Craft of Kutch – Gujarat

emry-300x199Kutchi handicrafts, renowned the world over, are in abundance in Bhuj, from elaborately embroidered clothing and luxurious quilts to block-printing, heavy silver jewelry and woodcarving. Or better yet, you can use Bhuj as a base for excursions to surrounding towns and villages to meet artisans and their families, see the work being done and buy crafts directly from the artisans themselves. This allows more of the income to go directly to the craftsmen and more importantly, creates a relationship between the maker of an item and its eventual owner, in which each one meets the other, learns something about the others life and shares a bit of their own identity and background. You will quite likely find the personal interaction more valuable than the commercial one and the memory of the visit will stay with you even if you give away what you bought as gifts.

From the early civilizations, Kutch is home to handicraft traditions. The presence of a kiln at Lothal, one of the sites of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, indicates that pottery was a well-established craft in the state. Some of the oldest and the best textiles that were in great demand in West and Southeast Asia were created in Kuth.
A visit to Kutch, however fleeting, is replete with images of colorful and fascinating textiles, elaborately carved wooden and stone Jarukhas and beautiful handcrafted silver jewelry. In Kutch it is customary for a bride to have exquisite hand embroidered Ghagras, Odhnis, animal covers, bags, quilts and house decorations as part of her trousseau.

Textiles are Kutch’s forte and one can find an immense variety of textile traditions here that range from robust folk textiles to fine brocades. In fact, the oldest known printed fabrics from India were the resist dyed and printed cottons of Kutch. These printed fabric traditions are still going strong in Kutch and are considered an essential part of any fashionable Indian woman’s wardrobe. The Ajarakh prints of the Kutch region and the sodagiri prints of Paithapur are just two examples of Gujarat’s excellently printed textiles.

One cannot ignore the intricate Bandhani (tie-dyed fabric) of Kutch which are used for wedding outfits such as the Gharchola,odhni and saris parrot-flower borders) or asharfi (circular gold coin) were once highly prized possessions.
Kutch has a splendid tradition of ornamented household linen. From ancient times, the people of Kutch have reveled in being surrounded by some of the most beautiful and ornamented household goods. The Toran(Fantoos) a heavily embroidered and ornamented decoration hung over the entrance door is quintessentially Gujarati and is considered a sign of welcome. Quilts from different regions of the state showcase the best of the ornamentation techniques of the region, be it embroidery, appliqué or patchwork. The quilts in the family are usually stacked and covered with a gorgeously decorated Dharaniya, full of mirrors that glint in the dark. The chakla is a wall hanging usually depicting religious figures and themes and is embroidered in different styles in different parts of the state.

Embroidered pieces such as the Ganesh and surya sthapanas from Saurashtra are made for special religious purposes. Bags of all kinds and for different occasions, pillowcases, and covers for food containers are all embellished with mirrors, embroidery, beads, and cowries. During weddings and other festivals even animals are covered with brightly colored, heavily embroidered pieces, often with holes in them for the horns to go through.