Monday, May 14, 2007
ART & CRAFT IN GUJRAT
The state of Gujarat has been blessed with a rich and vibrant tradition of handicrafts. Handicrafts were originally based on home production for daily use. Each article was made almost entirely by hand. Skilled men and women, whose work was distinguished by their inherent good taste and by the economical use of raw materials, made each article. Handcrafted products were sturdy yet were graced with tremendous visual appeal and have been greatly sought after. Amongst the traditional handicrafts of Gujarat are numerous things that a discerning buyer would wish to admire and acquire. The range of offerings spans a wide array of furniture, jewellery, metalwork items, embroidered garments, colourful linen, leatherwork, beadwork, mirror work, baked clay articles etc. All these are created to reflect the lifestyle, culture and above all the spirit of Gujarat.
Articles of everyday use
Leather bags embellished with motifs of velpatti, laherias, animals and birds in the tradition of what is known as Mochi Bharat. Colorful mojdis, sapats, chappals and chaplas (embroidered footwear), tasseled and embroidered to highlight colour schemes.Chunky white metal, bead, agate and guthni jewellery to complete that traditional look. Embossed white metal ashtrays, paper trays, pen stands and boxes.Artistically embossed white metal copper and brass plant holders from north Gujarat.Copper bells from Jhura in Kutch. Pen stands and desk accessories with traditional inlay work known as Marquetry of Surat.Bangle boxes of gilded brass. Pataras, wooden jewel boxes, covered with ornamental, white metal and brass sheeting.File covers and folders made from a variety of fabrics and embroideries. Telephone index books, spectacle covers, pass books, writing pads, weekly planners. A range of desk utilities, cloth bound in the entire ethnic fabric range.File covers and folders made from a variety of fabrics and embroideries. Telephone index books, spectacle covers, pass books, writing pads, weekly planners. A range of desk utilities, cloth bound in the entire ethnic fabric range.Silver Jewellery is always in great demand with Rajkot and Ahmedabad being centres for silver ornaments. Beadwork is another Gujarati specialty. Motifs and patterns are dictated by the technique of putting two and three beads together. Beadwork objects are used in wall decorations, potholders, etc. The best beadwork is produced by the kathis (tribals). Worked mostly on a white background they use colours that are vibrant with very distinct patterns. Beadwork torans (welcoming friezes) are usually suspended over doorways.
Gujarat offers a wide range of furnishings. From simple and elegant cushion covers to quilts and bedcovers in a wide range of styles. Quilts are another popular handicraft item. They come in a variety of styles from simple geometric designs to more complex patterns. Other utility items like woven and Kalamkari table covers, tablemats and block printed bed land table linen.Totally felted, inlayed namdas and woven dhurries from Kutch. Kharal, a traditional floorspread from Kutch, is woven entirely with camel and goat hair.Ari, embroidered wall hanging and decorative pieces of suff embroidery are done by the Sodha community.
The variety in textiles lies in the differences of raw materials, the combinations of yarns and in the effective use of traditional techniques. Variations in design used by different communities, castes and regions of the state, have further enriched the range.
Mashru, a mixed fabric, woven with a combination of cotton and silk, was essentially for the use of Muslim men as there was a prohibition on them wearing pure silk. Weaving traditions prevalent in Iraq and the Arab countries may have influenced the tradition of mashru.Mashru was woven all over India, though it survives today only in Gujarat. It often combines ikat patterns in stripes, along with woven patterns, through the introduction of extra warp threads, or by the depression of the warp threads, and is woven on a pit loom. Today Patan is one of the most important centres where mashru is woven.
Worn originally by tribes of Gujarat, this fabric is printed in geometric patterns with bold black outlines, in deep earthy colours.
Dhamadka & Ajrakh
The intricate art of printing fabrics using wooden blocks thrives in the riverside town of Jetpur, midway Gondal and Junagadh, and earns valuable foreign exchange along side the more modern screen-printing workshops. Wood is cut and flattened into blocks ranging from around 1 ½ " to 3" thickness, pin pricked with the outline of the design to be transferred to the fabric and finally minutely carved by chiseling. Next, the colours are separated to fill the niches, and the Chhipa or Khatri expertly runs the block along the length and breadth of the fabric.The dyed fabric is then fixed in river Gondali and kept to dry. Kutch also specializes in block printing, and vegetable dyes, paraffin wax resist, patricate-printing material. Bright ajrakh prints are still used though now synthetic dyes and modern techniques have been adopted. Dhamadka are block prints that derive their name from the village of origin, well known for its river water that brightens the colours. A range of contrasting maroons, yellows, blues and reds with patterns generated through tiny dots.
This fabric from Surendranagar is inlayed with thread during weaving to create geometrical patterns and peacock motifs.
