This very special 15 day holiday will be visiting Gujarat, India a region renowned for its crafts and textiles having many skilled craftsmen and women. If you have ever seen Indian textiles and crafts in exhibitions and marvelled at their workmanship you will be even more amazed when you see them in their local context and witness for yourself the incredible, intricate and skillful work that is involved. In an ever changing and developing world there are few places left on the planet where handwork is still valued and where skill, patience and creativity is still prized. Thankfully, Gujarat is one of them.
The tour starts off in Ahmedabad with with a visit to one of the world’s most amazing textile collections, the Calico Museum. It houses one of the finest collections of both antique and modern Indian textiles. Whilst the many textiles are both visibly beautiful and stunning, a closer inspection soon reveals just how marvellous they are as the needlework in them seems to defy belief. A truly breathtaking collection awaits you.
Whilst in Ahmedabad we will also be visiting the Sabarmati Ashram a peaceful oasis set on a riverbank. This was where Ghandi lived during India’s struggle for independence. He founded it during the 1920’s and it was from here that he set off on 12th March 1930 on his famous Salt March in symbolic protest. His spartan living quarters have been preserved along with his library. In addition there is a pictorial record of his life which has proved very popular with Indian and overseas visitors alike.
Don’t be fooled by the title! Moving on from Ahmedabad we will travel on to Zainabad in the Little Rann of Kutch. Here we will be staying in individual cottages all en-suite. The only noise here will be that of birds and the breeze as it pulsates through the treetops. The Little Rann is full of of birdlife as it is an important staging ground for many species of migratory birds. The area is also a popular breeding ground for pink flamingos. It is one of the few places left where if you are lucky, you will see the endangered Asiatic Wild Ass. During this part of the tour we can make arrangements for you to be given a guided tour of the desert area by a local expert whose family have lived in the Little Rann for many years.
Following on from our stay in Zainabad we will be moving onto Bhuj the capital of Kutch. This really is one of the main textile areas of the region. It has many beguiling and bewitching bazaars selling an amazing selection of handicrafts. The artisans of Bhuj are to be seen around every nook and cranny as we weave our way around the narrow streets and alleyways. Bhuj is very diverse and some of the prominent tribes of Kutch have made this region their home and can be seen walking around the town in their unique style of dress which denotes the tribes they are from. They include the Rabaris, Bharwards and Bajanias. As nomads the Rabaris can often be seen walking along the roads with all their wordly goods on the backs of their camels as they move from place to place with their livestock in search of pastures new.
Don’t worry we will not be hurrying as we will have spent four days in Bhuj. One of the many special features of this textile tour is that you will have plenty of time to see and do all that you like. Here we will be staying tents but don’t think about the Girl Guides they are modern luxury tents with bathrooms No crawling in on your hand and knees, just walk straight in.
There is a saying for this area and it is ‘Where Tradition Lives and Culture Rules’. It will be in Hodka and the surrounding villages that you will be able to join in the seven special workshops we have arranged. Not only will you be seeing some amazing textiles, artisans, crafts and skills but you will be given the opportunity to try your hand at creating some of this work for yourself.
This is the first time that we have offered workshops as part of our textile holidays and it is due in no small part to our being well known and respected in the areas you will visiting. During this part of the tour we will also be joined by another local expert who has extensive knowledge of the indigenous people and their lifestyle.
Bandhani Workshop at Shohil’s House The art of Bandhani is a highly skilled process. The technique involves dyeing a fabric which is tied tightly with a thread at several points producing a variety of patterns. Our workshop with a family of artisans in the heart of Bhuj will take you through the creation of the design, the tying process and the various stages of dyeing.
Block Printing at Ajrakhpur For thousands of years Ajrakh artisans were located near the banks of the Indus River. The river provided both a site for washing cloth and the water needed to grow indigo. Indigo blue, madder red and a yellow derived from pomegranate rinds characterise the Ajrakh blockprint. Our workshop with highly skilled artisans will take you through the preparation of the dyes and the resist for printing, the block printing process and the dyeing of the cloth.
Wax Resist Printing at Mundra Kutch is one of the oldest printing centres of Western India and the west coast artisans are known for their excellent quality of printing. In Mundra hot wax is used as the the resist. Our workshop will involve the full process of preparing the resist, printing your design and the stages of dyeing. After dyeing, the fabric is washed in flowing water or in vats of hot water to melt the wax.
Mud Relief at Hodka The Meghwar women’s clay relief is a method of decorating interior walls of living spaces of Rabari and Meghwal communities in the villages of Kutch. Our workshop will enable you to do the mud relief work embellished with mirrors, still used to decorate the traditional bhungas (houses). When you have finished making your creation, as you can see from the photograph it is small enough to take home with you.
Ahir Embroidery The Ahir tribe is renowned for its hand made embroidery. The designs are usually free flowing, containing smooth curves. Designs are created using freehand drawings, which are traced on the cloth using a stencil. The outlines are made using a chain stitch, locally known as ‘sankali’. The filling is done using a herringbone style stitch called ‘vana’. Mirrors are also used. Common motifs include peacocks, flowers, scorpions, elephants, milkmaids and parrots.