In the little-known town of Churu, in northern Rajasthan, you can find many craftsmen making jewellery, arts and crafts using traditional techniques which appear destined to be lost in India’s rush to modernise. These artisans seem like everyday people, yet they have exceptional skills which allow them to produce goods such as bangles, woodwork and printed textiles. To visit Churu is to visit its craftsmen, hear their stories and watch them at their trade. These are some of the things being made in Churu that you can discover on a craft tour in the city:
All over India, bangles are worn by the rich and the poor alike and form a key part of a trousseau in Indian weddings. Manir Gauri is a 71-year-old bangle-maker who has been making bangles for more than four decades. Sitting across from his wife at the front of their shop on the main street of Churu, he’s working resin into bangles. This type of jewellery – resin bangles – are traditionally made and worn in Rajasthan and India’s western states, according to the bangle-maker. They are brightly coloured, smoother around the edges and don’t have the usual metallic tinkle-tinkle sound that some cheap metal bangles have. Purple, silver, green, red, gold – the resin is coloured with all the shades of the rainbow and more – and the husband and wife pair mix and match colours in various designs, making 15 or 16 sets of bangles every day.
Venturing off the main road and down the winding lanes of Churu, head into the neighbourhood of textile printers, where men in dye-stained singlets practice different printing methods. They work with rich hues and white cotton to prepare the fabrics commonly seen in Rajasthan – deeply coloured textiles in lush reds and yellows – in patterns favoured by local women and those from nearby farming communities. As you stroll through the streets here you can see mountains of white fabrics yet to be dyed or printed, being washed and prepared, as well as the end result of brilliantly coloured saris, lying in the blazing sun to dry. There are the men who use screens printed with traditional designs to mark fabric stretched on tables as long as 24 meters and those using a method known as tie and dye – printing patterns with hand blocks on the white cotton, before it’s tied in hundreds of places with cotton and then dyed. Very few tourists have been to see these textile printers at work – so a visit to this area is almost as interesting for the local craftsmen as for the outsider!
In addition to the bangles and textiles being made, there’s also the award-winning family of sandalwood craftsmen that Churu can lay claim too. Pawan Kumar Jangid and his family are three-, heading for four-, generations of fathers and sons who are carving elaborate, yet intricate ornaments and decorative pieces from sandalwood. What’s particularly unique about their carvings is the way they carve designs within designs – almost like the layers of a babushka doll. The family has won 10 national awards in India. The father and son sit on the veranda of their house with small chisels and tools, working up pieces that can take a few days or many months.
The craftsmen of Churu are generous with their time and proud of their work. It’s worth taking the time to see these crafts before they are lost, which at this stage seems almost inevitable given India’s movement away from such traditional goods.
A visit to Churu, along with a craft tour and general sightseeing of the town, can be included in one of our customised Rajasthan itineraries. Please email us or use the inquiry form – and mention Churu – to receive such an itinerary.