What picture does Rann of Kutch bring to your mind? The large area of salt marshes! The white desert! Most people do visit Kutch district of Gujarat for this unique geological feature. Some of them also take interest in Dholavira, the largest Indus Valley Civilization site in India. But history is not all about old ruins! Remnants of past is reflected through age old practices, culture and tradition. Here, in the Kutch area of Gujarat, the art and craft was highly developed in Indus Valley Civilization time. Being located near the coast of Arabian Sea, trade connection with the other parts of the world has been taking place since that era. Therefore, the exchange of varied goods, textiles and ideas had created deep impact on local craftspeople and they let their creative practices flourish over the centuries, through experimentation, development and evolution. If you are looking for an in depth exploration of this area, do not forget to include the Handicraft Villages of Kutch Area in your must visit list.
A Brief Idea on the Handicraft Villages of Kutch Area
Even today, while machine-made products are rapidly displacing the handicrafts, you will get confused which villages should be chosen for witnessing which art forms among the diverse types of mud crafts, embroidery work, wooden crafts, metal works spread throughout the Kutch Area. If you have just one day for visiting the Handicraft Villages of Kutch Area, then it is better to explore the most worthy ones with your own pace than hopping the entire place too fast. Nirona and Khavda are two villages, which we had chosen. Why this two? Because multiple art forms as well as the most important ones are practiced in these villages. Specially Nirona for the very unique Rogan Art!
The Art Works of Village Nirona
At first glance, it seems just like a hand-painted fabric. But if you go through the entire procedure, it will be a jaw dropping experience for you. Let me introduce the technique step by step:
- They boil castor oil for two days and then pour into cold water. A thick paste is formed, which is called ‘Rogan”.
- Now ‘Rogan’ is mixed with mineral pigments of different colours.
- The artisan takes a little bit of colored ‘Rogan’ on the end point of a stick. He beats and twists the stick so that the sticky paste hangs from the end like a thread.
- Now the artisan sets this thread on a piece of cloth by adjusting the cloth with the other hand and creates a design.
- The design is made on half of the cloth. Then the cloth is folded with care, so that a mirror impression is created on the other half.
The entire process is done with extreme care and intense skill. A minute mistake may spoil an entire hard work. I have seen hand-paintings in other parts of India, like Madhubani Painting of Bihar, Tanjore Gold Painting of Tamilnadu, Raghurajpur Patachitra of Orissa, Patachitra of West Bengal, Bundi Painting of Rajasthan. But the Rogan Art of Nirona is the most difficult and the most skilful one. Let us have a look how marvelous the outcomes are:
Well! These are quite expensive. And it should be. Think about the labour! The skill! The concentration! Nowhere else in India you will get to see this. Only in Nirona! More specifically only in one family of Nirona is still practicing Rogan Art. Most of the artisans are aged. Now they are running a workshop to teach and involve the younger people of the village in this amazing artwork; not to let it go obsolete.
As a traveler, we should also help them to keep Rogan Art, the nation’s pride, survive. Please do collect at least one artwork according to your affordability.
Another skillful spectacle of Nirona! Not just a painted woodcraft! Here is the procedure:
- At first they cut the wood in desired shapes. The shapes are usually circular or conical or cylindrical, so that they can rotate smoothly on an axis.
- The wooden object is placed on a hand-operated lathe and the artisan smooths its surface.
- Lacquer is a natural resin. It is heated, mixed with colour dyes and applied on the wooden object.
- Now the artisan runs the lathe again and keeps a delicate touch on the colored lacquer by the end of a stick or piece of cloth. The skillful movement and pressure of this stick or cloth create patterns of multiple vibrant colours on the rotating object.
It is difficult to make you understand the entire process by words, not even with the help of photographs. Come here and witness yourself. See what they have made for you.
Now-a-days, it is a decorative item for the urban home. But copper bells are used for hanging from the necks of cattle, so that the ringing sound helps the shepherd keep track on them. This artwork is originated from Sindh and here, in the Handicraft Villages of Kutch Area is practiced by the Lohar community. While strolling through the village of Nirona, we visited one’s house. The craft man demonstrated us how they shape the bells by constant beating.
His room was full with numbers of copper bells, even unusually bigger ones. His wife told us that the copper bells come in 14 different sizes and pitches.
Cotton Dolls and Jewelries
These are quite common souvenirs which visitors collect while travelling through the western states of India like Gujarat and Rajasthan. But it is always good to see and buy from where these crafts are originated and witnessing the artisans’ effort behind. This art is also practiced in other Handicraft Villages of Kutch Area; mostly by the village women. Even young girls take part in this activity.
The Art Works of Village Khavda
This is another women-led craft of Kutch area. What they do here:
- Unlike using the potter’s wheel, the ladies make their desired shapes by just hand pressing; though placed on a rotating stone while making circular dishes.
- The surface is made smooth by using wooden block or just by delicate pressure of hands.
- After getting baked in the sun, the potteries are coated with thin wash of geru (an earthy red colour).
- Now it is the time for painting motifs on the potteries by only clay-based black and white colours.
- The potteries are now fired in a klin to set the colours; not polished thereafter.
The painted pottery of Khavda is special because of this unpolished matte look and the use of only black & white colour on it. It looks like antiques of Indus Valley Civilization, displayed in a museum.
Like many others, Ajrakh printed cotton fabric is my favourite too. But very few of us actually know where it is originated from. It was not a machine-made product that we experienced in Khavda. Every time they had to place the wooden block or frame on the exact area of the fabric where it should be. It is difficult to concentrate while doing repetitive work. There were two types of wooden blocks –
- Big wooden frame for filling a huge area of the fabric. In time of use, it is held by two people from opposite sides.
- Small wooden block, used by a single person for printing small areas.
How to Reach the Handicraft Villages of Kutch Area
Nirona and Khavda can be easily explored in a day trip from Bhuj, the district head quarter of Kutch. Staying options are abundant in Bhuj and it will be easy to rent a car from here.
Bhuj to Nirona – 40 kms
Nirona to Khavda – 62 kms
Khavda to Bhuj – 73 kms