The tie-dyed fabrics of Gujarat are perhaps the best produced in India. Also known as Bandhej, it is produced on superfine cotton mulmul, muslin sometimes combined with gold checks and motifs worked in the jamdani technique. The highest intensity of Bandhini dyeing is in Kutch, but some of the best works are from Jamnagar and Saurashtra, on the Southern coast of Gulf of Kutch. The printed portion of the fabric are pinched and pushed into small points and then knotted with 2 or 3 twists of thread. The knotted parts remain uncoloured and the fabric is dyed in the lightest shade first, retied and dyed in the darker colour. The fabric may be tied and dyed several times, depending on the number of shades in the final colour scheme. The price of the bandhini depends not only on the fabric, but also on the number of times it has to be tied and dyed and the intricacy of the design. Bandhini sarees are easily available in all the bazaars and shopping centres of Jamnagar and here you can also find them brocaded with fine gold thread zaris.
Salwars, kurtas, ghaghras, cholis, odhanis, skirts and jackets are some of the garments available. Each of these garments is created from authentic hand block-printed material, imaginatively embellished with appliqué patterns and embroidery, collected from remote villages of Gujarat.
Sarees woven with gold and silver thread known as ganga-jamuna. The borders retain the flowing patterns of old chanderi and paithani sarees, which were a specialty of western India.
Chinese weavers first introduced tanchoi in Surat and the Parsi community used it extensively. They continue to be woven into sarees as well as fabric in silk.
Gharchola and Panetar
These silk sarees from Cambay are first woven with silk and zari threads and then tie-dyed or block printed.
Patola - The queen of Silks
The patola is one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. This is a specialty of Patan, and is famous for extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. Besides Patan, Surat is acclaimed for velvets with patola patterns. The salvi silk weavers from Maharashtra and Karnataka opted to make Gujarat the home of their renowned patola fabrics. The salvis are said to have arrived in Patan from Maharashtra and Karnataka in the 12th century to make the most of the patronage of the Solanki Rajputs, who then ruled all of Gujarats and parts of South Rajasthan and Malva with the capital at Anahilwad Patan. According to folklore, as many as 700 Patola weavers a company Raja Kumarapala to the palace of Patan, and the ruler himself wore a Patola silk robe on the occasion. After the fall of Solanki dynasty, the Salvis found patronage in the affluent Gujarati merchant, and the patola sarees soon became a status symbol with Gujarati girls and women especially as an important part of stridhan for the departing wedded daughter. The patola of Patan is done in the double ikkat style, which is perhaps the most complicated of all textiles designs in the whole world. Each fabric consists of a series of warp threads and a single weft thread, which binds the warp threads together. Each one of the warp threads is tied and dyed according to the pattern of the saree, such that the knotted portions of the thread do not catch the colours. The result is not only a tremendous richness in colour of the fabric, but that both side of the saree look exactly alike, and can be worn either way. In fact except to an expert, a patola looks like a piece of silk fabric, printed on both sides in the same design. The weaving is done on simple traditional handlooms, and the dyes used are made from vegetable extracts and other natural colours, which are so fast that there is a Gujarati saying that "the patola will tear, but the colour will not fade." A patola saree takes 4 to 6 months to make, depending on how complicated the designs is and if the length is 5 or 6 metres, it can cause from Rs.50, 000/- to over Rs. 100,000/- a piece. Patan produces very intricate patterns worked with precision and clarity, with the characteristic geometric delineation of the design, while maintaining the soft hazy outlines, a natural effect of the technique. In an area called Sadvi Wada you can watch the complex weaving of silk patola saris, once the preferred garment of queens and aristocrats, and now made by just one family.There were four distinct styles in the patolas woven originally in Gujarat by the Salvi community. The double ikat sarees with all over patterns of flowers, parrots, dancing figures and elephants were used by the Jains and Hindus. For the Muslim Vora community special sarees with geometric and floral designs were woven for use during weddings. There were also the sarees woven for the Maharashtrian Brahmins with a plain, dark-coloured body and borders with women and birds, called the Nari Kunj. There was a cloth specially woven for the traditional export markets in the Far East.
Silver and Stone Crafts
Gujarat's other paramount craft is silver and iron works, found nowhere better than in the former princely state of Saurashtra and Kutch where descendants of the original court swordsmiths and jewelers, now make fine beetle nut crackers, copper coated iron bells, knives and cutlery. The brass industry of Jamnagar is one of the largest in India and from Kutch and Rajkot come the famous silver engravings and ornaments that are considered so typical of Gujarat. Anjar is a good place to buy brass and iron utensils, cutlery, knives and scissors. For classic chunky tribal jewellery, you should visit Poshina, enroute from Ahmedabad to Mt. Abu, where silver and imitation silver ornaments can be brought from the tribals and native artisans for very low prices. You can also watch arrows being crafted here, and pick up knives and daggers with beautiful sheaths and hilts.
