The endless ivory ground merged with the pristine blue sky. It is not from the white snow! The colourfully dressed attire of the people, with their beautiful camel rides, look pretty in this land. Kutch is rich and diverse and weaved through the amalgamation of different cultures & communities; it’s an ode to the land of Gujarat, but the great Rann of kutch doesn’t sum up the vast arid region of kutch. A part of the wild west of India, this used to be a trade centre which could be accessed by land and sea from the Middle East and the Swat Valley. It has a global trade link. Kachchh takes in cultural values from the North, West and East.
When the monsoon is not around the deserted habitat of kutch, the land witnesses trees full of thorns, and small villages lie at a distance of every few kilometres. Built-in clusters in the traditional mud homes of kutch are also very famous among other such things. Under the realm of the strong Sun. The advantage of India’s colourful cultural heritage.
Kachchi motifs have been discovered and traced back to the Harappan Period. But craft is still growing and evolving with each refined, innovative technique and new technology with enthusiasm about entrepreneurship among the artists. The climate has made it difficult for people to make a living out of it. Whatever resources are available, they make products out of them. Embroidery is a well-known craft associated with kutch, other textile crafts & products, and materials that give this land colour & identity. Different communities have their numerous craft styles.
Various communities and cultures live in Kachchh who migrated here centuries ago from Rajasthan, Sindh, Afghanistan and present-day Iran. Most of the communities are Nomadic Pastoralists and have settled largely here. These communities follow faiths and religions – Hinduism, Islam and Jainism. The spoken languages are Kachchhi, Gujarati and Hindi.
Ajrakh Block Print: Ajrakh is known for several meanings, Ajrakh means “keeping it today” Ajrakh is also associated with the Arabic word Azrakh which means indigo, a blue-coloured plant which was found in Kachchh until the 1956 earthquake. Ajrakh Patterns consist of intricate geometrical patterns, including starry constellations in madder, black, white and indigo along the lengths of cloth. It is similar to Islamic architecture’s intricate Jali windows and arches. Rabaris, Maldharis, and ahirs, who are among agricultural communities and Nomadic pastoralists wear Ajrakh Printed stoles, turbans and lungis. It is popular as a form of gift in Festivals Like Eid, for weddings and other special occasions. Ingredients such as pomegranate seeds, hard power, gum, wood, flour of Kacika, a flower of Dhavadi, alizarine and locally cultivated indigo are the natural resources are used as printers for this craft. A sixteen-step process of washing, dyeing, printing and drying. All of it needs a lot of skills and attention to maintain even and colours fast.
Bandhani: The Bandhani cloth is made by plucking the cloth with fingernails into a lot of tiny bindings that form a design figure. It is one of the types of tie-dye textiles. The word Bandhani is derived from the Sanskrit word bandh means “To bind to tie ” It is popular in Gujarat with centres in Rajasthan, Sindh, Punjab region and also Tamil Nadu. It is known as singudi in Tamil Nadu.
Batik Print : Legend has it that the Batik practice of block printing was brought to Kachch during the time of the Ramayana by master craftsmen. Locals share stories of the tale of the time. Over the years, people wear gracefully the Batik textiles by Khatris, who are a community who are involved in creating Batik, Ajrakh, Bagru and Bandhani all over Kachchh. Batik is also very popular in Indonesia, particularly in Gujarati madder, a deep red dye which is important in their community. The process of making Batik prints involves dipping a block into hot piloo seed oil, which is later pressed into the fabric. After the process of dying, the oil paste is peeled off to reveal the print. Later on, wax was used for the process of printing instead of oil, which required the pressing of thousands of small seeds. This wax-printed Batik flourished in Kachchh during the 1960s.
Bela printing : Bela prints are graphic and bold, The vibrant colour palette on a plain white cloth is the centre of attention. A highlighting colour element and a variety of hues are achieved through dyes which are natural and from vegetables. This type of textile is famous and produced in Bagru, Rajasthan. Even though Kachch is a massive producer of Bela cloth for a long period. Red and black colours look very impressive when used for Bela printing.
Camel wool weaving : Over 10,000 camel population owned by the Unt Maldharis live in the Kachchh region. These communities have made living out of camels by selling milk and using them as a mode of transport. These Maldharis used Camel wools for mainly making coverings for camels and making bags for their purpose over the years. Reduced grazing sources have led to decreasing in Camel populations and pose a threat. There is a need to conserve the camel populations in the region.
Embroidery : The fine folk embroideries of Kachach are well known. It is one of the few crafts done by women. It is a common craft done among many communities that have this embroidery tradition which is passed down generations from mothers to their daughters. These communities used to live there for centuries while others migrated and brought their intricate embroidery skills from other regions of the Northwest frontier. As of today, 17 different types of embroideries are practised in Kachchh which Grace the dress and fabrics of the region. Jat, Ahir, Sodha Rajput, Rabari and soof are the recognised embroideries. Women of each community have a specific style of stitching and motifs which expresses their individuality.
Kachchh Weaving : The Marwada and Maheshwari communities are involved in Kachchi weaving. The art of mashroo is transitioned by the Maheshwaris and Kachhi weaving is known as the Marwada style. This community has crafted woven textiles, leather and woodwork throughout Kachch showcasing their versatility. These weavers have a socioeconomic relationship with their local clients like Ahirs, Rajputs and Rabaris. Each weaver had links with the Rabari family, who were the suppliers of yarn for sheep and goats. Ahirs were the farming communities that cultivated kala cotton, which produced woven textiles for shoulder clothes and headgear. All the designs woven into the fabrics of Kachchi weaving techniques are inspired by the communities who wear them. The design motifs are named Vakhiyo, chaumukhi, Hathi, satkania or dholkis.
