Crafts and Textiles of Gujarat
Trip Code: AITCTG
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Gujarat has a long tradition of cottage scale textile production and artisanal craftsmanship. This itinerary focuses on the many small communities who are keeping such traditions alive.
Mahatma Gandhi, a native of Gujarat, made cottage industry – particularly textile production – a cornerstone of his drive to establish economic independence from Britain. Separately, Gujarat is home to diverse ethnic and semi-nomadic tribal groups, who have their own craft traditions. As a result, Gujarat is home to some of India’s most exquisite hand-embellished crafts, which, along with cottage textile production, are the bedrock of the rural economy.
Kutch is known for its fabulous embroideries, Wadhwan for its bandhani tie-and-dye and Jetpur for block printing. Some techniques that are unique to Gujarat include the double ikat Patola weaving of Patan and the rogan painting on fabric of Nirona village. This tour will lead you to an understanding of these traditions and an insight into the communities that maintain them.
• The itinerary can be customised to focus on a specific technique, craft or textile.
• It can be lengthened or shortened and more general sightseeing can be included if your focus is not exclusively crafts and textiles.
• We can provide expert tour guides to accompany craft/textile study tours.
Day 1 Ahmedabad
Located on the banks of the river Sabarmati, Ahmedabad was founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmad Shah, who attracted traders and skilled artisans, and established a formidable merchant class. Today it is Gujarat’s largest city (with a population of around six million) and is a major centre of traditional and contemporary textiles. Many crafts thrive here, such as Mata-ni-pachedi (narrative cloth paintings) and block printing.
You will be met on arrival and transferred to the wonderful family owned heritage hotel, ‘The House of MG’. Built in 1924 as a home for a wealthy textile magnate, Mangaldas Girdhardas, this is a stately property with an ornamental Baroque influenced façade, Italian mosaic marble flooring, stained glass windows and numerous courtyards and passages.
Day 2 Ahmedabad
This morning visit the Calico Museum of Textiles. Inaugurated in 1949, it is today justly regarded as one of the foremost textiles museums in the world and an important Indian institution. Its outstanding collections of Indian fabrics exemplify handicraft textiles spanning five centuries and attract increasing numbers of Indian and international research scholars. Most significantly, it has become a major reference for surviving handicraft producers and also for the India machine-textile industry.
In the afternoon you have the option to visit the Gandhi Ashram, the Shreyas Folk Museum and the Gujarat Vidyapith – Tribal Research and Training Institute.
In 1915, on a quiet peaceful stretch of the Sabarmati River, Mahatma Gandhi set up a simple retreat, Sabarmati Ashram. For many years it was the nerve centre of India’s freedom movement. The ashram now contains a memorial centre and a library.
The Shreyas Folk Museum displays collections of traditional folk arts of many Gujarati rural communities; its collections include colourful works of embroidery, woodcarving, metal work, bead work, leather work, costumes and paintings.
The Gujarat Vidyapith – Tribal Research and Training Institute, carries out studies on the life, culture and economy of the tribal people of Gujarat. The Institute has a museum that houses a variety of objects including ornaments, musical instruments, dress and day-to-day objects. It also has an excellent collection of photos, slides and films related to various tribal communities.
Day 3 Dasada
After breakfast drive to Dasada with stops en-route to visit the magnificent 11th century Sun Temple at Modhera – quite simply one of the finest examples of Hindu temple architecture in western India – and Patan.
Patan is a lovely old town of Jain temples, carved wooden houses and the elaborate Rani ki Vav step well; it is also home of the famous patola silk saris. Here, you’ll visit a workshop of the Salvis to view their work on the patola, one of the richest silk textiles in the world, woven using the rare double-ikat technique.
Day 4 Dasada
Take an early morning safari to the Little Rann of Kutch. Though a bleak landscape, it is rich in biodiversity and is an ecologically important area for wildlife and many local and migratory water birds. However, the Little Rann is best known as the world’s last refuge of the Indian Wild Ass (khur).
After lunch, take an excursion to the historic walled town of Wadhwan. The town produces large volumes of bandhani tie and die and 75% of its population is engaged in the industry. The Brahmkshtriya community started bandhani work. In the past when colours were made from natural elements, the soil of Wadhwan offered the widest range of colours available at that time. The bandhani of Wadhwan was so famous that royal families used to obtain it from Wadhwan. [Image: Sballal].
