Yearly Archives: 2012

Charity Christmas Decorations from ASHA

ASHA Papier Mache Stamped Decoration

ASHA (Academy for Severe Handicaps and Autism) is a school primarily dealing with children with autism. Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around him/her. Children with autism have difficulties in language and communication, social interaction and exhibit behavioural challenges. A majority of children and adults with autism are unable to express themselves clearly. ASHA’s main aim is to help these children become independent in taking care of themselves and also in making use of their time productively.

One of the ways ASHA does this is to create vocational activities for its students, such as papier mâché work. A combination of shredded paper, gum and chalk powder is made into a clay-like material which is moulded into various shapes, then later painted and decorated. Arastan has been working with ASHA’s children to produce papier mâché Christmas decorations. These are now available among other Christmas decorations on …

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German Christmas Market in Delhi

German Christmas Market

Arastan will be at the German Christmas Market in Delhi this weekend, showing off our Christmas decorations and much else. If you are in Delhi we hope to see you there, if not then why not join in the festive fun anyway with some Christmas decorations from the Arastan collection?!

As well as lots of festive goodies,there will be German food products, home accessories, handicrafts, gift articles and much more: a Gingerbread House, German Rooftop Restaurant and Coffee Shop, German Beer, traditional German Christmas Cake, German sausages and potato salad, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and of course, Santa Claus. There will also be a painting competition for children, magic show by a German magician, Lucky Draws, Live Music and Christmas Choirs and lot more.

Come and attend this fun filled event with your family and friends!

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Caucasian Carpets: Realities on the Ground

Urartian elements

It has been a busy week in Armenia, and after having seen too many medieval monasteries and khachkars and carpets, and met with so many artisans and manufacturers and traders, I am exhausted and ready to go home. But I must not forget my primary mission here in the Caucasus: I came for the carpets. So an overall assessment of the state of the Caucasian rug, both old and new, is in order.

The musings that I have summarised below are based on empirical research, if we can call it that—what I have seen and experienced at several carpet factories and workshops, as well as many carpet showrooms and dealers.

An Art Revived: New Carpet Production

In both Armenia and Azerbaijan there are just a few carpet manufacturers who produce quality rugs using traditional hand-knotting techniques in significant (i.e., export-friendly) quantities. This is reassuring, because we all know and agree, …

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Christmas Decorations Galore!

Magenta Floral Snowflake

Last year it was a pleasure working on our Christmas decorations, and we had a great reaction from customers, so this year we have expanded and have been collaborating on designs with a couple more NGOs and our official “Christmas Decoration Designer” Kavita. Most of our decorations have now arrived, are up on our tree in Nandi Durga Road, and we will be showing them off at the OWC Christmas Bazaar in Bangalore this Saturday.

One of the new NGOs we have been working with is ASHA (Academy for Severe Handicaps and Autism). ASHA works to help autistic children become independent in taking care of themselves and to make use of their time productively. One of the ways they do this is through vocational activities, and in our case the children have created and painted beautiful papier mâché decorations. We look forward to supporting ASHA in the future and helping the children develop …

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In Love with Khachkars

Khachkar main

I’ve been in Armenia for just a few days, but already I am in love with khachkars. These elaborate stone crosses – both ancient and modern ones – are found all over Armenia. Next to the ever-present pomegranate, which appears in everything from cheap key chains to medieval friezes, the winged Armenian cross is perhaps the most ubiquitous and cherished symbol of this nation so rich in historical and religious symbolism. Its most characteristic manifestation is the khachkar – a large, monolithic stone sculpture that often decorates the interior or exterior of a monastery, marks a grave site, watches over a country road, or adorns a public square.

