The Traditional Lacquer Artisans and Toy Makers of Kutch - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Traditional Lacquer Artisans and Toy Makers of Kutch

The innocent smile of a Nirona Kid, Gujarat, India

India’s cultural heritage is so rich that it sometimes boggles my mind. A case in point is the traditional art of making lacquerware. Lacquer, which finds its roots in French, Latin, Arabic and Persian is ultimately derived from the Sanskrit word ‘laksha’, which represents the number 100,000, the lac insect (because of their enormous ‘laksha’ numbers) and the scarlet resinous secretion that is produces. It is interesting how this simple art form using lacquer evolved in ancient India, China and Persia. Each of these three mega civilizations had their own form of making lacquer ware and then through trade (silk route, spice route, etc.), they picked up tips from others and improvised on their crafts.

Pakistani art form lives in Nirona, Kutch - handmade lacquerware

What we see today in our modern world is a sum of all these worldwide improvements. But, somewhere amidst all this modernization lie some hidden pockets where artisans still use traditional techniques and tools to build their craft. One such hidden cultural heritage of India are the traditional lacquer artisans and toy makers of Kutch, who might even be the forefathers of toymaking in Channapatna, Karnataka, another heritage hotspot of India.

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

Located today in a tiny village of Kutch called Nirona, these artisans are Hindus who migrated from Pakistan to Kutch many centuries back. Theirs is a family craft that has been passed on for many generations. Due to tough living conditions, remote location and lack of money and exposure, they hardly modernized their tools unlike the others who apparently learnt their craft and have mechanized the entire process. Which means that they still create their crafts using basic tools that they themselves have built by hand. The entire setup resembles a vice to hold the wood, a wooden rod based manual belt drive to turn the wood and metal based cutting and shaping tools.

Women from Nirona village, Kutch

Through these traditional and ancient techniques and tools, they create beautiful kitchen ware, toys, puppets and many other wooden decorative items. While the men in this family create the tools and the craft, it is the women who do the hard work of cutting wood, making the laak resin, making of natural colours using natural stones and materials and the making of adhesives using the gum of the babool tree. The end result of the efforts of the men and women of this family are natural wooden products that are look great, feel smooth to touch and that are an outcome of our ancient cultural heritage.

The lacquerware artists of Nirona, Kutch

From the outside, this Hindu toy making family look as colorful as the other people of Kutch, but they have a slightly different story to tell. If you happen to be visiting Kutch on your Gujarat holiday or if you are on a culture and heritage trail through Kutch, do not miss the opportunity to interact with these traditional lacquer artisans and toy makers of Kutch. Their humility, story and crafts deserve to be shared with the world.

The innocent smile of a Nirona Kid, Gujarat, India

How to reach here:

The nearest airport is Bhuj, which has daily flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad. Bhuj to Nirona should be about 60 kms and you can cover this distance in an hour by road. Local buses are available, though it is best to have your own mode of transportation if you wish to explore nearby villages.

Bhuj also has a railway station that has good connectivity with the rest of the country.

Bhuj also enjoys good road connectivity with the rest of the country.

Where to stay:

If you like traditional homestays, stay with the locals in their traditional homes in Nirona village. This will allow you to be in the midst of all the action while getting to experience the authentic life of this creative village.

If you prefer luxury, stay at Rann Utsav tent city or any of the many properties located in Dhordo. If you prefer beach luxury, opt to stay at the Vijay Vilas palace.

If you like city hotels, opt to stay at Bhuj.

Portrait of a Kutchi man from Nirona, Gujarat, India

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The family schooled sound engineers of Kutch who turn scrap into music

2) Rogan art, the 300 year old art form of Kutch

3) White Rann salt desert

4) Bhirandiyara village, known for its embroidery

5) Mandvi beach

6) Rann Utsav tent city

7) Gandhi nu gram weaving village

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