Day 5 Bhuj
After breakfast depart for the approximately 6-hour drive to the walled city of Bhuj, the headquarters of the Kutch district. The princely citadel of Bhuj is named after its Bhujia fortress, which overlooks the city from a hill nearby.
The city is most famous for its wide variety of handicrafts, which includes Kutchi embroidery with mirror work, bandhani, hand printed textiles and saris, etc. The region is also littered with a large number of sites associated with the Indus Valley Civilization.
Bhuj is a very relaxed city – you can just wander around without being hassled and there is plenty to see. You may like to do some shopping or explore some of the many local bazars with their various items on display including embroidered quilts and garments, wall hangings, glass bead work, leather articles, handicrafts, textiles, ‘Rogan’ art, etc.
Day 6 Bhuj
Bhuj was the capital of the former princely State of Kutch. This morning visit Aina Mahal, an 18th century palace, designed in a mixed Indo-European style, and Prag Mahal, a 19th century palace in Italian Gothic style, located next to it (a climb up the stairs of the 45 metre bell tower offers an exhilarating view of the city).
In the afternoon visit Bharatiya Sanskruti Darshan – Mr Ramsinhji K Rathod, a Scholar of the Folk Art of Kutch created this Museum. On display are artefacts such as leather embroidery, woodwork, terracotta, wall paintings, beadwork, stone carvings, musical instruments and silver work – epitomizing the rustic life styles of the Kutchi villager.
You may also like to call in to the Kutch Museum, the oldest in Gujarat, founded in 1877. A section of the museum is devoted to tribal cultures, with many examples of ancient artefacts, folk arts and crafts and information about tribal peoples. It includes exhibits of embroidery, paintings, arms, musical instruments, sculpture, precious metalwork – and much more. [Image: Bharatiya Sanskruti Darshan].
Day 7 Bhuj
Spend today exploring the Banni region. The grasslands of Banni are scattered with villages of semi-nomadic pastoral groups. As the women of these groups do embroidery for their personal use and as a secondary income, the area has a very high concentration of crafts people. There are many differences in embroidery style seen here (for example stitches, techniques and motifs), which create and maintain a distinct identity for each community.
Day 8 Bhuj
Today take a day excursion to Ajrakhpur (about a 1-hour drive each way). The artisans of Ajrakhpur specialize in Ajrakh, a block printed cotton cloth used traditionally by local herdsmen with natural dies. Its geometrical and nonfigurative motifs often mirror those appearing in Islamic-influenced Indian architecture.
On the way back to Bhuj, stop at Bhujodi – a village skilled in traditional Bandhani (tie and dye), block printing and weaving. Here you can view live demonstrations and buy anything from shawls to blankets from the artisans directly. Bhujodi is also a centre for Piltoom weaving, mewada embroidery and woodcarving.
Day 9 Gondal
This morning you will be driven (about 6 hours) to Gondal, the heart of the small former principality of the same name. The royal family of Gondal, which ruled this area until independence, was committed to education and the modernization of the city – this was one of the first parts of India to have widespread use of electricity and a good rail and road network. The esteem in which the royal family (particularly Maharajah Bhagwat Sinhji) was and still is held by the local populace is evident throughout the town.
Later in the day visit Khadi Plaza, one of Gujarat’s major handloom weaving units.
You might also like to visit the Bhuvaneswari Ayurveda Pharmacy, one of the first and largest Ayurvedic pharmacies in India. The father of the present owner was said to have bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi, and a plaque in the courtyard marks the spot where Gandhi was honoured. The present owner lectures all over the world on the subject of Ayurveda, and is training his son to run the pharmacy. Here you can see how different ayurvedic remedies are prepared according to ancient practices.
Day 10 Gondal
Take a day excursion to Jetpur, known for its screen and block printing workshops, and yarn-dyeing centre. The city is so engaged in production that the air is laden with the smells of dye and the percussion beat of wooden printing blocks can be heard throughout. Jetpur is a pleasure for textile enthusiasts who can visit the workshops and see the process of printing and dyeing first-hand.
Day 11 Ahmedabad
This morning you will be driven to Ahmedabad (5 to 6 hours). On arrival board a flight to your next destination.
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