The serene and scenic district of Visakhapatnam is home to many riches, no wonder earning it the name ‘Jewel of the East coast’. With luscious green hills at one end and deep blue waters of the Bay of Bengal on the other, the region is blessed with natural beauty in bounty. But along with that, hidden in the nooks and crannies of our resplendent district are many man-made wonders as well. We bring you a few products from the city’s neighbourhood that bring us pride, national and international acclaim and always make us go Yo!
The ages-old workmanship of lacquer finished wooden toy-making still thrives in this little village of Etikoppaka. The products which include bangles, kumkuma bharanis, bangle stands, artefacts and toys are made from wood and then coloured with natural dyes extracted from roots, leaves, fruits, seeds and bark. In fact, the once-dying art has today gained global recognition as well. The AU Fine Arts Department, the National Institute of Design, Crafts Council of India and even the National Institute of Fashion Technology have been involved in designing and developing new products. The United Nations has conferred the UNESCO- CCI Seal /Award of excellence for Handicrafts to products from the region.
Araku tribal jewellery
From S-shaped anklets made of solid hollow white metal to jewellery made from coloured stones, Araku offers a wide range to choose from. While visiting the small traditional goldsmiths inside the region can get you the best designs, small shops run by the locals or the government are a good place to go shopping too. Besides tribal jewellery, you can access a whole range of candle stands, furniture and showpieces as well. And while money goes to the tribal community, the best part is that these products are completely eco-friendly in nature.
Made from wheat, milk, cow ghee, sugar and dry fruits, this is an extremely well-enjoyed sweet dish from the district. Made distinctively better in V Madugula (there’s a G Madugula as well!), it takes four days for preparing the halwa which can last for a month. The dish was made as an experiment by Dangeti Dharma Rao in 1890, when he was creating sweet recipes that could last a month! The halwa gained immense popularity, and today the fourth generation of the family keeps the tradition alive. While many vendors sell the sweet dish today and online orders are aplenty, the dish is best at the Dangeti’s shop!
Handlooms still thrive in various rural pockets of Visakhapatnam district, and one distinctive village is that of Payakaraopeta. A two-hour drive from Visakhapatnam will take you to this beautiful village where one can witness many weavers at work. Over 200 families still hold on to the traditional roots of weaving over handlooms, and produce beautiful saris in cotton and silk. However, lack of awareness and availability of better prospects have led many weavers to send their produce to Uppada, where ironically the Payakaraopeta saris fetch better prices. Also, many weavers and shops in Uppada place their orders in this little village so as to meet the high demand they need to fulfil.
The scenic Araku is famous for its coffee plantations and today many tribals in the region are involved in coffee cultivation. And they should be! Their product is highly in demand with tonnes of it being exported to European countries because it is grown organically without the use of any pesticides. India’s first tribal grower’s organic coffee brand called the ‘Araku Emerald’ is a globally renowned name today. What’s more, it’s just a 100km drive for us!
Located in K Kotapadu, Kottakota was once renowned for its brass-work. They would not only produce huge vessels and decorative pieces in varied sizes, but musical folk instruments as well. Over the years, with plastic and steel dominating the markets, the brass-work here lost both its popularity and market. However, what hasn’t changed since the past 100 years is Kottakota’s special status as the hub of tribal produce. Plates made from leaves (addakulu) are still made here and supplied to temples and wholesalers alike. Produce from the forests such as spices come to this quaint village, where weekly shandies are held to sell this produce. The village is also renowned for its wooden furniture, and whenever a wedding takes place in Kottakota or the neighbouring villages, furniture for the newly-weds is undoubtedly prepared here.
Another neighbourhood product that has shined its light the world over is Ponduru Khadi. Prepared in a small village in Srikakulam district called Ponduru, the khadi produced is extremely fine in quality because it is made completely by hand. This also leads to the material retaining its softness. With most of the village is employed in this line of work, it is surprising to see the agility by which they create the thread from cotton and produce fabric. Punasa cotton, a locally grown variety of cotton is used for their products which enjoy great appreciation both in Indian and International fashion circuits. It is also believed that Mahatma Gandhi himself had a strong liking for the khadi produced here.
Part of the Vizianagaram district, Bobbili is a small village that is renowned for its Saraswati veenas. The tradition of making these musical string instruments dates back to the 17th century, when playing the veena was a leisure-time activity and many women were well-accomplished in it. These veenas were said to be supplied by the Swarasiddi community craftsmen with Swarasiddi Acchanna, being the master craftsman appointed by the kingdom. Today, the craft continues by the descendants of the community as a small-scale industry. The instruments here are made from the wood of the jackfruit tree and because a single log of wood is used for carving the entire veena, they are known as ekandi veenas. Dried pumpkin is used as the base of the veena.