The charms of Kutch are embedded into its art. Against the backdrop of the white crystal deserts and the yellow grasslands, the Kutchchy people stride in grace with their bold colourful embroideries. We can see this in their clothes, over their walls, on their beds…almost any place around. Overall a fantastic mishmash!
There are two distinct forms of art which are typically seen in the interiors of Kutch – Lippan Art and Kutchy ‘Bharat’ meaning embroidery.
A Gleaming Amalgamation!
Among the many Jat communities in India, Kutchchy Jats are nomadic, separated from their fellow families in Pakistan. They rear cattle, breed camels and indulge in exceptional artwork. Through some family connections, we had a good chance to meet a Jat family deep into the Dhodro village. When we entered their courtyard, we noticed a cluster of round mud houses painted white with bright carved doors. They had thatched roofs and looked like the ones in fairy tales. We later learnt that all mud houses, commonly known as ‘Bhungas’ belonged to one extended family and each sub family had its own ‘Bhunga’. Wow…we were impressed because as soon as we entered one, it felt cool as if entering an air conditioning room. Not only that, it glistened with magnificent patterns and murals with mirrors embedded in them. The whole feeling of a warm welcome, the unruffled ambiance, freshness and the gorgeousness of these homes touched my heart. I couldn’t help writing about it.
While trying to apprehend so much about how beautiful the ‘Bhungas’ are, I noticed how neatly everything was aligned and arranged. Looking at my baffled face the ‘sarpanch’ or the village head explained that murals on the wall are called Lippan. They make simple patterns with a generous use of mirrors and earthy colours. Usually mixture of donkey or camel dung and clay is used to make Lippan murals. It is hard to believe that donkey or camel dung can create such alluring work.
Thread and Countless Mirrors
All over Kutch, we saw a spectrum of colours. Locals wear bright colours so that they can be spotted easily in the wide deserts. They have several types of embroideries like Kambari, Niran, Kherk belonging to different tribes in the region, etc. These patterns are known to be the most advanced and intricate. A lot of them indulge in skirt work and coverlets.
Typically, men set out with cattle while women embroider. These ladies prepare for tocher for their little girls. One such exclusive style of needlework that caught my eye was distinct from the rest. Apparently, it is known to be from Sind in Pakistan. There were rugs folded neatly which had small triangular pieces of coloured cloth stitched on the outer side with the actual embroidery being at the centre. This resulted in small and detached design from the interlaced woven fabric that stretched above the surface of the base cloth. I know it may be difficult to visualize what I just wrote but perhaps a picture might do some justice to my explanation.
I wondered how it must feel to have your entire life revolving around art. Its almost like you live, breathe, create and worship such a gift. I observed how women gossiped, took care of their children who chased goats while their hands moved swiftly over their needlework. Such incredible and perfected work was a boon! Hail to Kutch…inspiration unlimited!