Monday, October 31, 2016

The antique market of Karaikudi

Huge and bulky  wooden doorways, Solid wooden pillars with chiselled bases, stone pillars with wooden carved bases, Burmese Teak  pigeon holed almirahs with safe, Japanese tiled wooden seaters, wooden swings, easy chairs,  brass kitchen utensils, imported porcelain cook ware of yore, silver ware, old Tanjore and Ravi varma paintings, sepia toned family photos,  Japanese tiles, door knobs, Belgium mirrors and so many more from small horlicks bottle to major items like printing machine , which adorned the Chettinad homes many years ago find their way to the  antique market of Karaikudi, making itone of the largest antique market of the world.

Unable to maintain the rich mansions, the inheritors of many such mansions sell their property and their heirlooms to antique dealers which find their way to a non-descript dingy lane which anybody could easily dismiss on first sight.  Yes, there are no boards or indicators to this market which is right behind the famous Muniswaran koil of Karaikudi. We did have a tough time locating this place although it was just 2 kms from our place of stay. But, it really baffles me how foreigners sense  such places and buy such valued objects. 

The best direction to this market that a policeman gave  was the " oorani" and I inspite of being a tamilian did not know what a Oorani was.  Oorani is the other name for water tank (pond). Oorani again is a beautiful example of town planning for this place  many years ago. Since this land is arid, the chettiyars have designed tanks to harvest rains. Such high thinking, designing  and  planning at times when globalwarming or other fancy term like sustainability was unheard of!!

Finally, we did locate the market and again i will let a few pictures speak. Some of the items like the huge burmese work table with pigeon holes to place envelopes, letters and other work related things  reminded me of my Thatha's work table. It still adorns my mama's home. The wooden almirah with japanese tile is with my cousin. The oonjal (swing) is at my mom's place. Furnitures that are so earthy, warm  so welcoming and soulful that it can remind us  of  our paati thatha's home. 

In this whole trip, i did'nt manage much decent pictures as i was more in awe  and soaking the ambience, these pictures below don't do justice, they are just  like the tip of an iceberg.

                                           An old phone, One of the furntiture dealer took us to his warehouse some 2kms away from this market, they have much more stored in warehouses.
                    brass antiques, old paintings of Tanjore and Ravivarma
                                               A printing machine
                              That gramo phone still works....what else can you spot?


  1. I wouldn't have known what an oorani was either.

    The gramophone must have been one of the earlier HMV editions. Spied an old Pallanguzhi set. But your pictures convey how much "marketing" is required. If you restore the antiques, perhaps just dust it and polish it, give the background of the piece, classify and label it, prices can rise sharply. Will benefit the people who seem to be selling it primarily for money.

    The phone reminds me of the piece in Falaknuma Palace. There's one of the earliest phones in India - if I am not mistaken it had a number like 001 !!

    For loving antiques, you have to love history Asha. How many in today's world care for history.

    1. The pallankuzhi, the belgian chandeliars, the wooden chest box, almirah full of imported porcelain crockery, brass flask, the traditional kottanz on the stairs and so many more in that picture....yes, these can be marketed well. It could fetch a fortune.

  2. I have heard of the word “oorani”. When studying Thirukural in school, the following kural was in our lesson.

    -The wealth that brings wisdom and kindness is like water filled in a Oorani

    These are priceless antiques.

    1. beautiful kural...this must be a sangam tamizh word.....i think i can interpret means wisdom and kindness is like water filled in a oorani..means keeps oozing out ...Right?

      I learnt tamil on my own although it is my mother tongue...hav'nt studied literatu

  3. Wow! This market would be a collector's delight. Such fascinating, beautiful and unique articles. How are they priced? Exorbitant?

    1. yes, this place is a delight for an antique collector. Not too exorbitant shilpa, Rightly priced i felt. A pair of teak antique pillars with chiselled wooden bases costed a lakh while stone pillars with wooden bases cost 7000. One can bargain too...their customers range from film producers( for shootings and studios), 5 star hotels to small time house owners with a love for antiques.