Humans of Kutch: Creativity and Color Overloaded - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Humans of Kutch: Creativity and Color Overloaded

Innocence personified - Girl child and her puppet toys

As someone who has traveled a fair bit in our incredible country, I know that we have creativity laden in every nook and cranny of India. And not simple creativity, but a rich one at that. However, it is quite rare to see a rich array of creativity in one small region. Right from weaving, embroidery, traditional oil painting, rogan art, leather work, pottery, black smith, making of musical instruments, mirror work, lacquer ware, applique to toy making and so much more can all be seen in the many villages of Gujarat’s Kutch region. That so much color, art and culture exists in a dry and un-forgiving salt desert is mesmerizing and sometimes difficult to fathom. But, what I learnt during my recent holiday to Kutch is that it exists for real and there is so much color in these villages of Kutch that sometimes I think it is possibly the most colorful part of India, may be even more so than Rajasthan, which is the place that we think of when we think of a color packed destination in India.

A journey through these rustic villages of Kutch and into the lives of its creative denizens is an absolute treat to the art connoisseur, that family holidaymaker, that culture lover and basically for many kinds of travelers out there. The above video will give you a sneak peek into the color, culture, art and handicrafts of these Kutch villages through my eyes and experience. The itinerary for this Kutch holiday of mine included staying at the festive environment called Rann Utsav tent city at Dhordo village during full moon, spending significant time at the surreal White Rann to see sunrise, sunset and moonrise, being bowled over by the the humility and the creative faculties of the handicraft specialty villages of Nirona, Bhirandiyara and Gandhinugram and the capital city of Bhuj which was also my point of entry and exit due to its airport. If you wish to know more about this region, its villages, its handicrafts and its people, read on and discover the different shades of some of Gujarat’s most vibrant and skilful people.

Rawan Hatha Musician from Rann Utsav Tent City, Kutch, Gujarat

The Rawan Hatha Musician at Rann Utsav

The region of Kutch has its own traditional folk music and musical instruments. The Morchang for example is an instrument that is used by the farmers to call out to their cattle and up on hearing it they would return home. This percussion instrument with a history of over 1500 years creates sounds that can be heard as far as 5 kilometers away. Playing and listening to it is an absolute must experience during your Kutch holiday. Similarly, there is the Rawan Hatha, an ancestor of the violin, and was played by the demon king Rawana himself. Made from humble materials such as the coconut shell, stretched goat hide, bamboo and horse hair, the Rawan Hatha creates music that is an absolute joy to listen.

Hussain Family and their musical bell creations

The Acoustic Family of Kutch

For over eight generations, this Hussain family has been creating bells and musical instruments from scrap metal. Their work is so precise and good that modern day acoustical engineers would be proud and they do all this with a hammer in hand, genetics and years of family training. I call them the sound lab of Kutch and a visit in their humble sound workshop in Nirona is an absolute must and here you can see for yourself how scrap iron is morphed into brilliant shiny copper bells that each emit different sound.

The woman who found herself on an Indian Postage Stamp in the year 1997

Her Face was on a Indian Postage Stamp

Khetaben Desarji Marvada, who hails from Ludia village and who currently lives in Gandhinugram village used to create handicrafts with her husband right from her younger days. Back in 1997, when they were exhibiting their work at an artisans gathering in Delhi, she attracted a press photographer’s interest who was absolutely moved by her colorful attire and traditional jewellery. They wrapped up their handicrafts exhibition and returned to their home in Kutch only to realize a year later that her face, courtesy of the photo clicked by the photographer in Delhi was on a 6 rupee Indian Postage Stamp. Today, she lives in this laurel with her family who do embroidery and wood designing.

Sumar Khatri and his Rogan Art creation, Nirona, Kutch, India

The Art that can be found in the White House

Their call to fame is that the Prime Minister of India gifted one of their traditional rogan art, a tree of life painting to the then president of the United States, Barack Obama, while visiting the White House. A 300 year old ancient art form, the Khatri family of Kutch’s Nirona village painstakingly kept this art alive in spite of very difficult financial conditions that forced them to find employment in other avenues. Today, this Khatri family has not only done an admirable job of keeping this art alive, but are doing more by training budding artisans to keep this Rogan art thriving for many more years to come. Influenced by Persian art and made from Castor oil and natural colors, the Khatri family definitely got a boost by Narendra Modi ji and Gujarat Tourism. I guess we can do our bit too.

Pakistani art form lives in Nirona, Kutch - handmade lacquerware

The Lacquerware artisans of Kutch

Living today in the Nirona village of Kutch, but hailing from the Sindh province of Pakistan, this poor Hindu family, has kept the ancient art of making lacquerware with hands and basic tools alive and kicking. While the women collect the laak (gum from the ber tree) and create the raw ingredients and the colors, the men do the physically intensive work of actually making the lacquerware using different kinds of wood. They make kitchen utensils, beer glasses, wine glasses, toys, puppets and much more. While the toy artisans of Channapatna are similar in art and craft, these artisans from Nirona do not use machines and are still following the ancient method of making everything by hand. Again, a very humbling experience and a great way to see an ancient art form up close.

A Nirona kid and her colorful puppet dolls, Kutch, Gujarat, India

The girl in the above photograph, she belongs to the community of lacquerware artisans from the Nirona village. She goes to school, but from time to time helps her parents sell their creations and goods when prospective customers visit them. Here she is sitting on the street along with other girls and showcasing the colorful puppet toys by her family.

The pottery makers of Kutch

The Pottery Artisans of Kutch at Rann Utsav

The Rann Utsav tent city is a great place to see a fabulous collection of local art, culture, music and handicrafts. Mohammad, hails from a family of pottery makers. Like his father and grandfather, he knows how to use his hands to turn clay into something that he visualizes. Not only is his work great to see, but his final work products make for great mementoes to take back home.

Women weaving her magic at Bhirandiyara village, Kutch

The Iconic Embroidery Artisans of Bhirandiyara

Bhirandiyara is one of those Kutch villages that is quite popular on the embroidery and stitching map of Gujarat. The women of this village are known for their rich embroidery skills. They make everything from traditional wear, purses, wall hangings, table cloths, bags, umbrellas, bedspreads and so much more. Whether it is rich vibrant embroidery designs, mirror work, good old stitching or applique work, the women of Bhirandiyara know how to make the female shoppers swoon.

The man from Bhirandiyara and his handicraft collection

While the women of Bhirandiyara are known for their embroidery, the men are known for their leather work. Using camel, lamb and/or goat leather, they design footwear, bags, wallets and more. And what’s better is that the women add their colorful embroidery to their men’s leather products giving it a special appeal. The men also take care of the merchandise selling and travel to various cities across the country to promote their handicrafts.  
Lakshmi Bain - the master weaver from Nirona, Kutch, Gujarat

The Master Weavers of Kutch

Lakshmi Baen and her son come from a national award winning family. Their family weaves magic using the traditional hand loom. Whether the threads are made of cotton, silk or wool, these artisans from Nirona village create magic with their hands to make shawls, scarves, bedsheets, wall hangings, towels, dupattas and so many products with rich colors and eye catching designs.

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