Following the Thread - A Textile Trail in Gujarat

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Indian culture and its textiles are interwoven. There is nothing quite like the insightful embrace of one of India's most respected and valued cultures - textiles. Come on a journey to meet textile craft communities in Gujarat and indulge in a rich, diverse cultural experience, complete with historical context, wrapped with local interactions and cuisine . This journey will be filled with new friendships, fonder appreciation and understanding on Indian textiles, and memories worth a thousand counts. Day 1: On arrival into Ahmedabad, India’s historical cradle otherwise known as the `Tortoise's Back‘ we head straight to check into Diwan’s Bungalow , (time permitting) else head straight for a curated walk around the world-renowned Calico Museum of Textiles archiving textiles from the Mughal and Provincial Courts with a display of intricate dyeing, weaving, printing and embroidery techniques from across India. Late lunch at Swati Snacks, where a quick bite must include panki and sugar cane juice or thaleepeeth, and khichu cooked to spiced perfection! Post this we head to meet Villo Mirza , who has done some pioneering work with craft and textiles for SEWA for many years and now runs her own trust working with women on applique and patchwork based design. We return to our boutique hotel and refresh ourselves before we head to a sit down dinner at Agaashiye , at the charming House of MG, where we enjoy the cool evening breeze and indulge in their special Khansa Thali. A long day draws to an end as we get some much needed shut eye. Day 2: This morning we take a her;itage walk in the old city, including exploring old havelis and rani no hajeero, the quintessential amdavaadi market. Lunch is at the Green house café, followed by a quick stop over at Art Book Centre, to meet Manohar bhai who will wax eloquent about the best books ever written on Indian textiles and sell you some in the bargain offering a deal sweeter than basundi. Straight after this we head to meet the Chitaras, a handful of artists that still make hand painted Pachedis- a kalamkari art form traditional to Gujarat. In olden times, the Harijan community or the lower castes, often labeled untouchables, did not have access to temples. Made on cotton or silk fabric, hand painted Pachedis worked as their own personal shrines that were used for worship of the Goddess. Time permitting a visit to Bandhej to meet Archana Shah author of ‘Shifting Sands’ documenting decades of her work with craftsmen and women of Gujarat. An interaction with her at the store and we leave for the evening at Vishaala. No trip to Ahmedabad is complete without a trip to Vishaala to savour Gujarati hospitality at its best. Bursting at the seams, we come back to Diwan’s and retire for the night. Day 3: Packed breakfast in tow we have a very early start to this day as we drive out of Ahmedabad to Bhuj, the textile centre within the Kutch District in Gujarat, approximately 299km away. Lunch with Jabbar bhai Khatri in Dhamadka followed by a demonstration of Ajrakh, we spend some time at the printing unit and we’re on our way to visit Dr. Ismail Khatri, one of the masters in Ajrakh and a pioneer in the art . Ajrakh literally meant aaj ke din rakh, or 'keep it for today' because that is what the process is. At every stage of the tedious dying process, the fabric should dry for three to four days. Nature plays an important role in the making of Ajrakh. Craftsmen work in total harmony with their environment, where the sun, river, animals, trees and mud are all part of its making. A discussion on the Ajrak textiles at his workshop makes for engaging conversations over a reflective and relaxing cup of tea with the Khatris.. Drive back into Bhuj and before we wind up for the day we meet Ali Mohammed Isha, a textile intellectual who walks us through a tie-dyeing technique knows as Bandhani, a laborious all hand done tie-dye printing process. Tonite we dine at Prince, a traditional meal, and head back to our halt for the night, the Garha Safari Lodge. Its been a long day and we pack in early. Day 4: After exploring the property in the morning, and an early breakfast, we head to to Bhuj to meet an avid textile collector cum expert, and look at some of his collections dating back to the late 1800 and early 1900s, not just in the rabari embroidery styles but also the most exquisite phulkaris and kanthas. Food for the soul truly. Then we head to Bhujodi in the heart of Kutch where we spiral into discussions on traditional pit looms and shuttle looms and hear from Shyamji Vankar, about the challenges faced by the vankars known for their extra weft wool weaving . After our interactions, over lunch with the vankars, we make