar Boxes’ – as they are known alternatively -  cost about Rs. 2000 each.  However it is not the price or market that is the critical factor.  There are enough buyers both in and outside Kerala.  The crucial factor here is the lack of trained artisans.  Earlier, Viswanathan Achary used to have a gurukula.  A few who were trained by him are now making these boxes.  But the new generation doesn’t show patience to learn the art, laments the guru.

The manufacture of these handicrafts is truly a handiwork.  The lock, nails and brass inlay are all done by hand.

Among other items Achary makes are, ‘Sacred Jewel Box’ for keeping jewels of deities in temples, ‘Kaalpetti’ for keeping cloths and cash, ‘Medicine chests’ for keeping traditional medicines and ‘Kathakali chests’ for keeping costumes of Kathakali.

In 1987 he had won the State award for the work depicting Radha and Krishna sitting on a swing.  His works are exhibited at many places in Kerala and outside.

It is hoped that his knowledge and skill will be propagated through his eldest son Suresh.



Courtesy: P.M.Binukumar, Kerala Kaumudi (May 3, 1998)

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