Shanthimalai is well-known as a wonderful manufacturer of Indian incense and cultural handicrafts. What many don’t know is that, despite selling tangible products, the organization is humanitarian in nature and their sole purpose is to help villagers in rural regions of Tamil Nadu. They began their journey at the base of the holy mountain known as Arunachala, where local village women and widows are taught to craft these products.
Shanthimalai crafts products such as their classic nag champa incense, nylon bags, embroidery, beads, tailoring, and palm tree work.
The Story Behind the Shanthimalai
Traditional Indian social factors dictate that young women must help their families and begin work at a young age and due to this, many of them do not receive formal education or training. This lack of education, training, and the impact of the dowry system often forces young women into low-paying positions. Their position can become even worse later on when their husband passes and they become a widow.
In many parts of India, it is still thought that widows are not supposed to remarry, and due to previously mentioned reasons, they are often unable to take care of themselves.
This led Dr. Hugo Maier to found the Shanthimalai Research and Development Trust, a charitable non-profit organization, in 1996 to offer help and training to villagers in the rural region of Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. Shanthimalai began as a day clinic and training center for health workers. Through the guidance of Dr. Maier and his wife Anne Maier, Shanthimalai has since grown into a comprehensive support system for 40 villages.
Despite being a charitable non-profit, they have a solid reputation for making one of the best (and my personal favorite) nag champa’s in the world.
SHANTHIMALAI HANDICRAFTS DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY
No.83/1, Chengam Road
Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu 606603, India
This article was last revised on 02/26/2020.