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The most fabulous textile tour around Rajasthan, exploring the textiles, embroidery and block printing unique to this region. We will be travelling in our own private coach to the edge of the Thar Desert and on the way visiting beautiful palaces, fabulous fabrics and visiting the amazing Udaipur.
Colouricious are proud to bring you a very special trip for textile and handicraft lovers. Getting off the beaten tourist trail for this exploration of the real and old India, the one rich with traditions and artisans. Gujarat is an area which many years ago attracted migrants from many other places around due to its location. Bringing with them their expertise in block printing, weaving, dyeing and embroidery, this area is the place to visit if you have an interest in witnessing, first hand, how these techniques are still practiced.
During your Colouricious trip you will find that we have packed full a schedule for you of visits to villages and makers, museums and heritage walks. We have found examples of many different types of block printing, shown to you by the expert artisans who have been honing their art for many generations.
Gujarat is considered to be the jewel of western India, missed by many visitors to the continent, the villages and countryside holds the state’s treasures. We have arranged that you will be expertly guided around this vibrant area which is just bursting with producers of the country’s finest textiles.
On our tour you will be experiencing a variety of places, from Gondal a small leafy town to Patan, the ex capital, a dusty town with elaborate wooden houses and famed for its silk texties.
With much of India now becoming westernised you will find here an opportunity to see it how it was before technology. However, this area is very much on the up, with the renewed interest of buying heirloom pieces, appreciation of the hand made and the sustainability of products made with naturally and locally grown plants, Gujarat is the place to go for those who have an interest in history and tradition.
Embroidered Textile Treasures of Gujarat
11 Nights/12 Days
London ~ Ahmedabad ~ Gondal ~ Bhuj ~ Morvi ~ Dasada ~ Patan ~ Ahmedabad ~ London
Tour leader Sarah Homfray
Sarah Homfray is a professional hand embroiderer who did her training on the Royal School of Needlework Apprenticeship. She graduated in 2006 and went on to teach the RSN apprentices and the Certificate and Diploma as well as undertaking freelance teaching and commissions. Sarah worked as part of the RSN team which created the embellishment for the wedding dress for HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, and has worked on a variety of private commissions including making the replica standard of the 105thregiment for the Battle of Waterloo 200 year commemorations in 2015.
Sarah has travelled extensively including living in Cyprus for a year where she gained a Diploma in Fine Art; inspiration from her travels often appears in her work and she believes strongly in drawing and observation, embroidery design being a particular area of interest.
Sarah holds a Certificate in Education from the University of Greenwich, has taught in the USA and Cyprus and currently works freelance from her studio in Nottinghamshire teaching, running her online shop and making YouTube embroidery tutorials.
Sarah has been published in magazines and has written RSN Essential Stitch Guide – Silk Shading (Search Press 2011) and contributed several projects to the new book ‘Embroidery: A maker’s guide’ from the V&A museum (Thames Hudson 2017).
This embroidery holiday will focus on block printing, embroidery (in particular, shisha) and tribal ladies – the group size is restricted to 14 guests due to the remote location of the tour and nature of workshops which will be taught in rural settings. Gautham will be our guide – he is very popular with our guests as he specialises in textiles and he comes from this region so has a unique inside knowledge.
Indian textile can be rightly termed as a combination of the social structure of India. India is extremely famous for its rich and diverse textile tradition. India gives you the opportunity to feel the rich weave of its textile which showcases India as a land of mystique and wisdom. The western region of India is extremely rich in its culture and traditions that have a very ancient history especially with embroidery and shisha Indian mirrors
Highlights of the Tour:
Need to know more…
Workshop on Kalamkari and hand block printing
Kalamkari art is an incredibly intricate craft and requires great skill. With Kalam meaning pen and kari translating to craft, these wonderful illustrations are hand-painted. Traditionally this textile technique was used to depict the accounts of villagers on their travels using large bolts of canvas and dyes extracted from plants.
There are 2 styles of Kalamkari, Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam. Srikalahasti is distinctive in that the pen is used to draw freehand typically onto cotton textiles filling in the colours afterwards only with natural dyes. This is the most traditional of the Kalamkari techniques with hindu mythology being its main influence in design. Machilipatnam Kalamkari incorporate wooden printing blocks into their sketches with lotus motifs being the most common print design.
