I’ve had a few IG comments asking if traveling with goMowgli was worth it and this is a prime example of why it was. Looking back on my trip, seeing how Mysore art was made and meeting all these artisans was one of my favorite parts. From watching sculptors use their imagination only to break down giant square blocks into intricate sculptures of Hindu gods, to watching the traditional wood work being made, and seeing incense rolled and flowers streamed in the markets, to watching silk and khadi cotton being spun- these are things in two years in India I’ve never seen and probably most people who even live in Mysore haven’t seen.
Update: goMowgli was a great tour company but sadly, five years after writing this they are no longer in business. Below, I have addresses for most places we visited but if you want a tour, you can check out this one on Viator. For more textile and craft tours in India, this post sums up some of my favorites.
Inlay & Marquetry
The Inlay and Marquetry workers were fabulous. We went down a small dusty road and peaked into this factory (although with only 10 people working by hand, is it a factory?) It’s called Sri Geetha Fine Arts.
Location: #1368 Mission Hospital Road Cross, M K Street, Near Hotel Prakash, Mandi Mohalla.
You had men who were starting with the raw wood prepping and bending it, women cutting out the shapes with hand saw- string things, and more people getting it all put together. When you tour royal places in Mysore this is the type of wood you’ll see. They make tables, statues, and even hanging wall art. The white bits used to be ivory but now they use plastic. Many families in Mysore own the antique ivory ones. Each piece of art tells a story, like this one which tells of Dashara. It’ll take three months to make a table piece.
When they apply shades of veneer to make patterns it’s called Marquetry, and when they put colored material in the base of the wood it’s inlay. I loved when they had the wood inside wood like you see here- almost like a puzzle.. or painting with wood if that makes sense.
The sculptors were equally fabulous to watch. One guy was starting from scratch while others were sanding the knees of their finished Gods. This particular shop has sold to the Royal Palaces for generations and will even show you how it’s done, after all there’s no way you’d even be their competition, they are magicians! I can’t recall the name of this place, but it was in Mandi Mohalla area.
How to Make Incense
I had never known how incense was made. Sandalwood is only grown in Karnataka and the government has full control over it. This guy’s family business is in oil & incense, with a specialty of sandalwood incense. You can’t visit Mysore without trying something sandalwood whether it’s soap or oil! Water was added to make this into a ball of dough-like substance then it was rolled onto sticks and dried. After 20 minutes, it’s ready.
Flower Market in Mysore
The flower market was bustling and I loved watching them string flowers. Some used needles, while other women wrapped the string around the flowers somehow to make the strands.
Weaving Khaddi in Mysore
Karnataka is known for Khadi cotton, while Mysore (the old capital) is known for silk. You can get both all over the state. I saw silk being made in BR Hills by the Soliga Tribe and Khadi cotton being made in Melukote (read more on Melukote city), which was amazing and I bought a few colors to get dresses made in Goa. I enjoyed the khadi so much, I’ll be sharing how to buy it and get dresses made in Goa in a whole post of it’s own!
silk weaving in BR hills
making khaddi cotton in Meukote
I was on this tour in part with goMowgli, but all opinions are my own.
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Fascinating! Labor intensive, too!
Yeah, it did look like lots of hard work.
I was just in Singapore’s Little India and one of my favorite parts of visiting any Little India is watching people string together garlands of fresh flowers. I’m always impressed by how much time and effort it takes to make them. I’ve also never thought about how incense is made. How interesting to get a glimpse into how labor intensive and detail-oriented all of these crafts are!
I’d never thought about incense like that either, it was so fun! I want to try to make my own.
SO cool! That must have been amazing to see it all still being done by hand. I love seeing true craftspeople doing their thing. This would totally make the tour worth it for me.
Yes, it was the best part of the tour for sure.
This was another one of my favourite places in India, and especially for the artisans. Travelling with the family, this was a great “low intensity” attraction to take my parents to!!
Great artisans! I particularly liked the intricate design of that table. India is a fascinating country indeed.
And the tables are soooo affordable for grown ups that need stuff for their houses – it’s what you’d pay for a basic one from a furniture store!
Well spotted. Very fluid review and quiet informative. There are many artisans are unknown. Their work takes lot of preserverance,aethetics and artistry. Thanks for bringing forward the hidden people
I’m glad you enjoyed this post.
Hi! I am close to Mysore and would love to visit Melukote. Which is the place you went to see the khadi weavers? Is the town worth a visit? Thank you!