By now, you already know that I’ve shared a lot of stories from my trip to Kutch. December has been one of the best months of 2021 and all thanks to Gujarat Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism. I’ve travelled to so many places in Gujarat itself which I never did earlier. And every place that I visited on this trip, I saw different people, cultures and obviously food.
Another thing that I noted on this trip was that as you move upwards towards Rajasthan, you start noticing a lot of colours. There’s a sudden blast of colours and local art forms. From music to art and dance, you’ll see things that you would have never seen earlier. And I fell in love with the crafts of Kutch. The folk dances at the Tent City were pretty amazing and gave a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Kutch.
Crafts Of Kutch I fell in love with
During our return from Rann of Kutch to Ahmedabad, we stopped in the small town of Nirona. Located between the Dhordo and Bhuj, it is home to some of the finest crafts of Kutch. There are art forms that only a few families practise in the entire world and some of them are in this town. We got a chance to interact with these artisans and experience their art in Nirona
Rogan Art – strengthening ties between India & US
Also called Rogan painting it is one of the trademarks of Kutch. An art form that was quite popular in the Mughal empire. Rogan refers to oil in the Persian language and that’s how this art is named. This is an art of cloth printing made using castor oil. The slimy, gooey oil post boiling is mixed with vegetable dyes to give them bright colours. With the help of only a metal needle, intricate designs are made on cloth – mainly black as it helps the colours stand out. After the design is made, it is then imprinted on the other side of the cloth. This is then dried under the sun for a few days before it is ready.
Rogan Art is practised by the Khatri family in Nirona. We visited their home and got to see an example of Rogan art live. Mr Abdul Khatri who is a Padmashri Awardee was present himself as we interacted with him. One of the famous paintings done here is the Tree of Life and this was also gifted by prime minister Narendra Modi to Barack Obama during his earlier trip to the states. One of the great things that I got to see was that even the youngsters of the family were involved in this already dying art form.
Lastly, since Rogan art takes a lot of time and effort, their regular crafts are quite expensive. Hence they have smaller items like cushion covers, mobile covers etc that are more affordable. It’s only when you see the craftsman working on their art, you realise the true value of it. Rogan art is surely one of them.
Copper Bell Art – Chimes of Kutch
We walked for a few minutes to another house that practised a different art. Copper Bell Art. The centuries-old art form of making copper bells from bare metal sheets is practised in this small house in the town of Nirona. The master craftsman Mr Hussain has been making these since he was 12 and he is a master at it now. As you walk through the dusty roads and reach the house, you are greeted with not only a cool breeze but chimes of bells. They have bells in all shapes and sizes here and you’ll surely be tempted to buy one.
The highlight of this Copper bell art is that the bells are made without any physical joins. Meaning in the entire bell, there are no joins – no nut, bolts, machine press etc. It’s just hammered to join two pieces of it. They buy scrap metal sheets cut them into required sizes. These sheets are then modelled into sweet-sounding copper bells only by hand. The loud sound of the hammer striking the metal sheet soon converts into a sweet chime. Bells are something that we should have in our houses. Not only do they fill the room with their chimes, but they also bring in a lot of life, a lot of positivity.
Lacquer Wood Art – Adding colours to life
We then took a walk through the streets of Nirona, passing the local post office, seeing some amazingly colourful doors and children screaming hi as we moved. Trust me, these are such interior places, you cannot reach here easily. But thanks to Gujarat tourism for promoting these art forms and making these places more accessible for tourists. Lacquer art was another art form that we got to see live here.
The lacquer art form uses lacquer as the base. Lacquer is a form of resin from the Rhus tree. This resin is mixed with vegetable dyes to give them bright colours. It is then transferred to wooden objects like spoons, ladles etc. The process of this isn’t easy as is and takes quite an effort to make designs out of it.
These objects are then greased with oil to give them the shine. These are inexpensive and yet are beautiful pieces of art to deck up your home. And once you buy them and notice the shine going off, apply some oil and they would be as good as new. Also since the colours are made from vegetables, they are completely safe.
Vocal For Local – Crafts of Kutch
I’ll be very frank and candid in this post. While I do love to have paintings and wind chimes in my room, I have none. And one of the reasons is that I always found the good ones to be expensive. But this trip to Nirona village changed my perspective. The crafts of Kutch that I saw be it Rogan Art, Copper Bell or Lacquer Wood art, all of them are created with a lot of effort. Only when you see it live, you understand the time and effort that goes into making them.
While I loved seeing all of these, Copper Bell art was something that I loved the most. I was surprised to see how they were able to convert a bare-metal sheet into a sweet-sounding bell. From the thumping sounds of the hammer to the magical sound of the bell, I got to see the journey and totally loved it. So be vocal for local and support local artisans. It’s only when people like us support, the art form sees the light of day.