Kalamkari is being increasingly popular for textile craft today as it’s process doesn’t include harmful chemicals but still produces incredibly vibrant fabrics. This is a wonderful technique to try your hand at in workshops lead by skilled artists in the villages the country it was first created.
The Calico Museum of Textiles
This premiere textile museum is the most celebrated institutions of its kind in the world for its diverse collection of beautiful Indian textiles. It has played an important role in establishing the curriculum taught at the prestigious National Institute of Design for the textile designing courses. There are 2 wings known as ‘Haveli’ and ‘Chauk’. Haveli houses the religious fabrics along with south Indian bronzes and sculptures, temple hangings, miniature paintings and Jaina art whereas ‘Chauk’, is home to royal tents carpets, furnishings and costumes of the Mughal and regional courts. There are also textile techniques galleries and a library.
Naulakha palace is an incredible destination to visit. It is the oldest and arguably the most beautiful palace in Gondal. It possesses exclusive architectural features such as unique spiral staircases, incredible carved arches, impressive balconies and gorgeous courtyards. The palace is located along the river bed offering the most majestic views from the balconies. The onsite museum houses a rich variety of artefacts such as huge weighing scales used on special celebrations when he used to be weighed in gold equivalent which would then be donated to the poor. The interior decoration inside the palace is also something to be marvelled at from stuffed panthers to antique Belgian mirrors and luxurious chandeliers. Another interesting scene noted near a bridge over the river is the reflected image of the palace. There are many other structures within the complex such as the Huzoor Palace where the royal family currently reside.
Batik is a wonderful technique for designing textiles. It’s uses a resist method to dye silk, cotton and other pure fabrics traditionally with geometric patterns. It requires a tool called the ‘cap’ which is a copper head on a wooden block. The copper rods are around 1.5 cm in width are used to apply a dye proof substance to create the design. The fabric is then dyed and the areas remaining covered with the hot wax retain its colour but the uncovered parts obtain the chosen colour of dye. This process can be repeated several times on the same fabric to create beautiful and unique textile designs. Once finished the hotwax is removed the cloth is ready to be sold. Batik is a great design method due to the varying materials you can use to create a bespoke piece from different wax and dyes to fabrics. Different wax blends tend to crack allowing dark dye lines to enter/penetrate the resisted spaces, another design strength. Batik fabrics are also known for their durability with colours less likely to fade as they have a higher resistance to wear compared to painted fabrics.
Mandvi tie-and-dye centre
The tie-dyed fabrics of Gujarat, also known as bandhej, are famous for their intricate designs and patterns, which are used in wedding outfits and are considered the best produced in India. The process begins with the fabric being folded to create a rectangle. Designs are printed on with a wooden block and these areas are pinched and pushed into points, then tied into tiny knots with 2 or 3 twists of thread. The fabric is then dyed in the lightest shade first with the knotted parts remaining uncoloured. The fabric is then retied and dyed in the darker colour. The hues of deeper shades are used over the previous ones to form the coloured background of the cloth. This can continue for several rotations depending on the number shades in the final fabric design. The completion of this fabric takes around 8 hours.
Tie-dyed fabrics are available to purchase all over Gujarat normally being sold tied up to ensure the cloth has not been printed. The price of these textiles not only depends on the intricacy of the design and the type of fabric but the number of times it’s been tied and dyed. Special fabrics will often be brocaded with fine gold thread.
The Dasada village is located in the Kutch district of Gujarat. Kutch is famous for embroidery with 16 different styles being practiced all over the region. The most well known is Rabari embroidery with its incredibly vibrant colours, chain stitches and use of mirrors in a variety of shapes. It gets its name from the nomadic Rabari community who embroider in circular huts, known as Bhunga.
The fabric is usually a plain cloth occasionally lightly quilted for better durability. Cotton or silk threads in an assortment of vibrant colours are worked onto the fabric using fine accent stitches, stitch, satin stitch, running stitches, herringbone and decorative back stitching to name a few.
