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Travel through the white desert of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and the red desert of Rajasthan on a private tour of intriguing and contrasting landscapes of North India with a spotlight on the long history of textiles and their influence in these regions.
Visit bustling cities, remote rural regions and world heritage sites meeting with and learning from textile specialist as your criss-cross North India.
The lesser known city of Bhuj, the headquarters of the Kutch district is most famous for its wide variety of handicrafts, Kutchi embroidery with mirror work, bandhni tie-dye and hand printed textiles. Experience immersive visits to ethnic communities learning the long tradition of tribal colours, motives and stiches.
Ahmedabad offers the opportunity to visit the finest textile museum in the world and in Jaipur a hands-on workshop to learn of traditional natural dyes and hand block printing where artisans are engaged in keeping alive the three-centuries-old tradition.
An early morning visit to the Taj Mahal at sunrise brings the colourful tour to an end.
As the itinerary is tailor made it can be customised to suit particular textile interests and time frame.
Day 1 Mumbai
Arrive Mumbai. You will be met and welcomed upon arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel.
Mumbai (earlier known as Bombay) is the commercial hub of India and a vibrant, colourful and bustling metropolis. It is also an important centre of theatre, art, music, and dance. The city’s weathered Victorian mansions — some still privately owned — and grand public buildings, many beautifully lit at night, stand as lingering reminders of the days of the British Raj. Although steeped in tradition and with a rich historical past, this is a city where traditional and modern business practices flourish simultaneously – indeed, the signs of modern Mumbai’s phenomenal growth can be seen at every turn.
Day 2 Bhuj
This morning you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Bhuj. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Afterwards explore Bhuj on a guided tour.
The walled city of Bhuj is the headquarters of the Kutch district. Named after its Bhujia fortress, which overlooks the city from a hill nearby, Bhuj is most famous for its wide variety of handicrafts, which includes Kutchi embroidery with mirror work, bandhni, hand printed textiles and saris, etc. The region is also littered with a large number of sites associated with the Indus Valley Civilization.
Day 3 Bhuj
Your morning is at leisure. This afternoon visit the Kala Raksha Trust Centre, which is located a short drive from Bhuj.
Kala Raksha Trust Centre for Embroidery Bhuj
Kala Raksha means the “Art of Preservation”. The trust was established in 1993 as a registered society comprising artisans, community members, and experts in the fields of art, design, rural management and museums.
Kala Raksha today works with nearly 1,000 embroidery artisans of seven ethnic communities and aims to preserve traditional arts of the region by making them culturally and economically viable. The Trust provides training as needed to make this possible.
Day 4 Bhuj
A full day of sightseeing in and around the tribal villages of the Great Rann of Kutch to see various arts and crafts.
There are about 16 different types of embroideries in the Kutch region, each belonging to a different community. All of these communities have their own, unique style of embroidery, different motifs, patterns that give them a visual identity. The most well known one, with its chain stitches and countless mirrors, is the Rabari embroidery. Rabaris embroider a wide range of garments, bags, household decorations and animal trappings. The objects that they embroider highlight important events, rites and values in their lives.
Day 5 Bajana
This morning depart for the drive to Bajana. The journey is around 6 hours. Upon arrival check into your hotel. Later this afternoon commence a safari into the Wild Ass Sanctuary.
The Wild Ass Sanctuary of the Little Rann of Kutch, spreading across nearly 5000 square kilometres of the Little Rann, is the only place on earth where the endangered Indian Wild Ass, still lives. Around 3000 live in the sanctuary and are usually seen in herds.
The Sanctuary is home to far more than just the wild ass. Among the 32 other species of mammals are the chinkara (Indian gazelle), two types of desert fox (Indian and White-footed), jackals, caracals (African lynx), nilgais (the largest antelope of Asia), Indian wolves, blackbucks, and striped hyenas. Because of the Sanctuary’s proximity to the Gulf of Kutch and its location on the migration routes of many bird species, it is a very important site for birds to feed and breed in. Every year, approximately 75,000 birds’ nest in the reserve.
Day 6 Ahmedabad
Today drive to Ahmedabad, making a stop en-route to visit Patan and Modhera. The journey time is around 6 hours. Upon arrival check into your hotel.
The town of Patan was the capital of Gujarat between the 8th and 15th centuries. In 1411 it began to fall into decline when Ahmed Shah moved his capital to Ahmedabad. Today it is a lovely old town of Jain temples, quaint old streets and carved wooden havelis.
Most people visit Patan to see its beautiful and painstakingly restored seven-storied Rani-Ki-VavBaoli step well. Built in 1050 for the Solanki queen Udaimati, it is the oldest and finest in Gujarat. It boasts some 800 individual, elaborately carved sculptures. At its base are 37 niches with the elephant god, Ganesha, carved into them.
Patan is also famous for its patola silk saris. If you are interested you can visit a workshop of the Salvis to view their work on the patola, one of the richest silk textiles in the world; with their bright, distinctive patterns, they can take upward of six months to create.
The magnificent Sun Temple at Modhera was built in 1026 by King Bhima I of the Solanski dynasty. Set in peaceful grounds the complex includes a beautifully proportioned rectangular baoli (step well) containing over a hundred shrines to Ganesh, Vishnu and Shiva. In tribute to its deity, Surya, the sun god, the east-west facing temple was so precisely laid out that the sun’s rays penetrate the centre of the inner sanctum at noon every day. The carvings, depicting Hindu deities and scenes from everyday life are extraordinarily detailed. This is quite simply one of the finest examples of Hindu temple architecture in western India.
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 an immense repository of tradition, history and culture.
