Wednesday, March 12, 2008

KUTCH - Day 3

Day 3
12 November, 2007
Route: Bhuj-Sumeraser-Nirona -Bhirendiara-Hodka-Khavda-Kuran-Kalo Dungar-Bhuj
Day 3 was going to be a long day. We split our day in two parts, viz part 1 for getting a glimpse of village handicrafts and part 2 for India gate and kala dungar (black hills). We left the mess at 9:00 AM and drove on SH 45.
Folk Art at Kalaraksha
Destination 1: Kalaraksha in the Sumeraser village 25 kms from Bhuj.Kalaraksha is run by the Kalaraksha trust which is involved preservation of traditional arts. It was founded by a firang lady who helped in its setting up. She visits Kalaraksha once in a while and over sees all the work from across the ocean.
Kalaraksha not only has a folk art museum displaying everything from pre-marriage exchange tradition, to silver and gold ornaments, fans, wedding attire and the obvious, the embroidery (Suf, Khaarek, Rabari etc), but also has a shop dedicated to selling purses, bags, cotton/silk kurtis, leather stuff, patch work quilt and much more. In addition, the small area also has a research centre cum library which houses various books on handicrafts and a computer with internet where students from various universities come to study the traditional arts.
The museum curator was patient and explained each handicraft and the embroidery style to us. The campus also has a traditional jhula, a show camel complete with embroidered baithak and a finishing centre. It is in this finishing centre that women get their embroidered pieces which are refined into bags, kurtis etc. We met one woman who had embroidered a wall hanging depicting Suf embroiders who crossed the LOC and migrated to Kutch from erstwhile Sindh area. The concept was noble and the embroidery so depictive. Her work was going to be framed by the finishing department. Its women like her who work from home, get paid on daily basis and preserve arts and I am happy that a venture like Kalaraksha empowers these women and showcases as well as keeps their culture alive. I think it's the involvement of artisans in every aspect of Kalaraksha that makes it a winner! From Kalaraksha, we headed to the village of Nirona where another marvel was waiting to enthral us.
Dying 'Rogan' Art at Nirona
Nirona village is 12 kms from SH 45. The road is good in parts. As we parked our vehicle in Nirona we got curious stares from the villagers (mostly old men enjoying hooka) and we returned their stares with the same if not more curiosity (a curious stare for a curious stare). We saw Rogan art painted in bold letter on a closed shop and an arrow directing us to a narrow lane. We followed the arrow and arrived at a small house. Parked outside which was a white maruti car whose number plate was engraved with 'National Award winner' and I already couldn't wait to see what was waiting behind the ordinary looking closed main door!
We knocked on the door and a smiling face greeted us with a namaste. The man was Abdul Gafoor Daud Khatri, winner of a national award and four state/rajya awards. Even his brother, Sumar Daud Khatri is a proud winner of a National award at a tender age of 21. The family specialises and is the only family who knows Rogan art (that's what they claim!)
Rogan art uses castor base (arandi) and earthern colours. The painting is made with one needle only, that too a blunt one and the use of one finger. The pattern is made on one half of the cloth and the cloth is folded to get the imprint of the pattern on the other half. Thereafter intricate patterns are painted individually. The painting take anywhere between 15 days to 1 year to complete. The cost of these paintings ranges from 800 to 1 lakh or
The family showed us how the paintings are made and even showed us the works on sale. But we were tight on budget and also, the painting we liked the best cost a whooping Rs. 1, 00,000! Thus we ended up not buying anything. The family didn't mind and even if they did they didn't it! We wished them luck and praised their art and headed for our next destination Khavda.
A detour to Hodka Village
We didn't drive to Khavda and instead took a detour to Hodka village after we saw a borad saying tourist tents at Hodka village. Hodka village is situated at the edge of the Banni grassland. Hodka situated at the heart of Banni represents the crafts, architecture and lifestyle of Banni. Shaam-e-sarhad(sunset at border and a very apt name) is a resort in Hodka where hospitality is top class. It is run by the hodka community in collaboration with professionals.
At the resort you can choose to stay in traditional bunga known as round houses or tents, both having attached bathrooms. The staff gave us a tour of the rooms and we were spell-bound. Though the bunga was grand, we preferred the cosy tents. The bathroom was indeed our favourite! Traditional food is served in the large open tent whose ceiling is innovatively decorated with malmal scarves, a must have accessory of the men in this region of kutch.
The resort even provides tours and safaris. The sunset here is a spectacle and is enhanced by the presence of folk musicians. We did not stay in the tents, but we had a nice thali meal for Rs. 125/thali. Had it not been for this detour, we'd have gone hungry just like yesterday! After experiencing Sham-e-sarhad in an hour and vowing to come back to stay in the colourful and cosy tents, we drove to Khavda.
Khavda & India Bridge
Khavda is a small village specialising in leather work. We did not visit the village interiors and did away with purchasing a leather fan and an embroidered folder from a shop on the main road. From Khavda we headed for Kuran. Kuran was merely 20 minutes from Khavda. Kuran is famous for India Bridge; a bridge which connects Rest of India to Rann of Kutch which before the bridge was built was hard to access.
The bridge is controlled by BSF. Special permit from Bhuj police is needed to go over the bridge and beyond it to the last BSF post from where the nearest Pakistani BSF post is just 20kms away. We did not take prior permission, but my dad's defence identity card was more than valid permission.
We drove over the India Bridge and to Dharmshala (BSF headquarters in this region). Through the drive we took in the grand views of the rann, the numerous mirages and the spotting 3 chinkaras. The last BSF post from where the Pakistani OP is visible is 70 kms further inside from India Bridge. It was nearing 4 PM and we decided against going to the last OP on the advice of the jawans of BSF. Next stop was Kala Dungar or the black hills. Now this was something I was eagerly waiting to see. Our beauty Indigo did well on its test of the mountain terrain as we took the steep path to the temple. On the way we saw many women and children dressed in kutchi attire, most of whom wre carrying water in steel matkas.
Where foxes are welcome...Kala Dungar
Kala Dungar is home to the Duttatreya temple. It overlooks spectacular Rann of Kutch where one can spot white foxes. These foxes respond to the call of beats of a steel plate and shouts of 'langa' and to come and eat the food/Prasad of rice laid down for them. We saw atleast 30 foxes converge at a cemented area to eat the food and delight the tourists. The temple Bojanalay prepares food even for the pilgrims, should you decide to stay back for a meal. We decided against it as it was past 7 PM in the evening. Thus after witnessing the aarti at sunset (6:45 PM) and spotting the foxes we headed back to Bhuj.For those who wish to visit this temple, I'd suggest them to see the aarti at 12noon and get a better view of the foxes as during sunset, the foxes are not clearly visible and also because the drive down the kala dungar is narrow.
Drive back through Tropic of Cancer
The drive back to Bhuj was fun as the traffic was almost negligent. On the way to Khavda we had spotted a board saying 'you are crossing the Tropic of Cancer'. That time we didn't stop to capture a picture of this historic moment. But on our way back we made it a point to spot at this spot and freeze the moment in style through a picture!
Back in Bhuj, we had a meal at the mess and enquired about the beach resort at Mandvi. The resort was full and very expensive at Rs. 13,500 for 2 nights for 2 persons (rates during diwali time), extra charges per extra person. We dropped the plan to stay the next night at Mandvi and instead decided to visit Mandvi and come back to Bhuj(base camp Zindabad!)

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1 comment:

SiD said...

nice story..the video was good too..keep the ball rolling doing wonderful


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