Being a shopaholic, you might be finding it a bit hard to concentrate on just the history of Vijayawada, aren't you? So here is what the place has in store for you - beautifully intricate kalamkari paintings, woodworks, etikoppaka and kondapalli toys, leather paintings and of course the beautiful Mangalgiri sarees. The place is a heartland of age-old arts and crafts that has stood the test of time.
What to buy?
Perhaps one of the most famous art forms of this region would be the Kalamkari paintings, which are an endearing illustration of the regional culture. It is nearly a 3000-year-old art, where natural vegetable dyes are used to colour textiles - either block are used to print on textile, or motifs and patterns are hands painted on them. From animal forms to Gods in mortal bodies, this form of hand and block painting manifests itself in two forms- Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam style. The former style requires the use of a pen for a freehand drawing of the subject and then filling in the colours. The Machilipatnam style involves vegetable dyed block painting of the fabric. Beautifully intricate sarees, dupattas, wrappers, dress materials, wall paintings, curtains and many such things adorn the markets of Vijayawada, waiting to be picked up!
Woodworks are another one of the most popular crafts of Andhra Pradesh. The red sandalwood, which is widely known for its rust colour, is used to carve out several delicate products, are famous across India and abroad. Cutlery, jewellery boxes, trays and other household items along with dolls and deities can be found carved out of this beautiful redwood. These items are not just pretty, but also hardy and last a really long time! Be sure to check these out!
Etikoppaka Bommalu or Etikoppaka toys are made out of wood and polished with lacquer colours. These originated in a small village on the banks of river Varaha, and now holds the GI tag for Andhra Pradesh. You will find a wide array of toys to choose from, be it Ganesha or a bullock cart; grinding bowl to spinning tops to animal and human figurines - these toys are quintessential handicraft elements of Andhra Pradesh, which can be found nowhere else in India, or the world!
Leather puppets and Lamp shades are another hallmarks of Andhra Pradesh crafts. Goat and sheepskin are used to make lamps, clocks, and beautiful paintings depicting stories from Hindu mythologies of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The lamps are the most popular ones for their translucent, vivid colours used for the figures and the perforated design signifying pieces of jewellery, which when lighted seems like glowing gold!
And then, of course, there are puppets made out of leather, which is used for puppet shows and decorative purposes as well.
These wooden toys are made in a village near Vijayawada and are used in Andhra houses to decorate during festivals like Sankranti and Navratri. The softwood from which these toys are carved can only be found in nearby forests of Vijayawada, and the art itself is a few centuries old. One will mostly get to buy Kondapalli toys that depict mythological figures, animals, birds, bullock carts, and scenes from the rural life.
These much heard about cotton sarees with beautiful zari borders, and no designs on the body are local to this place only. One can find these sarees of varying qualities in various textiles shops across the city. If you are a saree person, you will absolutely love the uniqueness of these sarees!
Where to shop?
This street market on Kondapalli Road is a shopper's paradise in Vijayawada, where one can find anything from Handicrafts to textile to everyday items in one place. And the plus point? Shopping here will never burn a hole in your pocket, and you can almost always negotiate!
Lepakshi Handicraft Emporium
This is one of the most renowned handicraft emporiums of Vijayawada, located in the Gandhi Nagar area of the city. Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Corporation owns it, a state government-owned body and one can find all kind of authentic Andhra handicrafts here.
Besides travelling and getting yourself indulged in the history of this place, be sure to take some time out and visit the several hundred unnamed shops owned by the local artisans, that are scattered all across the city. Stop by, have a look, talk to the owners. More often than not you will get to buy much detailed, intricate and better items at much cheaper rates from these shops, than from some widely popular stores or emporiums! And talking to those people will give you stories, that you won't forget easily. Trust me for once, and leap.