Rabaris outline patterns in chain stitch. Mirror fragments are finely embedded with tiny buttonhole stitches for extra embellishments displaying the artist’s creativity. Beads, shells, tassels and buttons can be added for individual effect and authenticity. The complex designs often depict the changing world in the eyes of the Rabari women and therefore always evolving. The different style of embellished garments and intricacy of embroidered work not only define the Rabaris socio-economic stature in the community but also clearly distinguishes the person’s identity. For instance the placement of embroidery on their veils will tell you what community they are from. Embroidered borders are usually Wagadia Rabari method whereas the Kachela Rabaris have designs in the centre of their veils. Another amazing tradition is the preparation of the dowry for a Rabari wedding. The girl must finish all textile pieces for the wedding before she can get married. This includes embroidering clothes, bags, bedcovers and even the decorative camel cover which can take up to 3 years to complete. This tradition enables the girl to learn these textile techniques and helps these skills be passed through generations. It’s incredible to see these wonderfully vivid colours and textures against the backdrop of the stark landscape of Kutch with its thorny babool and keekar bushes.
Wood Block printing in Gujarat
Gujarat is famous for the block printing work of a group known as the Paithapur Families, who have produced traditional ‘Trader Prints’ (locally called Sodagiri) for generations. This style is noted for the intricacy of the hand carved blocks and the mud-based resist printing of the base textiles. It is considered the original home of Indian block printing technology, and the region from which all other techniques arose.
· Ajrakh Block Printing – One of Gujarat’s best known textiles, Ajrakh fabrics use geometric patterns almost exclusively. Traditional Ajrakh patterns use natural dyes in red, black and blue tones, derived primarily from madder root, iron oxide and the indigo plants, respectively. This technique is traditionally associated with Dhamadka village.
· Kutch Block Printing – Rather than the geometric designs of the Ajrakh tradition, Kutch textiles feature highly stylised animals, birds and dancing women. Kutch saris produced in Baroda and Ahmedabad, in particular, often feature stylised mangoes and other fruit against red and blue backgrounds.
- Arrive Ahmedabad. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
- Morning is at leisure
- Lunch will be at your hotel.
- After Lunch, workshop on Hand block printing and Kalamkari with a community called Wagri.
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Ahmedabad.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Morning heritage walk of Old Ahmedabad.
- Late morning, visit Calico Textile Museum.
- Lunch will be arranged at local restaurant.
- Afternoon is at leisure to enjoy independent activities.
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Ahmedabad.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Drive Ahmedabad – village [150 Kms: 3.5 Hrs].
- Visit village to watch weavers at work and see single Ikat patola saree and another weaving called Tangaleya.
- Lunch will be arranged at Old Bell Guest House on direct payment basis
- Later, drive Sayla Village – Gondal [150 Kms: 3 Hrs].
- Arrive Gondal and visit Naulakha palace (Vintage car collection) transfer to your hotel.
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Gondal.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Drive Gondal – Jetpur [40 Kms: 1.5 Hrs] and continue drive to Bhuj
- Visit screen and block printing.
- Lunch will be on direct payment basis at local restaurant [Vegetarian meals only]
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Bhuj.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Participate in Ajrakh block printing at village Dhamadka.
- Light Lunch will be arrange during workshop
- Visit village to see the weavers weaving shawls and also visit organization called Shrujan.
- Later drive back to Bhuj and visit house of Mr AA Wazir.
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Bhuj.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Day excursion to Ajrakhpur village [25 Kms: 1 Hr] visit the new LLDC Museum (Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays) then return back to Bhuj
- Rest of the day at leisure.
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Bhuj.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Day excursion to Mandvi [60 Kms: 1.5 Hrs] which is a tie-and-dye centre and visit villages near Mandvi known for picturesque houses called Bhungas and Batik embroidery.
- Later, drive back to Bhuj.
- Participate in Batik workshop with a community for handicraft.
- Lunch will be arranged at local restaurant – Mandavi Beach Resort
- Stay overnight at Hotel Kutch wilderness camp
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Day excursion to Banni Villages [100 Kms: 3 hrs per way]
- Visit Nirona, Sumrasar, Khavda, Bhirandiyara, Hodka & Dhorado village famous for Rabari, Ahir, Bavalia, Sindhi embroidery etc.
- Lunch will be organised at Hotel Sham-e-Sarahad at Hodka on direct payment basis
- Stay overnight at Hotel Kutch wilderness.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- Drive to Dasada [280 Kms: 6 Hrs] enroute visiting village for Ahir embroidery.
- Upon arrival transfer to your hotel.
- Day is at leisure to enjoy Independent activities.
- Stay overnight at Hotel Dasada.
- Breakfast is at the Hotel.
- AM: visit Dasada weavers and other artisans famous for Rabari embroidery.
