Rann of Kutch beckons with white sands, colourful handicrafts

Trisha Mukherjee

Rann of Kutch (Gujarat)

Visuals from fairy tales seem to come alive when infinite stretches of white sand glisten under the pale moonlight and the barren land springs to life with riot of colourful handicrafts at the annual Rann Utsav in Rann of Kutch here.

The festival which began in 2005 as a two-day affair, is now celebrated over a period of three months and is thronged by visitors from across the world to experience the festivities and culture of the western-most state of the country.

“When we started in 2005, we began in a very small way with something that was only two or three days long. Since the last three years, we made it into a 90-day-thing,” says Saurabh Patel, Minister for Tourism, Gujarat.

From elaborately embroidered apparels and multi-hued luxurious quilts to block-printing and wood-carving, a host of handicraft stalls are put up as part of the festival to offer visitors an experience of Kutch’s craftsmanship.

What perhaps makes its handicraft unique is that there is no single form of embroidery that dominates the region. The Kutchi artisans, mainly women, practise multiple types of embroidery such as suf, khaarek, paako, rabari, jat and mutava to create exquisite designs.

38-year-old Rana Sumar Marwara’s stall at this year’s Rann Utsav is replete with brightly coloured bags, quilts, wall-pieces, bed sheets, shawls and table cloths.

“Paako work on a single bedsheet that roughly measures 50 x 90 inches takes about two years to complete,” says Marwara, who has been participating in the festival for the past eight years.

Paako, which means solid, is a tight square chain and double buttonhole stitch embroidery. Often ending with with black satin, slightly leaning outlining, the embroidery has floral motifs arranged in symmetric patterns.

Prices of paako quilts and bedsheets range from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000.

Marwara’s stall also has an assortment of leather jutis adorned with colourful patch work and embroidery.

Another form of embroidery called mutava practised particularly by Muslim artisans is also popular in the region.

A relatively neater and compact form of handcraft, mutava is an amalgam of minute renditions of the other local styles.

It is mostly geometric in design and fine in its execution.

Metal bells in plethora of shapes, sizes and designs are favourite among visitors.

“They are made from panchdhatu or five metals (copper, bronze, iron, aluminium and steel). While tourists buy them for decorative purposes for their homes, locals buy them to tie around the necks of their animals so that they can be located easily,” says Luhar Rizwan Nwrmamad, who also has a stall at the festival.

A ninth class dropout, 20-year-old Nwrmamad along with his brothers has been in the business for nearly four years. The craft otherwise, is being practised by his family for over 7 centuries now.

“About 30 bells are made in a single day,” he says.

The Gujarat government has set up nearly 350 tents at the main venue and another 200 within 10 kilometre of its radius to provide accommodation to the visitors. The place has now come to be known as the Dhordo Tent City.

“There are 350 tents here. What we have done is that through a different mechanism we have helped sarpanchs of villages to build up areas where they have set 10-12 tents each. So now we have more than 550 rooms over here,” says Patel.

The tents are well quipped with air conditioners and room heater for changing temperatures and washrooms of supreme quality with continuous power and water supply.

“All infrastructure has been put up by the government of Gujarat including roads and power. Water is pumped in from Narmada river and brought here,” says Patel.

With the overwhelming response that the festival has been receiving over the years, admitting that there is need to create more infrastructure, Patel says, “In the future, we will build up more infrastructure so that more accommodation can be made available.”

Other activities to look out for at three month long extravaganza include traditional cultural programmes with Gujarati dance and music, camel safaris, besides indigenous culinary delights from the region.

The festival which was inaugurated on December 24 is set to continue till February 23 this year.

PTI

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