Gujarat is blessed with a rich culture and traditional past. This state boasts of an old age glorious culture that has survived till date. The art and craft of Gujarat is not only popular within the subcontinent but has gained popularity around the globe. The art industry of Gujarat offers a number of range of jewelry, metalwork, embroidery, clay items, handmade carpets stone crafts to name a few. Let’s take a one-on-one look at the different art forms of Gujarat.
The Kutch Embroidery is a handicraft and textile signature art tradition of the tribal community of Kutch District in Gujarat, India. One of the most famous and prominent art forms hails from Kutch. The Kutch embroidery is the greatest heritage of all the time. From mirror and bead work to Abhala embroidery along with the usage of silk threads of bright colours, the Kutch embroidery basically ornate the entire fabric and embellishes it completely. The impeccable designs of Kutch embroidery are a tribute to Rabaris, a nomadic tribe that crafted the art of Kutch embroidery which is now an artwork of international repute.
Origin and History: Historically, it is said that Kutch embroidery was brought about by ‘Kathi’ cattle breeders who later settled down and created some fine needlework which displayed a variety of elements, designs, themes, patterns and moods. A lot of the Kutch embroidery is influenced by various architectural designs and motifs such as the ‘Heer bharat’. Using the Heer Bharat as a mirror is easily fixed in the centre that adds more beauty to the embroidery work. Kutch embroidery is mainly done in colours such as Green, Ivory, Indigo, Black, Deep red, Yellow and off White. This embroidery is also influenced by romantic motifs as well as patterns of human figurines in dancing poses and dancing peacocks too.
Kutch Embroidery with ‘Heer Bharat’
Kutch Leather Art
Kutchi Leather Art: In Kutch, the leather is made by recycling the dead cattle, the people of kutch give new life to waste, transforming it into a product of utility.
A craftsman working on leather footwear’s
Origin and History: The Dalit Meghwals of Rajasthan migrated to Kachchh, bringing an artful leather craft with them. The trade was kept alive by a partnership with nomadic pastoralist Maldharis. When a Maldhari cattle died, the Meghwals converted the raw hides into leather. The work was tough, taking eighteen labor intensive days to treat and wash the hide. By recycling the dead cattle, the Meghwals gave new life to waste, transforming it into a product of utility. The Meghwals’ close relationship with the Maldharis resulted in a remarkable fusion of cultural customs which can be seen in the shared styles of dress and embroidery traditions of the various communities in the region.
Kachchhi leather was so well treated and durable that it could hold water. As such, it was made into long-lasting items like shoes, water bottles, horse saddles and water jugs. It is said that artisans once used real silver thread to bind pieces of leather together.
Showcase of leather handbags and footwear’s
Their work has gained international recognition and some are even awarded national awards at international buyer-seller meet. The people are extremely talented and humble.
When you travel through Kutch (and for the love of art and natural untamed beauty you must), you will most definitely be tempted to stop time and again at different villages and towns to admire the arts and crafts of this ancient part of Gujarat.
Beautiful mud house with lipan work on the outside.
As you make your way through the vast stretches of the Indian side of the world’s greatest salt desert (the Great Rann of Kutch) found in India and Pakistan, you will come across the odd bhunga (mud house) with walls beautifully-decorated in mostly circular mirror-work. This is Lipan Kaam.
Bhunga house with walls beautifully decorated in lipan art.
History and Origin:
Mud and mirror work is known as Lipan Kaam. It is a traditional mural craft of Kutch. It is also called as Chittar Kaam. The origins of Lipan Kaam are unknown. Various communities in Kutch do mud-relief work and have their own distinct style of Lipan kaam. This makes it even harder to trace the roots of Lipan Kaam.
Beautifully done ‘chittar kaam’
Most communities in Kutch live in circular mud houses known as Bhungas. They have thatched roofs. These dwellings have evolved over the years to take on the harsh climatic conditions of Kutch. Generally speaking, Bhungas are made of clay alone or bamboo chips plastered with lipan, a mixture of clay and dung. The roofs are wood-based and thatched.
The practice of self-adornment and decoration has always been an integral part of human social life. And with improved senses over time, cultural exchanges with migration of clusters, innovations kept happening. Kutch has always been very popular for its distinctive use of threads, beads and printing techniques to create colourful fabric ornamentations. But not so popular is the art of decorating wearable fabrics like painted canvases.
Rogan Art in regional tribes
Origin and History: Rogan Art, an ancient skill with its origins in Persia, came down to Kutch around 400 years ago. Traditionally, the craft was pursued to beautify bridal clothing of the regional tribes, beautiful borders and floral patterns on Ghagras, odhni and bead spreads were painstakingly painted. However, it being a dying craft with more people showing interest in it in the form of wall pieces, ‘Rogan kaam’ has gained popularity as Rogan art in today’s time.
Lacquered Lathe Work
Kutch is not only famous for vibrant coloured clothes but it even touches the items of day to day living. Lacquer –ware is done on manual- lathe by babool wood which is found locally, is mostly used for the products. Once the wood is cut into basic forms, each piece is individually put on the lathe and smoothed using wooden tools.
Wood processed on a lathe
Spoons and ladles, chakla – belan (board and rolling pin), toys, stools, dandiya sticks, everything is covered with psychedelic patterns and merging zig zags of contrasting colours. lacquer ware of Kutch has a characteristic zig zag pattern of mixing colours. This interesting effect is achieved by first transferring stripes of colour from an unpolished lacquered stick and then pushing the colours into each other on the lathe.
Finished products from the lacquered lathe process.
By Shikha Gupta (First Prize Blog Writing Competition 2017 – Gujarati Arts)