Knife work : The villages of Nani Reha and Mota Reha villages have six generations of Metal Knifemakers. There exist two types of Knifemaking Techniques in Kachchh, one being The chari – it has a steel or iron blade which is called fur and a handle made out of wood, plastic or brass. Another is The chappu – it is composed of similar parts but with an added spring that allows folding. Each part is distributed among themselves, some artisans specialised in blade crafting, some in casting the handles, and others in polishing the final product. Each knife is a collaborative result of these artisans’ work. They can meet the consistent demands due to their collaborative team effort.
Lacquered Wood :A material extracted from insect resin – Lac. It has been used in craft in the Indian Subcontinent for centuries. With the help of a hand lathe turn during the heating process when coloured lacquer is applied to the wood. With the help of this process, patterns are created by hand in Kaleidoscope designs. This form of lacquered pattern is associated with only Kachchh. A Nomadic community named Vadhas moved around Kachch collecting natural stones and colours from forests and through villages like Nirona and Jura. And then created goods out of them, further bartered them with the community they had close ties with – The Maldhari Community.
Leather Art: An artful leather craft is brought to Kachchh by the Dalit Meghwals of Rajasthan. The trade survived due to the partnership of Meghwals with Nomadic Pastoralist Maldharis. As soon as a Maldhari cattle died, the Meghwals used to convert these raw hides into leather. It took as long as eighteen days to treat and wash the hide. This recycling of dead cattle is transferred into a useful product by giving new life to waste. Kachi leather is durable and of excellent quality – it can hold water. As such, it is used in making shoes, water bottles, horse saddles and water jugs.
Metal Bells: Among other crafts, the craft of copper bells are coated and this craft is evolved throughout time. Earlier, before the partition of India and Pakistan, there has been a migration of people in the region. Livestock was also a major occupation around kaccha. The Lohar community hailed from Sindh, (current-day Pakistan) and brought it to Kachach. The Bharvads and Rabaris, the local communities from Kachchh, are among the clients of these bell makers. They would describe the bell makers as the kind of sound their cattle recognises. Accordingly, the bell makers would set the sound and tune for the bells until their clients approved of it. The bells are expensive but also carry a lifetime warranty, whereas if a change in sound or fading shines occurs, the maintenance is free of cost.
Namda: Pinjara and Mansuri communities, Sama Muslims who are native to Kachch. Namda craft is primarily practised by them. There is a tale from the 11th century when Mughal Emperor Akbar’s horse fell ill, and a man named Nubi created a felted covering cloth for him. Ever since it’s been practised in the region where the felt cloth from the wool of sheep. Namda is a unique craft and can be used in all types of climates. The wool is collected, cleaned, dyed and compressed into thin sheets and further artisans create colourful intricate patterns embroidered into them. Local Nomadic communities use Namda to create saddle blankets for their camels and horses even today.
Pottery : since ancient times, potters have been an integral part of the communities in the villages, as they are the suppliers of the most important goods for the kitchen of these communities, the “earthenware”. Not only this but for the festivals and rituals or occasions related to birth, marriage and death. They have a very close relationship with the surrounding environment. They require various Natural elements like clay, water, leaves of ‘Jaru’, thorns and stems of ‘Prosopis Julifera’,’ whit clay’ and black stone for the pottery activities. Whereas clay is used for making Pottery. Leaves of Jaru, thorns and Prosopis Julifera’ together help to cover the kiln when vessels are fired. And for the designs of vessels white clay and black stones are used.
Recycled plastic weaving : The rural communities believe in using resources with care. Local artisans who are involved with working with leather used to use the waste of Maldhari cattle to make crafts. Plastic is a curse from which we can’t stay away ever, so developing ways to tackle it in a way which benefits us is the need of the hour. Khamis as an organisation has intervened and introduced them to how to make new goods from waste plastic.
Sliversmithy: Silver Tribal jewellery is a traditional jewellery style which is a part of village fashion. Every silversmith has his style of tribal jewellery tradition. They make bangles, earrings and anklets. In the 19th century, Kachchi silver was famous among the colonists, The silverworks were displayed in great exhibitions in France and England. Kachchh silver is well known for its white quality. A coloured glass called Meena is used by Artisans in traditional designs.
Wood carving: Wood carving is a large scale craft technique in Kachch, associated with the culture of Thar desert. It consists a unique cultural complex of sindh in Pakistan, Barmer,Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. These areas have similar creative sense most probably because of the type of Geographical environment and also the style of ethnic fabric of the region. Common design motifs among all these areas persists in wood carving. The design motifs which are majorly crafted in embroideries are also seen in the wood carvings.
The geographical region is responsible to shape the identity of craft-producing communities, as the kind of resources available is essential in able to create the designated crafts. Kachchh lies in a region of extreme seismic activity. The most recent earthquake in January 2001 destroyed most of Bhuj and nearby villages and was also responsible for the destruction of raw materials and workshops of local artisans and affected their livelihood.
Khamir is an organisation which helps the artisans promote these cultural values, traditions and crafts of Kachch. Khamir stands for Kachchh Heritage, Art, Music, Information and Resources. But Khamir also means ‘ intrinsic pride’ in Kachchi, the local language. In Hindi, Khamir means ‘to ferment’ which is apt for the constant fermentation of creativity and ideas going on within the organisation.
To preserve the culture, community and local environment, it serves as a platform for all of it. It also promotes traditional handicrafts and cultural practices. In Khamir, they try to create an empowering space. A space to share ideas and collaborate. The vision is to make a sustainable Indian Craft sector which celebrates the crafts and artisans together are also valued by people all over the world.
Khamir (-). Khamir. [online]. (Last updated:NA).
Available at: https://www.khamir.org/home [Accessed date: 1/03/2023].