An intriguing mix of the ancient and the modern, Ahmedabad is home to some of the finest Indo-Saracenic mosques and Jain temples in Gujarat and the elaborate havelis of wealthy Guajarati Sethias are part of the city’s living heritage. The old city with its narrow, meandering streets is one of the finest examples of community living with its conglomeration of 600 pols (small neighbourhoods), divided according to caste and occupation. After independence international architects Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier were commissioned to build modern architectural marvels in the city.
Day 7 Ahmedabad
This morning visit the Calico Museum of Textiles. Afterwards explore Ahmedabad with a local guide
The Calico Museum of Textiles Ahmedabad
Appropriately enough for a city that owes its prosperity to three threads – cotton, silk and gold – Ahmedabad has one of the finest textile museums in the world. Housed in one of Gujarat’s famous carved-wooden havelis, the Calico Museum displays a magnificent collection of rare textiles, spanning varied and remote regions of India.
It’s vast collections include: textile swatches of Indian origin found at archaeological sites in Egypt; silk saris from across India; double-ikat silk sarongs made in Patan for the Indonesian market; chintz and curtains made for the Dutch, British and Portuguese colonial powers in Gujarat; floral embroidery from Punjab; shawls from Kashmir; 18th century tie-and-dye; cloth paintings and manuscripts; religious narrative cloth paintings such as Pichwais and Kalamkaris; royal wardrobes of Rajasthan; and the richly embroidered Mughal tent of Shah Jahan.
Day 8 Ahmedabad
This morning set out on a guided Heritage Walk of the City. Afterwards continue with a visit to see examples of Aari Embroidery.
Walking through the narrow streets of the old city and Juhapura areas of Ahmedabad, one comes across men and women, chit chatting on their porches around the wooden frames, while their hands speak a language of their own. Aari embroidery is largely practiced in Ahmedabad, through various organisations that employees close to 100 craftsmen working from their households.
The Aari embroidery, a celebrated and much adored work of Gujarat, requires not just the perfect stitch but also the understanding of the innate technique by which it is created. The thread is held with a finger at the reverse of the fabric and the aari, an awl-like needle with a sharp point, is held on the top. The aari is pierced through the cloth and the thread is brought to the upper side and used to secure the previous stitch. This unique stitch, similar to the cobbler’s stitch, is repeated until the desired form is created on the surface of the fabric. The best pieces of fabrics used for this embroidery are often silk or a locally made satin called Gajji. Atlash, a special silk-satin is also used for the purpose.
Dotted with bootis of various shapes and sizes, motifs and designs of peacocks, flowers, these embroidered sarees, suits, dupattas and traditional Gujarati ghagra-cholis find themselves to be the centre of attention for the women across the world. Whereas, the roots of this art in India go as deep as the time of the Rig Veda, it prospered during the Mughal Emperor, Akbar. And with this, came the Persian influence, which we see in the motifs, materials and the nomenclature today.
Day 9 Jaipur
Today you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Jaipur. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Jaipur – The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is known as the ‘Pink City’ because of the pink paint applied to the buildings in its old walled town. The city was named after its founder, the warrior and astronomer sovereign, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, who ruled from 1688 to 1744
Begun in 1727 and completed in just eight years, Jaipur was planned according to the principles laid down in the “Shilpa Shastra”, an ancient Indian treatise on architecture. Originally built within high crenelated walls (though it has expanded outside of the original walls over time) the city was divided into nine sectors, or ‘chokris’, each named after the caste who lived and practised their specific skills there. Architecturally interesting, and steeped in history and culture, the past comes alive here in magnificent forts and palaces, once the habitats of maharajas.
Day 10 Jaipur
A full day in Jaipur with a local guide to plan and assist with your sightseeing, according to your particular interests.
Day 11 Jaipur
This morning you will be met at your hotel by a local representative who will accompany you to the Village of Bagru. Participate in a half day hands on workshop of Block Printing. Afterwards return to your hotel and the remainder of your day is at leisure.
Bagru a small Indian town located about a 40-minute drive from Jaipur, is known for its traditional natural dyes and hand block printing.
Studio Bagru Block Printing JaipurArtisans here are engaged in keeping alive the three-centuries-old tradition. Cloth is smeared with earth obtained from the riverside and then dipped in turmeric water to get the distinctive cream colour background. It is then stamped with beautiful designs – usually ethnic floral patterns – engraved on wooden blocks, using natural vegetable dyes (the colour blue is made from indigo, green from indigo mixed with pomegranate, red from madder root and yellow from turmeric). The prints, which form an essential part of the block printing industry of Rajasthan, are renowned for their eco-friendly processing and exceptional quality
Day 12 Agra
This morning commence the drive to Agra. The journey is around 5 hours. Upon arrival visit Agra Fort.
A powerful fortress of red sandstone, Agra Fort encompasses within its 2.5 km-long enclosure walls the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. Many of the events that led to the construction of the Taj Mahal took place here. Begun by Emperor Akbar in 1565, some 4,000 builders worked on it daily for eight years, completing it in 1573 (although additions continued to be made until the time of his grandson Shah Jahan)
The massive strength displayed in its exterior hides the beauty of its interior – an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture comprising several beautiful wells, courtyards with flower-beds, water channels and fountains and two exquisite white marble mosques – the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), and the Nagina Masjid (Jewel Mosque), as well as numerous palaces including the Sheesh Mahal and the Musamman Burj (from where Shah Jahan, imprisoned here by his son during the last years of his life, was able to view the Taj Mahal in the distance).
Day 13 Delhi
This morning rise early to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Afterwards return to your hotel for breakfast and then commence the drive to your hotel at Delhi Airport. The journey time is around 4 hours.
Day 14 Delhi
This morning transfer to Delhi Airport for your departure flight
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