If you would like to experience art as a cultural institution, visit Ramamohan’s house in Kumbakonam. There, he is keeping the ancient artform of Kalamkari alive and thriving. A heritage passed on from generation to generation in his family, he is now carrying the artform into its new age. Kalamkari originated during the Marathas’ rule over Thanjavur and was frequently commissioned by the royal family. It involves intricate art work on fabric, where the colours are extracted from natural sources such as flowers, barks, roots and seeds to make plant-based dyes on cotton. Even the brushes and pens are carved from coconut shells and bamboo trees – because any synthetic material will not have the same effect on cotton. Ramamohan and his team painstakingly create these stunning pieces of art at his studio, which are then washed and dried on the banks of the nearby river. The water of the river also plays an important role in giving the final piece its rich texture.