ARANYA NATURAL IN THE CARDAMOM HILLS
In February 2020, Aranya celebrated its 25th anniversary, and we were fortunate to attend.
In the midst of large tea plantations in the Cardamom Hills, Munnar, Kerala, India, Ratna Krishna, supported by the Srishti Trust TATA Global Beverages Limited, created Aranya Natural in 1994. The idea grew out of a need to educate and train the differently abled children of Munnar’s tea plantation workers. Graduates of these programs had few opportunities for employment in the area, however, and would need to migrate to the plains to find work. After some research, it was found that no organization in India had immersed itself in natural dyeing in an environmentally friendly way. It was decided to build a model for eco-friendly, high-quality and well-paid work in naturally dyed textiles.
Today, one can find a large, airy facility is surrounded by greenhouses and large fields of flowers and tea. The plants used for natural dyeing are cultivated and picked right on site.
When it comes to the art of natural dyeing, the work of Ratna and Aranya has become a focal point not only in India but for the world. Textile artists, fashion icons and chemists such as Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Axel Becker, Dominique Cardon, Michel Garcia and Linda Labelle make regular pilgrimages here for workshops and training in shibori, indigo, batik, tie-dye, and block or mordant printing.
During our visit in February 2020, the days were filled with lectures, workshops and fashion shows.