- PM: is at leisure to enjoy independent activities.
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Dasada.
- Breakfast is at hotel.
- Drive Dasada – Patan [80 Kms:2 Hrs]
- Visit Patan town famous for its Patola silk saris.
- Later drive Patan – Ahmedabad [130 Kms: 3 Hrs]
- Stay overnight at Hotel in Ahmedabad.
- Breakfast is at hotel.
- Today, at an appropriate time, you will be transferred to Ahmedabad airport to connect with your flight back home.
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- It should be noted that many of our itineraries include visits to less economically developed countries and that the general levels of comfort and services in some destinations are lower than would be found in the UK and the EU. In particular pavement and road surfaces can be broken and uneven.
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– From Angie Smith
Firstly, I’d like to say that my whole holiday, Rajasthan and after, was marvellous. I liked Delhi, Lucknow, Agra in 2017 but the Rajasthan tour surpassed it. It was amazing. Truly marvellous.
Firstly, the people. Gautham was the most marvellous guide. He was so knowledgeable and informative about the area, the people, the culture, history, religions, architecture, social customs etc You name it, he knew it and he made it all so interesting, that I truly believe that he inspired us all with his enthusiasm for the country and area. I know that I am going to Jaipur in March 2018 but I am already thinking ahead to 2019 . Maybe Gujarrat if Gautham is again the guide? He was also so kind to us and looked after us all so well. I suffered from 36 hours of what in retrospect I believe was heat exhaustion. Most of the others suffered a very bad cold and cough. Gautham provided us with medication, advice, recommended remedies and bought any medication we didn’t have. He really looked after us well. I am known to my friends as being scatty and always leaving my belongings behind. Whenever I dashed back in a panic looking for spectacles, backpack and so on, Gautham had already found them. When we ladies wanted to spend our free afternoon in Joghpur returning to the bazaar to do more shopping, Gautham accompanied us on his free afternoon as he said he would rather do that to ensure we were safe and didn’t get lost. I really cannot praise him highly enough. You have a treasure there, Jamie. Hang on to him as a guide for Colouricious tours.
We also had a super driver and his helper. Both were first class.
On the administration side, I must praise Amrik. I truly believe that nothing fazes that man. He can resolve any problem and is unbelievably competent and efficient. I have learnt by experience that if he arranges something, it is sure to go smoothly. For example, by the end of our tour, we had so much shopping that our suitcases would have exceeded the baggage allowance for our flight back to Delhi. Amrik arranged for the coach to take our luggage back for us. My trip to Shimla was superb, even the smallest detail being sorted out. My only regret is that Amrik must have found me a trial to deal with. He gave me an Indian mobile phone to use and instructions to phone him if I had any problems. Even though he showed me how to use it, when in Shimla I couldn’t work the thing. Amrik phoned me daily to check I was all right and he must have found it frustrating that I didn’t/couldn’t answer. Despite that, he managed to pin me down by phoning my guide and/or the hotel. When I exceeded the luggage allowance for my flight from Shimla to Delhi, Amrik had arranged alternative means to get all my luggage back to Delhi. Fortunately this wasn’t needed, but he was prepared in case. Shimla itself was amazing. The Oberoi Cecil was wonderful and Shimla so very very interesting. I want to go back.
What did I like best about Rajasthan? Wonderful hotels, wonderful food, wonderful and welcoming people. The colours, for example, I’ll send you a photograph or two of the colours at Jodhpur bazaar. Trying out block printing and tie dying and seeing it being done by experts. The shopping was absolutely tremendous. Seeing peacocks, camels, and other wild animals in their natural habitat. The Thar desert and Visiting an oasis and staying at Fort Pokaran, a genuine Maharajah’s palace. There was just so much to see and do that I’m sure I’ve missed out something.
Last year I thought India was amazing. This year It was unbelievably wonderful. I am now definitely an India addict and want more.
I am now looking forward to my imminent trip to Jaipur. Please keep the holidays coming, Jamie. They combine an insight into the textiles, crafts, history, culture, food, architecture and so on. I could go on but I wont. Suffice it to say the holiday was wonderful and I look forward to many more with you.
Many thanks for the superb holiday
From Carole B
There were many highlights on the trip –
The people that we met.
The heritage walk of old Ahmedabad.
Ajrakh block printing (I am proud of the lovely double block print piece I made).
