Bandhavgarh National Park is closed to tourists on Wednesday afternoons, making it the ideal time to venture into the villages and shops nearby to explore local crafts. If your lodge, like most, is located near the park’s Tala Gate, go to Tala village. Along with sal, bamboo forms a sizeable portion of the region’s lush forest cover. Nearly all of the 20 families in Tala village are engaged in bamboo crafts. When I visited one evening, three families were sitting outside their homes, weaving long bamboo ribbons into chic décor items. A lady weaving baskets was going to sell her wares at the Sunday haat at Umaria. Fascinated, I watched as a family deftly braided bamboo strips, to create a roof for Mahua Kothi, Taj Safaris’ Bandhavgarh property. Many responsible lodges in the area tend to use locally crafted furnishings, and commission the craftspeople of Tala to create thatched roofs, lampshades, baskets, and mats.
Tucked away behind a garden on the Tala main road, Malaya Handicrafts and Café was an unexpected find, crammed with crafts from across the country. Neelam Verma gave up her Ahmedabad home, bought a little space in Bandhavgarh, and proceeded to set up a shop and fill it with unique, handmade finds, which she gathers as she drives through India for 30 to 60 days each year. There are locally made carved wooden sculptures, Gond paintings from Madhya Pradesh, small bamboo crafts, Warli and kalamkari art, terracotta animals, and much more. I found it hard to resist all the wonderful items on sale and ended up stuffing my bag with gifts.
Malaya Handicrafts and Café
Address: Tala Main Road, Bandhavgarh
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tel: +91 94073 25100
Tips for buying local handicrafts
- Guests can request their lodge to order any bamboo products they like, and the lodge in turn will place an order at Tala village.
- Guests can also buy directly from Tala, but products of their choice may not always be ready and available.
Visit the Sunday haat at Umaria, near the railway station, if you are around on the weekend. The haat usually wraps up before dusk.
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