Undiscovered Parts of Gujarat

Bhujodi: Where the Stars Seem Reachable

Unlike many people, I have always preferred traveling within India for vacations over going abroad. It was in December last year that I had the opportunity to plan a trip, and I decided to visit Gujarat. As a part of the tour, we visited Bhuj, Bhujodi, Rann Utsav, Nirona and Mandvi. You know how they say “Kutch nahi dekha to kuchh nahi dekha”? This trip made me see the reasons why. I shall be talking about my experience of the villages of Bhujodi and Nirona in this two-part article.

Because of delayed reservations, we could not get a single room in Bhuj city, the main destination of our tour. Instead, we found some vacancies in a resort in the village of Bhujodi, situated a few kilometres away from the city and decided to settle for it. Until we reached there, I was pretty bummed about not being able to stay in the city.

This changed as soon as our auto rickshaw turned into the narrow kachcha road leading to the village. The fragrance of wet soil and the lights and colours of the market took over our senses. Myriad little shops illuminated the path as the sun began to set in that part of the country, making it my favourite sunset. With the sun gradually disappearing, the sky was adorned with the most beautiful shades of blue, purple, orange and pink; meanwhile the stars did not hesitate to shine their way through this concoction of hues.

While we rode under the mesmerising sky, we passed a palace-like structure, emitting colourful lights. Soon, we reached our destination: the resort. After making some queries, we realised that Bhujodi should totally have been on our list. Without wasting any more time, we ventured out of the resort and walked our way to the palace we had seen on our way here. On reaching, we were told that the place, known as Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park was going to shut down in a few minutes. We sat and witnessed the closing of a beautiful light and sound show, Vande Mataram. Thereafter, we decided to stroll about in the streets, hoping to buy some nice clothes.

As it turned out,  Bhujodi is a major textile centre of the Kutch area. Hundreds of craftspeople reside here, including weavers, block-printers, dyers, embroiderers and so on. The tiny shops lining up the street sold anything and everything—from key holders to dupattas, from toe rings to copper bells and from wallets to leather binders. Each of these goods had one or another Kutchi detail, as if it has taken upon it to carry the name of its maker with it. 

A few days later, we visited the Crafts Park. It comprised of cottage-shaped shops selling locally made goods like handbags, pocket knives, leather binders and belts, customised bells and detailed works of mirror among other things. Some people lined up to enter a museum about Gandhi’s life, while some posed with a statue of him in a jeep.

Bhujodi, albeit very small, has so much to offer. If you’re nice enough to its people, it won’t hesitate to open its arms and engulf you in its hued brilliance. You’ll feel as if you can touch the sky, not exaggerating.

Nirona

After Bhujodi, our next stop, Nirona village, was about an hour away. We had heard about some handicrafts there and thought we would take a look for ourselves. An artform called ‘Rogan Art’ might ring a bell; such art pieces were gifted by PM Modi to the former US President, Barack Obama. With its exquisite handicraft gaining popularity among media, Nirona, and along with it, the entire Kutch area was no longer a secret. We visited Nirona only hoping to see Rogan Art but ended up experiencing a plethora of stunning art.

While the itineraries across multiple travel websites talk highly of the village’s handicrafts, they fail to discuss the picturesque landscape leading up to it. The road to Nirona might be bumpy, but the endless castor fields and their beauty compensate for it. So, we had to first make a stop here, admire the golden rows in front of us, and like the tourists we were, click pictures. Our tour guide-cum-chauffeur for the day patiently waited for us and told us he’d now take us to meet the only family in the world who practices Rogan Art.

 

This excited us to no end, and when we did visit them, I was struck by their humbleness. As they sat us down and offered us drinks, all I could wonder was how such seemingly ordinary people could create something so extravagant and greater than themselves. The man explained the history of his family in relation to the art and began to give a live demonstration of it. He used a small nib-like tool, dipped it in some sticky castor oil based colour, and began to work through the fabric so effortlessly, it appeared almost magical. He went on to show us some of his previous works, including a pleasingly symmetrical painting of the tree of life. Beautiful would be an understatement for the high quality and meticulously executed of the artwork.

Still preoccupied with our experience of Rogan Art, we drove past multiple antique doors, the kind we find multiple Instagram bloggers posing against. We were led by many friendly faces to the shop of a craftsman who produced copper bells and some other articles. When this kind man realised we were from Punjab, he began conversing in Punjabi. As he worked on a thick sheet of copper with his tools, he talked about his technique and when he was done, we couldn’t help but applaud. He showed us the bells, the showpieces and the windchimes he made. Fascinatingly enough, while all the bells were made of copper using the same tools, they could make three different types of sounds, all equally mesmerising. We also watched some lacquer work being done on wood. The process transformed the most simple pieces of the articles into shining pieces of art. These craftspeople produced articles such as decorative rolling pins and spatulas.

 

On our way back, we stopped at the village market and bought some dupattas, windchimes and of course, food. It almost pained us to leave such a wholesome place, as if we were retreating ourselves from a warm, affectionate hug.

 

, , , , , ,