Art and Craft of Gujarat
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.
The Patola Silk from Patan is famous and one of the biggest selling fabrics in some of the larger cities.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. 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. 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.
Saurashtra and Sanked in the Vadodara district are also known for their lacquer work. Toys, stands, parts of bedstead, cradles, cradles, low chairs are some of the important items of lacquer work. Ivory is mostly used in inlay work and preparation of artistic bangles. Mahuva in Bhavnagar district and Idar in Sabarkantha district are known for the manufacturing of wooden lacquer toys.
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.
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.
The traditional Gujarati's have safe guarded their rich cultural heritage for centuries, which is very well exhibited by the art and craft of the region. Crafts in Gujarat are a way of life, a process that transforms even the most mundane object of daily use into a thing of beauty. The major handicraft works are :
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. The most popular textile styles arePatola, Bandhej, Matani, Jari, Mashru, Deesa, Toran, Tangalia, Dhamadka & Ajrakh etc