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On Gujarat's rich handicraft and textile trail

Gujarat's vibrant handicraft heritage is an art-lover's delight.
Last Updated : 17 June 2022, 13:05 IST
Last Updated : 17 June 2022, 13:05 IST

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Gujarat's ancient monasteries, temples and stepwells, colourful havelis, and heritage monuments will always be the key tourist attractions for first-time visitors. However, for an art-loving, curious traveller, there is lots more to discover and take home while exploring the vivid range of handicrafts across the state.

Patola weaves

During the Raj, the humble khadi weaves from Gujarat were popularised by the Mahatma as a sign of rebellion and self-sustainability; however, the gorgeous Patola weaves from Patan District are the crowd-pullers for any textile lover.

A must-have in the traditional Gujarati bride’s trousseau and centuries of royal patronage for this weave makes it a star textile from the state. The complex double ikat dyeing technique used to make Patola saris on a handloom makes it rare and expensive. Some saris go up to INR 1,50,000 and above.

A few weaver families spend several months weaving these saris that never lose their original colour.

An artisan works on a Rogan painting. Credit: Nivi Shrivastava
An artisan works on a Rogan painting. Credit: Nivi Shrivastava

Rogan textile painting

Rogan textile art is done exclusively by the Khatri family of Nirona village in the Kutch district. The artist Abdul Gafar Khatri, whose family has been practising this unique art form for generations, has won the Padmashri award for preserving this form of textile art that traces its origin from Persia.

“Intricate patterns are created on cloth using oil-based colour," Khatri said, speaking to DH Online. "It is a prized possession for collectors. Prime Minister Modi gifted some of these artworks to people like President Obama, Queen of the Kingdom of Denmark, Margrethe II, and recently to Japan PM Fumio Kishida.”

Handicrafts galore

The Nirora village is home to quaint iron-copper bells made from scratch using hand-beaten metallic plates blended together and crafted without any joints. This village has an area where handmade lacquer rolling pins on wood with multiple colours and designs are sold. Head to Kutch for glittering mirror work on traditional attire, dupattas, shawls, tapestries, and bags, and sample the popular "Shisha" or "Abla" embroidery. The signature mirrorwork pieces created by the embroiderers of Kathiawar are available across the state.

Bandhani

The Kutch and Saurashtra regions are famous for the tie-and-dye (bandhani) technique on natural fabrics, which is practised extensively in Pethapur, Mandavi, Bhuj, Anjar, Jetpur, Jamnagar, and Rajkot towns.

The famous Red Bandhani of Bhuj is especially popular, as the local artisans believe the salty water of this city makes the natural red and maroon shades more intense.

The love for bright, eye-catching patterns is visible in almost every kind of art and craft in Gujarat. Most ancient techniques involve vegetable dyes and mineral colours to evoke the traditional roots of sustainable practices.

Ajrakh

In the Ajrakhpur village of Kutch, the age-old block printing technique called Ajrakh is practised as a community trade by local artisans. The hand-block resist printing and dyeing process with natural dyes and mordants in several stages is cumbersome, making these prints exclusive and expensive.

Ajrakh prints are usually in rich earthy colours like crimson red, indigo blue, black and white. The traditional, elaborate motifs are often geometric in shape.

Leather embroidery

Many prominent Kutch handicrafts take inspiration from nomadic Sindh and Baloch tribes that carry forward these ancient practices within their communities. One such craft is leather embroidery by the Marwadi Meghwal community of Kutch that buys animal hides from the Maldhari cattle herders to create embellished shoes, bags, and wallets for men and women.

Earthernware

The list of collectibles could also include painted votives, terracotta horses, elephants, and human figurines from the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. Rural homes in Kutch and Saurashtra still create earthen clay pots and utensils using techniques followed during the Indus Valley civilization.

Pitstop at Surat

Perhaps, a lesser-known but signature textile from the looms of Madavi and Surat is the Mashru weave, a glossy double-faced fabric created using blends of cotton and silk threads accentuated with ikat stripes. From weaves to embroidery, Surat can be a pit stop to check out the exquisite zari work (aka zardozi) created using blends of silk, cotton, and copper threads, used in clothing and décor items. Surat is also known to be the hub for sadeli woodwork, where intricate floral and/or geometric patterns are carved on teak boxes, cupboards, doors, bedposts, and chests for a distinctive mosaic aesthetic.

(The author is an independent journalist, free-thinker, and an avid traveller)

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Published 17 June 2022, 12:21 IST

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