The house of Mr AA Wazir.
LLDC Museum was brilliant, and I would have loved to stay longer. (By comparison the visit to the Calico museum was disappointing because we didn’t get the opportunity to see very much).
Paddling in the Arabian Sea at Mandavi Beach resort and in the salt water at the Great
Rann of Kutch.
Evening visit to Mr Alli Mohamad Isha. A very humble man and his family producing wonderful tie dye work.
The day spent exploring the Banni villages.
The wonderful embroidery and weaving communities.
Simply sitting on the bus observing rural India and the lives of its people.
My favourite hotel was Rann Riders at Dasada.
I came home having had a great holiday full of wonderful memories.
TEXTILE TOUR OF GUJARAT NOVEMBER 2017
Well, Jamie, you asked for detailed comments on the holiday so that is what I will try to provide but, very simply, it was an amazing experience and far exceeded my expectations. I am very grateful to Colouricious Holidays for organising it and to Gautam for all his care and attention throughout the whole holiday. The other people in the group were great fun and I have started friendships that I hope will continue and grow.
Flights We had a very generous luggage allowance and I am just sorry that I didn’t take full advantage of it on the way home, but a good excuse to go again? The flights were all on time and everything went smoothly although the refreshments on the outward journey were very poor – but an excellent G & T compensated. Even more so, in hindsight, as I hadn’t realised that Gujarat is a “dry” state.
It was obvious from the itinerary that you had provided a range of accommodation for us and this was, indeed the case. All the accommodation was spacious with comfortable beds, but there was so much variety to enjoy. The showers, electricity and WIFI may have been much better in the city hotels but who could complain about the odd power failure when you could stand on your balcony in the early morning light watching flocks of green parakeets fly over a lake, and in the company of a friendly gecko? As ever, in India, the staff in all the hotels were fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble and it was a delight to be served by such gracious people. If there were any wrinkles, Gautam sorted them out immediately.
Food I love Indian food, particularly vegetarian dishes so I was in seventh heaven but I think other members of the group, who were perhaps not quite as keen as I was, were very happy with the range of food we had. I loved the variety of places we visited to eat and overall the quality of the meals was excellent. The meal on the beach was disappointing – it was bland and cold – but I collected shells on the beach overlooking the Arabian Sea so I am not complaining. The only other disappointment, lunch at the palace, faded into insignificance because of the wonderful surroundings and the fact that I found a cobra in the garden!
Museums I was really looking forward to the visit to the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad but it turned out to be, for me, the only “non-event” of the holiday. It is the only time I have ever felt unwelcome in India. The guide followed her own agenda and seemed unconcerned about the needs of the group. Her English was difficult to follow, particularly as she spoke very quickly. There was no opportunity to ask questions and she did not wait for all of the group to catch up before starting on her next set piece. After a while, I gave up and decided to just wander around on my own but I found the organisation of the fabrics unsympathetic (everything is encased in plastic and appears dead) and the proximity of guards in uniform and unsmiling staff following me quite daunting. This is the only bit of the holiday that I would opt out of, if I were to return.
In contrast, the Srujan Museum was wonderful. It is light, bright, inviting with a treasury of exhibits and masses of information. The staff were incredibly informative and friendly. Unfortunately, the visit is limited to an hour. I could have happily stayed all day – with another day in the shop.
The embroideries, the people, the villages
I don’t have enough words like, “superb”, “superlative”, “life-changing” to describe this. The opportunities Gautam provided were endless and repeatedly demonstrated his knowledge of and his love for Gujarat. Whether it was walking across fields to meet a nomadic Rabari family and see their clothes, animals, etc., bartering Laurence’s left over lunch for peanuts freshly dug from the ground, cuddling a one week old baby boy at his mother’s invitation or sitting sewing on a mud floor with an expert embroiderer as a tutor, every day unveiled another aspect of a different way of life with different values and principles.
I loved, loved, loved this holiday. My mind is still full of the images and experiences. I am continuing to learn more about the fascinating history and culture and I am practising my Gujarati embroidery every day. Thank you.
Needless to say the Colouricious Gujurat Trip was spectacular. People keep asking me if it measured up to my previous trip where we block printed in Jaipur. I can only say it was even better than that trip in that we travelled so extensively (3,000km) and saw such a variety of embroidery and weaving.