our way toward an interaction with the Rabari community known for their homes. Here we see the indigenous mud homes decorated by women, with a royal color sensibility and embedded with mirrors for a touch of local glamour. Dinner at a local eatery in Bhuj and we head back to the Lodge and retire for the night. Day 5: We check out of the Garha Safari Lodge and head to Shrujan. We check into their traditional bhungas, and meet the team at Shrujan who expose us to women craftsman working on sustaining the traditional embroidery of the Mochi Bharat (cobbler's stitch) and Rabari techniques unique to Gujarat. Lunch at Shrujan over inspiring interactions with Chandaben or Ami Shroff, the force behind Shrujan. Since it’s inception, Shrujan has supported hundreds of villages and brought the region worldwide recognition for its unimaginably beautiful embroidered textiles.In it’s work, Shrujan highlights 16 different embroidery styles each specific to a different tribe. Post lunch, we’re at Khamir, looking at other crafts that Kutch is also home to - wood, leather, pottery, and metal crafts. Later this afternoon, we watch extraordinary fabrics coming to life as the upholders of the single ikat patola tradition weave silk and cotton threads and then tie and dye them into works of art. Back to Shrujan for the evening, relax and assimilate all that you have seen these last 5 days. Day 6: A visit to Kala Raksha, in Sumarasar, as its name suggests, a grassroots enterprise committed to preserving the traditional arts and craft of Kutch, reveals the most exquisite hand embroidered and patch worked garments and accessories, and a collection of old costumes and embroideries which will take your breath away. A quick lunch at Sankalp and we head straight out to Dasada. Arrive in time for late dinner. Day 7: A 6:00 am morning is fit for a 2 hour safari. Around the Little Rann of Kutch, an Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary rich in biodiversity. After spotting some White- footed Desert Foxes, Striped Hyenas and Golden Jackal, we settle down for breakfast before checking out. A quick stop over at the Sun Temple in Modhera and a visit to Patan’s Step Well, a storage system using steps to reach the water despite high or low water levels, often covered and a curious architectural interest. Lunch enroute at some place, and we drive on to Ahmedabad and straight to the airport for our flights back.

Indian culture and its textiles are interwoven. There is nothing quite like the insightful embrace of one of India's most respected and valued cultures - textiles. Come on a journey to meet textile craft communities in Gujarat and indulge in a rich, diverse cultural experience, complete with historical context, wrapped with local interactions and cuisine . This journey will be filled with new friendships, fonder appreciation and understanding on Indian textiles, and memories worth a thousand counts. Day 1: On arrival into Ahmedabad, India’s historical cradle otherwise known as the `Tortoise's Back‘ we head straight to check into Diwan’s Bungalow , (time permitting) else head straight for a curated walk around the world-renowned Calico Museum of Textiles archiving textiles from the Mughal and Provincial Courts with a display of intricate dyeing, weaving, printing and embroidery techniques from across India. Late lunch at Swati Snacks, where a quick bite must include panki and sugar cane juice or thaleepeeth, and khichu cooked to spiced perfection! Post this we head to meet Villo Mirza , who has done some pioneering work with craft and textiles for SEWA for many years and now runs her own trust working with women on applique and patchwork based design. We return to our boutique hotel and refresh ourselves before we head to a sit down dinner at Agaashiye , at the charming House of MG, where we enjoy the cool evening breeze and indulge in their special Khansa Thali. A long day draws to an end as we get some much needed shut eye. Day 2: This morning we take a her;itage walk in the old city, including exploring old havelis and rani no hajeero, the quintessential amdavaadi market. Lunch is at the Green house café, followed by a quick stop over at Art Book Centre, to meet Manohar bhai who will wax eloquent about the best books ever written on Indian textiles and sell you some in the bargain offering a deal sweeter than basundi. Straight after this we head to meet the Chitaras, a handful of artists that still make hand painted Pachedis- a kalamkari art form traditional to Gujarat. In olden times, the Harijan community or the lower castes, often labeled untouchables, did not have access to temples. Made on cotton or silk fabric, hand painted Pachedis worked as their own personal shrines that were used for worship of the Goddess. Time permitting a visit