If you ever find yourself in Hyderabad, please please please do yourself a favor and visit Shilparamam. Part crafts market, part cultural history center, part amusement park, part art gallery it has the combined effect of being so much more than its constituent parts. Built in 1992 as a means of supporting and promoting the arts in Andhra Pradesh, it has transformed into a place where people flock to see detailed exhibits and spend a day with their family.
From the entrance you find yourself surrounded by craft, jewelry and fabric stalls. You can buy a wooden Ganesha (clearer of all obstacles and he is, rightly, seated on the dashboard of our minivan for every trip we make, I think if Ganesha were not on board I also would not be), painted figurines, handbags, and pashminas. As I walked through the stalls I was bombarded with calls of “Madam would you like a Pashmina?,” and it reminded me of pretty much every market I’ve ever travelled through.
There is something very intimidating about that aggressive style of salesmanship. I might be interested in their product, but I don’t want to be forced into buying something and at the same time I don’t want to be rude. It can make for a very uncomfortable interaction. Also the haggling. I am so terrible at haggling, I need to come to terms with the fact that its an acceptable part of the market purchase but I always feel so bad for de-valuing their merchandise that I end up just suggesting what i think would be a fair price and then over-paying. (Neuroses aside I did end up buying a very attractive pashmina).
Moving on from the market area you come to a rock garden area or, as i like to think of it,: nature’s sculpture garden. Here they have collected around 20-30 different rocks that slightly resemble something entirely different (as you can see in the photos above and below). It is a surreal experience walking through that garden, and I spent some time just meditating about each form and if I could see the “sheep” in that rock. The vast majority of the time i could see the animal in the stone, however I never did find the anonymous face, maybe you can.
From there we strolled around a man-made pond with elephant fountains, their trunks aloft, poised to spout water but impotent; bathed by still green waters. Further on we came upon a sculpture garden with many different thought provoking pieces. Perhaps my favorite of which was a statue of a British red-coat, laid on his back, maybe 30-50 feet long tied down by wires a-la Gulliver’s travels. The children visiting shilparamam were climbing over him making the scene even more like the Swift story. Throughout the whole park were families with their children, eating and playing. The area was clean and without the overwhelming noise of the outside street. An idyllic spot in some ways, a surreal spot without a doubt.