Gautam was the most wonderful guide. What I loved was that he was so flexible and if nomads were on the horizon he made sure the bus would stop so we could photograph them. He was also most gracious at pee-stops , standing at the bottom of the coach steps with a box of tissues.
As a group we all got on well (only a few miaows) and at the start Gautam said “let’s be a family”. So at the end, when we had farewell thank yous someone mentioned sibling rivalry and we all chuckled. We all agreed that Gautam had been a great Dad! We had many laughs.
So, they ask, what is it about Colouricious Holidays that makes a trip to India special. The answer is the privilege to visit off-the-beaten-path villages and workshops way off the horrendous tourist trail. Sometimes it takes a bit of journey to get there but always it’s worthwhile. Even amazing! Thank you Jamie for such an opportunity.
The holiday was my first visit to India and was beyond my greatest expectation, it was wonderful.
Gautham was amazing, he know so much about Gujarat, it’s geography, religion, history, politics and textiles, and he always told us enough and not too much.
Whenever he saw something of interest during the coach journeys he stopped so we could get out and have a good look. Twice he saw Rubaris with their camels and furniture on the move along the motorways. He once travelled with them for a week and knows their ways, he asked if we could take pictures and they seemed happy to oblige. One woman carried her baby in a tin basin on her head.
He provided us with kitkats, crisps, water, oranges, wet wipes, tissues, postcards, medicines, and antiseptic spray on the coach. He showed us maps so we know where we were going, helped us at ATMs, found us toilets, clean places to stop for tea and coffee, told us what rupees were worth in pounds stirling and gave us choices on where to eat at lunch.
I asked him to show me a peepul tree and four days later he had remembered and took me to see one.
The workshops and museums were all fascinating and so many of them. We also saw the edge of the Rann of Kutch which I have wanted to see since I was a child, with the mysterious salt flats.
The hotels were all excellent, the food and service the same. Four of us had lunch in a posh hotel where the thalis were huge and seven waiters in traditional dress kept trying to give us more, and all for about £4. The coach was comfortable and cool.
The coach rides were very long but it was worth putting up with that in order to see the places and people we saw, so that is not really a negative!
From Flora Bellabobs
What a wonderful trip. We approached this journey not really knowing what to expect and for me it turned out to be almost as if I had unknowingly prepared a wish list and yes everything and much much more was on it. Our hotel in Ahmedabad was superb and the staff were very kind and helpful. We were astounded by the skill exhibited by the Wagri printers some as young as 8 years old. It was exciting to try our hands at this very different form of printing simply dipping a pointed wooden stick into dye and drawing with it.
A visit to a Hindu temple almost had me in tears the beauty, tranquillity [although we were surrounded by many many worshipers] devotion, colour and architecture. I saw two young ladies kneeling on the marble lost in their prayers and lying between them was a tiny baby waving his hands in time to the chimes. Gautam was terrific and gave us loads of information not only based on the Hindu religion but also covered the amazing architecture and the history of the temple.
While walking through Old Ahmedabad we saw workers coating kite strings with powdered glass fascinating and Gautam told us about the kite festivals. The secret passageways lead us passed wonderful architecture round every corner we were presented with amazing photo opportunities. I loved the bird houses just like so many mini coloured palaces in the sky.
All of life could be glimpsed on the streets and pavements and everyone was happy to see us and allow us to photograph them from the ladies washing the days clothes to the shop keepers setting up there stalls.
We visited a step well so carved that it looked just like lace and once again the local visitors encouraged us to take their photos and in return they liked to be photographed with us.
The Ikat patola saree and Tangaleya weaving was magical. To be able to design a pattern in advance by first of all dying the very fine thread astounded us. Also to see entire family members being able to have an active part in the fabric production was pleasing.
Everywhere we went we met artisans of the highest calibre all were national and in many cases international award winners and so modest and willing to share their knowledge and skills.
Our stop at the Old Bell Guest House for lunch was my first meeting with an Indian prince. As there was a mini power cut just as we were about to sit down to lunch he quickly pulled out his mobile phone lit the table and got down to the business of serving us lunch. I could quickly get used to this way of life!
The building was quite romantic as were the surrounding gardens and I would happily have spent a week there. Oh and I saw my first cobra.