to Bandhej to meet Archana Shah author of ‘Shifting Sands’ documenting decades of her work with craftsmen and women of Gujarat. An interaction with her at the store and we leave for the evening at Vishaala. No trip to Ahmedabad is complete without a trip to Vishaala to savour Gujarati hospitality at its best. Bursting at the seams, we come back to Diwan’s and retire for the night. Day 3: Packed breakfast in tow we have a very early start to this day as we drive out of Ahmedabad to Bhuj, the textile centre within the Kutch District in Gujarat, approximately 299km away. Lunch with Jabbar bhai Khatri in Dhamadka followed by a demonstration of Ajrakh, we spend some time at the printing unit and we’re on our way to visit Dr. Ismail Khatri, one of the masters in Ajrakh and a pioneer in the art . Ajrakh literally meant aaj ke din rakh, or 'keep it for today' because that is what the process is. At every stage of the tedious dying process, the fabric should dry for three to four days. Nature plays an important role in the making of Ajrakh. Craftsmen work in total harmony with their environment, where the sun, river, animals, trees and mud are all part of its making. A discussion on the Ajrak textiles at his workshop makes for engaging conversations over a reflective and relaxing cup of tea with the Khatris.. Drive back into Bhuj and before we wind up for the day we meet Ali Mohammed Isha, a textile intellectual who walks us through a tie-dyeing technique knows as Bandhani, a laborious all hand done tie-dye printing process. Tonite we dine at Prince, a traditional meal, and head back to our halt for the night, the Garha Safari Lodge. Its been a long day and we pack in early. Day 4: After exploring the property in the morning, and an early breakfast, we head to to Bhuj to meet an avid textile collector cum expert, and look at some of his collections dating back to the late 1800 and early 1900s, not just in the rabari embroidery styles but also the most exquisite phulkaris and kanthas. Food for the soul truly. Then we head to Bhujodi in the heart of Kutch where we spiral into discussions on traditional pit looms and shuttle looms and hear from Shyamji Vankar, about the challenges faced by the vankars known for their extra weft wool weaving . After our interactions, over lunch with the vankars, we make our way toward an interaction with the Rabari community known for their homes. Here we see the indigenous mud homes decorated by women, with a royal color sensibility and embedded with mirrors for a touch of local glamour. Dinner at a local eatery in Bhuj and we head back to the Lodge and retire for the night. Day 5: We check out of the Garha Safari Lodge and head to Shrujan. We check into their traditional bhungas, and meet the team at Shrujan who expose us to women craftsman working on sustaining the traditional embroidery of the Mochi Bharat (cobbler's stitch) and Rabari techniques unique to Gujarat. Lunch at Shrujan over inspiring interactions with Chandaben or Ami Shroff, the force behind Shrujan. Since it’s inception, Shrujan has supported hundreds of villages and brought the region worldwide recognition for its unimaginably beautiful embroidered textiles.In it’s work, Shrujan highlights 16 different embroidery styles each specific to a different tribe. Post lunch, we’re at Khamir, looking at other crafts that Kutch is also home to - wood, leather, pottery, and metal crafts. Later this afternoon, we watch extraordinary fabrics coming to life as the upholders of the single ikat patola tradition weave silk and cotton threads and then tie and dye them into works of art. Back to Shrujan for the evening, relax and assimilate all that you have seen these last 5 days. Day 6: A visit to Kala Raksha, in Sumarasar, as its name suggests, a grassroots enterprise committed to preserving the traditional arts and craft of Kutch, reveals the most exquisite hand embroidered and patch worked garments and accessories, and a collection of old costumes and embroideries which will take your breath away. A quick lunch at Sankalp and we head straight out to Dasada. Arrive in time for late dinner. Day 7: A 6:00 am morning is fit for a 2 hour safari. Around the Little Rann of Kutch, an Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary rich in biodiversity. After spotting some White- footed Desert Foxes, Striped Hyenas and Golden Jackal, we settle down for breakfast before checking out. A quick stop over at the Sun Temple in Modhera and a visit to Patan’s Step Well, a storage system using steps to reach the water despite high or low water levels, often covered and a curious architectural interest. Lunch enroute at some place, and we drive on to Ahmedabad and straight to the airport for our flights back.

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