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Art
& CRAFT

Art and craft of Gujarat is the reflection of the cultural, religious, anthropological, ritualistic, technical, topographical, climatic and professional aspects of the Indian state.

We have been wearing textiles from early infancy, but few know the history of textiles, how they are made and from where they come. On this journey you will take you through fields of cotton to see how the cloth is woven and to see how cotton and silk are transformed by Indian craftsmen and women. Their years of experience changes plain fabric into a work of art by the use of block-printing, tiedye, mirror work and embroidery.

The craftspeople of Gujarat have preserved their ancient textile tradition to produce modern textiles which are masterpieces of colour and design. The state excels in the production of hand-crafted textiles which reflect the rich cultural heritage of its people. These woven fabrics, such as Patola, Double Ikkat, Mushroo are matched in quality by the decorated textiles of tie-dye, embroidery and resist printing.

Mata-ni-Pachedi

Pithora Paintings

Rogan Painting

 In embroidery Gujarat excels. For hundreds of years, the numerous tribal communities have used distinctive patterns, and stitching techniques to enrich their lives and to distinguish their unique cultures. These traditions have maintained their integrity while adapting to the demands of the modern market place. This responsiveness is not surprising, as Gujarat has been known from ancient times as the ‘home’ of Indian textiles and during the British period was called ‘the Manchester of the East’.

Some of the notable Gujarat textile art works which we will see during the tour are highlighted below:

Kalamkari

Kalamkari literally means the art of decoration with the help of a pen, kalam. A design, usually religious is drawn or block printed onto a cloth and the spaces colored. A particular form of this technique has been made famous by the Vaghris community of Gujarat. Originally the Vaghris were a wandering caste, who came to settle in Ahmedabad. They had their own religious practice, which was not acceptable to temple authorities. When they were prohibited from worshipping at the Goddess temple they hung a painting of their goddess on the outside of the temple at the rear. Hence, Mata ni Pachedi ‘Outside the Mother Goddess (temple)’. The use of such religious cloths for household worship became commonplace and the Vaghris community thrived. A few Ahmadabad families still produce fine quality work in this style.

Mushru Weaving

Mushru is an Arabic word meaning ‘permitted’. In Islam it was prohibited to wear pure silk directly against the skin. In response to Muslim demand for a fabric that was both attractive and religiously acceptable, weavers of Gujarat produced mushru. The fabric consists of a silk warp and cotton weft. By cleverly adjusting the loom, a warp-faced fabric is produced where the attractive silk appears on the outside and the cotton is next the skin. This fabric is still produced by few families in Patan village.

Ajrakh Printing

Ajrak, or Ajrakh, is the name given to a particular type of block printed cotton which traditionally has a geometric design. The technique uses mud-resist printing, repeated at least twice, to produce the pattern. Prized pieces are printed on both sides, so that the pattern is exactly matched front and back to create the finest of all block prints.

The name and the technique came from the Sindh province of Pakistan, where it was highly prized as a symbol of Sindhi culture. Traditionally the colours were predominately red, blue, black and white, but other colours, especially yellow and green are now used. Stylish modern ajrak is produced in the villages of Dhamadka, Khavda and Ajrakpur near Bhuj.

Ahir Embroidery

Ahir embroidery is characterized by fine floral and animal patterns which progress across the fabric in swirling circular arrays. Images of parrots, peacocks, scorpions, elephant and flowers are frequently depicted. Different stitches may be used for each element. The Ahir community of Kutch considers themselves descendants of Lord Krishna, accompanying him when he migrated from Mathura to Dwarka. Today, Ahir embroidery is some of the most colourful and delicate produced in Kutch. Its rich bold designs make an immediate visual impact.

Tie and Dye

Bandhana means ‘to tie’, or ‘to bind’. In textiles, it refers to the technique of excluding dye from a segment of cloth by binding it tightly with thread before the cloth is placed in the dye. This technique is known in Japan as shibori.

Finer cloth and smaller segments excluded, makes for a more detailed design. The cloth is first marked, then tied and eventually dyed. Finer work is created by repeating the process by untying the work, then re-tying in a different fashion and using a different colored dye. This process can be repeated four or five times to create subtly beautiful textiles. In Bhuj, the family of Ali Mohammed Isha is involved in making finely crafted shawls and scarves.

Rogan Painting

Rogan means ‘oil-based’ in Persian. Textiles decorated with this technique, look from a distance, like fine embroidery. Castor oil is prepared by boiling for several days, and then mixed with pigment. The glue-like mixture is applied to the fabric in a tacky stream to create the design. Only half the design is directly painted. When one side is complete, the textile is folded over so that a mirror-image is created. The resulting work is surprisingly intricate and attractive. The seven or eight people, who do this work in Nirona village near Bhuj, are probably the only ones in India doing this artwork.

Rabari Embroidery

In the Rabari creation myth, Parvarti (the wife of Shiva) made a camel from a mixture of sweat from the Lord’s body and dust. This animal ran away, so Parvarti made the first Rabari man and woman to find and care for this animal. Hence, the Rabari are nomadic herders of camel, and other animals, living in desert regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The numerous clans of Rabari have distinctive styles of embroidery, each characterized by bold colourful patterns which incorporate mirrors of differing shapes. These abstract patterns are constantly evolving as the Rabari respond to changes in their world.

Mutwa (Muthwa) Embroidery

The Mutwa are a small herding group of Muslim people living in the Banni grassland region of Kutch. They are descendants of people who migrated from Sindh about five hundred years ago. Their embroidery can be distinguished by its very fine geometric style which incorporates tiny round mirrors.

Meghwal embroidery

Meghwals are Hindus of the Harijan group, formerly known as ‘Untouchables’ who migrated from Rajasthan. In Gujarat they decorate the interior of their houses with pinched mud to create three dimensional designs incorporating large fragments of mirror. With textiles, they do fine embroideries with bold geometric designs. Similar designs are used by men to decorate leather items. Their quilt work uses patchwork and folded cloth to enhance the pattern.

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