Wonders in Clay
The state's oldest handicraft is certainly pottery, which achieved great standards of excellence in ancient times. The commonest of art forms, pottery is also one of the most fascinating. With the few turns of the wheel and expert flicks of the hand, village potters mould an ordinary lump of mud into a well proportioned and useful clay utensils, embellished by their wives with paintings and colourful lines. Terracotta toys are another craft of the potters of Kutch, but it is in the Aravallis and Chhota Udepur tribal lands that potters make the famous long necked terracotta figurines of the Gora Dev (tribal horse God), said to protect crops, villages and families from evil spirits, evil intentions and natural calamities. At Poshina, these terracotta horses and elephants cost Rs. 10 to 50 each, and are good decorations for your home and garden, and the Poshinagadh heritage hotel can arrange for you to shop for such tribal artifacts. An entire wall panel of such terra cotta animals can cost Rs. 3000/-. Potter communities also specialise in mud wall paintings, and you could get plaques, inset with mirrors, made for your own house or garden shack from Kutch.
Another handicraft industry that has become synonymous with Southern Gujarat is the lacquered furniture of Sankheda near Vadodara. Wood is rounded with tools and painted with floral and abstract designs in bright shades of gold, silver, maroon, green, vermilion, and brown by using sticks dipped in a coloured mixture of dyes, powdered zinc, lac and resin.The furniture and woodcrafts of Surat, Kutch and Saurashtra are also popular. The artisans of Kutch make wood take on beautiful designs and intricate filigreed appearance of lace. Lacquered furniture similar to that of Sankheda is also made in Mahuva near Bhavnagar, Surat and Kutch. Minakari furniture from Rajkot, now made by only of few families is as attractive as Sankheda furniture and includes low slung chairs, which can replace sitting cross leg on floors, Indian styles and sofa sets, chairs, centre tables and settees. In textile centres like Jetpur, Kutch and Pethapur village of Gandhinagar district, a good by are old wooden blocks used for printing fabrics which can be joined into a table top, decorative screen or a partition or used as door knobs, ornamental pieces or paper weights.
If any one deserves the credit of adding, a touch of exotic colour to the monochromatic desert scapes of the Rann of Kutch and the arid semi desert scrubby grasslands of Banni, it is the embroiderers. Embroidery is Gujarat's quintessential handicraft and many of the artisans are wives of herdsmen, nomads and agriculturists battling for a second income. Techniques vary with the community and region look for the simple needle work but exquisite effects of Bavalia embroidery to the fabulous bright yellow and red Banni embroidery; the embroidery of the Rabari cameleers, reminiscent of their pastoral life style, inlaid with triangular, square and almond shaped mirrors; the geometric and floral motifs of the Ahir community with circular mirrors; the chain stitches and tiny mirrors used by the Jats; the delicate soof embroidery of the Sodha Rajputs around Lakhpat ; the tiny broken mirrors embroidered into fabrics by the Mutwa cameleers; and the exquisite Mukka embroidery of the Hali Putras, Rasipotra and Node herds people.
The history of the zari (gold embroidery) industry of Surat dates back to the Mughal period. Even today Surat remains one of the biggest and most significant zari manufacturing centres of India. The principal types of products are zari threads in gold and silver, embroidery for decorative boarders, shoe uppers, evening bags and accessories. Gold and silver threads are commonly used for weaving the kinkhab.
Dhurries, carpets, blankets and rugs are woven on primitive pitlooms in the villages of Kutch. Wankars dexterously weave designs with their hands while the machine is worked by foot pedals. The result, gorgeous patterns and remarkable colours combinations. Durries can be made from wool, goat hair and cotton. Colourful quilts and camel comparison are also woven traditionally on pitlooms, shuttle looms and other handlooms. Handloom weaving is an important occupation in villages on the Ahmedabad - Bhavnagar highway.
Silver jewellery is always in great demand with Rajkot and Ahmedabad being centres for silver ornaments.Just an hour's drive from Ahmedabad, the artisans of Khambhat (Cambay) continue the craft of stone cutting and bead making, which began in ancient times. Agate is mined in the hills along the Gulf of Khambat. Here they are dried and heated till they fracture regularly, and then cut and reheated with iron oxide. The stone is then chipped and flaked into beads, before grinding, drilling and polishing. The final product is set into ornaments or utensils. Other precious and semi precious stones are also cut and polished in Khambhat. Products range in price from Rs. 15/- for an earring to Rs. 3000/- or more for an entire set.