Travel special: Artisan villages en route to the Rann of Kutch
On a road trip to Kutch's white desert, Dhara Vora stumbled across countless handmade treasures, each rich in history and skill, from Bollywood-esque knives to a 300-year-old art form, a sample of which was even gifted by Prime Minister Modi to US President, Barack Obama
Rogan artwork made using contemporary colours. Pic/Dhara Vora
for freehand designs
This art form was originally used to decorate the Bhungas or the mud houses in Kutch. Freehand designs made beautiful with addition of mirrors, today several artists offer their services to decorate your homes or other properties.
One can also buy ready artworks and products such as wall hooks with contemporary designs on them at various craft stores across Kutch. Traditionally, the mixture is made using mud, gum and horse dung.
for cool bargains
The road leading to Prag Mahal Palace (India’s first Neo Gothic structure) houses several vintage stores. Our favourite was Ekta Arts (in pic), that offers old embroidered patches for as less as `50 a piece, camel jewellery, quilts and even old bidi metal tins. The street is also lined with several silver jewellery stores that offer typical nomadic and Kutchi jewellery. Our pick was Amrat Silver Smith that even takes custom requests and offers great value for money.
for chic chappals
Leatherwork is practised in several villages across Kutch that include Hodka, Bhujodi and Sumrasar. It was originally practised by the migrating Dalit Meghwal community who used hides from dead cattle.
Their products sport colourful threadwork, and many of the craftsmen also provide pieces to big retail chains across the country. The chappals start at `300 and based on the availability, you can also find mirrors, folders and satchels. Visit Tinkal Rinkal handicrafts (in pic) at Sumrasar (Shekh) near the Kala Raksha.
for fabric art
This art form is practised in just one village in India, Nirona (48 km from Bhuj). This form of fabric painting is created with the help of a paste made by boiling castor oil (hence the name Rogan), which is then mixed with natural colour pigments. The mixture is applied on the cloth with the help of a stick. The oil is boiled in the forest as it smells bad. This art form was one of the gifts given to US President Barack Obama by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The most popular motif is known as Tree of Life.
for Tezaab knives and copper bells
These copper-coated bells that work as windchimes and exotic décor in city homes today were originally used at cattle bells. The sound of every bell was customised in such a way that it would help the owner recognise his livestock. On your way to the Rann, many villages have workshops where these bells are made. Two such villages are Nirona (also known for its Rogan art) and Zura (in pic) where the makers will gladly give you a demo.
These cost anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 1,500. Another form is knife work where craftsmen make a variety of nutcrackers and knives such as fruit knives, travel knives, dangerous-looking foldable chappoos and for the Bollywood-buffs, Tezaab knife, which is similar to the one used by actor Anil Kapoor in the Bollywood film. The craftsmen originally made swords for royal houses and the main production centres are Anjar, Bhuj, Nana-Reha and Mota-Reha.
for shawl comfort
The shawls of Kutch received star appeal when Amitabh Bachchan used one in the state’s tourism campaign, and Deepika Padukone draped it in Goliyon Ki Raas Leela Ram Leela. Bhujodi, a short drive from Bhuj, is home to several National Award-winning weavers such as Vankar Vishram Valji. They offer stoles in cotton to suit our city’s climate and Bhujodi also has several other stores selling Rabari outfits, and embroidered bags. Shawls start at Rs 500 and you can buy clutches for as less as Rs 100.
Food pit stop
While in Bhuj, try Kadak and Dabeli and don’t miss out on eating Meetha Mava at Bhirandiyara.
From Mumbai 850 km approx
How to reach: One can take a train to Bhuj station which is very close to the the main market. There are also regular flights to Bhuj. Once there, hire a vehicle; several drivers know the way around artisan villages.
1. Kutch is also home to several other textile techniques such as Bandhani, Ajrakh, Batik, embroideries of different communities, lacquered wood, Mashru weaving and wood carving.
2. For an easy way to shop for Bandhani, visit several Bandhani stores in Bhuj, a reasonable place to shop is Khatri Bandhej at Chhathi Bari Ring Road, a lane close to Darbargadh Road.
3. Another gem of a store in Bhuj is Vaibhav Laxmi at Meharali Chowk that offers Patoda saris, dress materials and kurtas from Hyderabad. Our pick at the store are their bedsheets that offer very contemporary geometric designs. Call 9974939167
4. Khamir Craft Resource Centre, Kala Raksha at Sumrasar (in pic) and Shrujan also support various artisans.
5. The best place to shop for all articles under one roof is Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park at Bhujodi.