That a cross should serve as the primary signifier of Armenian culture is not surprising. Christianity is at the very core of Armenian national identity. In 301, King Tiridates III, who had previously persecuted Christians and imprisoned St Gregory the Illuminator for twelve years, finally …

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Architectural Wonders in Baku, Copper in Lahij, Caravanserai in Sheki

Caravanserai 19th-century engraving

Baku is a metropolis that I can only describe as grand. Its buildings are grand, and its ambitions are even grander. A meticulously restored medieval citadel – a warren of quiet cobbled alleyways enclosed by stone walls – is surrounded by a stunning urban landscape of impressive neo-classical buildings, wide boulevards and a multitude of fountains, all dating from the end of the 19th century, when Baku experienced its first oil boom. Here too, every brick and cornice has been painstakingly restored to its full splendour. And beyond and above all this neo-classical elegance rise awesome and highly futuristic new structures of steel and glass – the fruits of the current oil boom.

Some of them, such as the Flame Towers and the Crystal Hall, are at the very cutting edge of contemporary architecture, rivalling the ultramodern hyperboles of Dubai and Shanghai. (Check out this enlightening list of the noteworthy architecture that is changing Baku’s …

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A Day in Quba

Fatima and Aygun

Heading north from Baku, the grey, monotonous flatness of the Caspian coast eventually gives way to a more verdant terrain, tree-lined roads, and plenty of apple orchards, apples being Quba’s other claim to fame. Beyond Quba are forested valleys and the snow-capped peaks of the Greater Caucasus. The town itself is low and flat and muddy in winter and decidedly underwhelming. The most ubiquitous sight here looks like this: two old Soviet-era Lada 7‘s driven at manic speed swerve dangerously to avoid each other at an intersection. They come to a screeching halt in the middle, blocking what little other traffic there is. Windows are unrolled and an altercation seems about to explode when the two drivers recognize each other as acquaintances, and whatever acerbic language was about to form on their lips melts away into inquiries about the family. Small town life in a nutshell.

Quba was for long …

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Caucasus Reconnaissance

Pomegranate seller in Quba

Remember me? Several months ago I wrote a short primer on carpet motifs on this blog. I was a complete novice in all matters woven back then, and the blog entry was as much an attempt to educate myself as it was a presentation on the topic. I did it because my old friend Nisha – never a stranger to pressing friends, family and sundry strangers into unpaid servitude – realised that I was living in Turkey and at a loose end, and quickly seized on the opportunity.

You’re in Turkey, she said, so inform yourself about carpet designs. Later she said, casually, you should find out more about Caucasian rugs in particular, because they are striking and unusual, and I want to add more of them to Arastan’s portfolio. And then, quite brazenly, the Caucasus is so much closer for you than for me, why don’t you do a short reconnaissance trip …

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Banarasi Brocade, Mirzapur Carpets, Fantastic Samosas and some Soul-searching (Part II)

Revival of Old Saree Pattern

I like Banaras. Busy streets that are impossible to cross with beautiful old architecture mixed with 1960s utilitarian buildings and bustling. This is an ancient trading and tourist driven city and so has the good and bad that comes with it. I visited the by-lanes of the town and several surrounding villages that have clusters of weavers of the beautiful brocade you get in Banaras. Conservative heartland so loose fitted churidar kurta with dupatta recommended. The by-lanes were incredibly interesting and I so wanted to pick up some of the ancient bricks lying in broken structures but had to behave myself! Unfortunately many of the families have moved away from traditional hand looms to running the more lucrative power looms and the whole area reverberates with the noise.

One national award winning family in particular who work on revival of old patterns with Taj Khazana had the most beautiful hand-woven saree in the …

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The Silk Route – India Today Home

The Silk Route - India Today Home p1

Nice well-written piece about Arastan “The Silk Route” in the October India Today Home magazine.

Bangalore shop Arastan is a one-stop shop for rare art and craft pieces from across the world, discovers Ayesha Aleem. Tucked away in an unassuming bungalow in Jayamahal in Bangalore, it is easy to miss out the property that houses artifacts from around the world. Celebrating the fabled Silk Route particularly, this three-month old store is the brainchild of avid traveller and collector Nisha Misra.

Please click on the images to read the rest of the article, or better still come in to our studio on Nandi Durga Road and experience yourself “the retail stopover unlike other décor jaunts”…!

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

    You can read about the reasons for closure.

    You can still browse some of the products we used to have via the category links above, although none of these are available for purchase.

    Relive our travels and stories by browsing our articles and archives from the menus below.

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