Our next stop was a visit to a workshop where rugs and mats were woven from strips of recycled fabrics. Yet more purchases for the suitcase. I would love to come back here with an empty bag. Nothing on this trip is ever wasted it makes us stop and revalue our casual way of life. In this instance the weavers were men but outside we saw the real work being done. Two ladies in wonderful sarees were wielding a large pickaxe as they undertook the construction of a soakaway.
On route to Bhuj we saw dyed fabrics covering the fields a rainbow on the ground. The two long bus journeys turned out to be yet another highlight for me and this was all down to Gautam. The amount of knowledge and imparted information was phenomenal. We learned about the crops in the adjacent fields, the use of the produce, temples to industrial buildings were discussed but best of all was Gautam’s surprise stops. We disembarked in order to meet and photograph several different Rabari tribes and what a treat. Not only were there clothes and fabrics amazing but the loaded camels all dressed in their finery also held some surprises. The little pillowcase like bundles slung along the camel sides with the tiny on board new born baby lambs and goats. The smiling youngest children riding on top like little maharajas camera heaven. At one point Gautam dived out of the bus followed closely by Kamlesh and raced into a field. We were at a loss to work out why he would want to speak to a tractor driver. They returned with a small bag of recently harvested peanuts. This in turn lead into a discussion of the various oils used in local cooking.
Another stop was to feed greenery to the mass of cattle gathering in huge pens we were gathering blessings. The cows had lovely necklaces and many had painted horns.
In Dhamadka we tried our hand at block printing and watched a master craftsman print a bespoke saree for a wedding.
The visit to Mr Wazir’s was yet another highpoint on the tour. His collection of fabrics and costume was indeed worthy of a dedicated museum. It was sad that he had not been able to achieve this as yet but he assured us that he had plans and we were all invited back to visit.
The batik in Mandvi produced lots of lovely work the hardest part being our ‘elderly’ efforts to sit on the ground and get our legs under the low tables. Once again we were surrounded by attentive and very helpful artist who were delighted to help us. I had never seen batik carried out with brushes and wooden sticks and just loved the result. We are going to try this out at home so watch this space Jamie.
On route to Mandavi Beach Resort we stopped at a boat builders yard. Towering skeletons of solid teak held together with iron foot long nails!
The tie dying in many layers was exciting especially when the Master tore the material open to reveal the entire design. No way could we manage to tie the tiny pinpricks of cloth but our more robust efforts produced some lovely fabric. I am going to make a scarf with mine
I loved the Wilderness Camp and again could have spent many days here and likewise Hotel Dasada. To me it felt as though I was really in touch with India. We bought fabrics in the villages and little bells at the blacksmith and lacquer work at another stop. Fabric dolls, jewellery etc at a Rabari home where everyone seemed to be my sister.
People were so welcoming into their homes and we all got shoe removal down to a fine art
The Rabari peoples and their art really fascinated me and I would love to learn more about them so who knows perhaps another trip needs consideration.
We took a jeep safari trip out onto the salt dessert to see the water birds but we were also able to get close to a small herd of wild ass. Our driver took us far out over the salt to visit with a salt worker and his wife. Beautifully turned out in a red and gold saree not expecting visitors she produced small cups of delicious black tea for us.
Jamie I have only touched on our amazing experiences if I had planned a wish list this would have been the trip. My journey touched all the senses Sights Sounds Smells Taste Excitement and above all a sense of profound happiness and peace. Our co travellers were a super bunch and already we are emailing. Pappu our driver was game for anything and took great care of us as did Kamlesh who would pop up at regular intervals with water and refreshments. Always with a big beaming smile even after many hours on the road.
The star of the trip had to be Gautam. He was brilliant and took care of everyone as if they were the only person on the tour. If we mentioned a certain plant the bus would stop and he would find it in this way we saw peanuts,cotton,birds,little temples the list is endless. After a visit to a Rabari home to take part in an embroidery workshop we were all so impressed with the work that we all wanted to know more about the stitches and of course Gautam knew a special bookshop and as promised he took us there on our last night.
I love information and to be with a guide who not only knows his stuff but one who obviously loves his peoples and his country was indeed a great privilege.
Ps sorry that this is so long but it is the shorter version my memories will fill several journals
It was a really interesting holiday and we had a great time. Gautam is a wonderfully, gentle and wise person, and he worked very hard, and looked after us so well. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and we all adored him. The group was a really good mix, and we all got on well – probably the best group that I have been away with in terms of harmony!