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BW Businessworld

Shrujan: Nurturing The Age Old Crafts of Kutchi People

The age old crafts of Kutchi people, who have migrated from Central Asia and other parts of Asia, still live today thanks to Shrujan and Living and Learning Design Center

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Kutch, a district in Indian state of Gujarat, has a unique geography with ocean in one side and salt desert in another. Within this extraordinary amalgamation lies communities who are holding on to their craft skills from time immemorial.

The Kutchi people, who have migrated from Central Asia and other parts of Asia, brought with them their crafts and their embroidery skills from the traditions of Persia, Central Asia and Turkey.

However, their every art lives today and are not just restricted to past, thanks to Shrujan Trust (meaning Creativity in Sanskrit) that nurtures and strengthens these traditional crafts.

Serving for last 48 years, Shrujan Trust recently held its first craft festival, in the Living and Learning Design Center (LLDC) campus, to further its motive of preserving the rich history of craft and embroidery tradition of around 12 different communities of Kutch.

Living and Learning Design Center

Talking to BW Businessworld, Ami Shroff, Managing Trustee of Shrujan, said with this festival we are aiming to give voice to the crafts and handicrafts of men and women of Kutch.

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There were 26 stalls showcasing different crafts like Weaving, Mud Work, Wood Carving, Pottery, Block Print, Embroidery, Leather Work, Batik, Copper Bell, Shikari Bandhani, Kharal, and Lacquer.

The originality and traditionality of the crafts can be guessed from the fact that these people still uses ancient ways and materials for making products.

When BW Businessworld talked to one of the craftsman Abdulshakur Khatri, showcasing Shikari Bandhani clothing, he said that he uses 175 years old blocks of his forefathers for printing on the fabrics.

Shikari Bandhani

Though the origins of Bandhani cannot be exactly traced. But it is believed that the craft was brought to Kutch from Sindh by Muslim Khatris and they are the largest community involved in the craft.

Shikari Bandhani is one of the manner in which the cloth is tied with a thread at several points; the resultant design is fine and minute.

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With 12 different communities involved in diverse forms of crafts, most of the weavers in Kutch are Hindus and block printers are Muslims.

The craft of embroidery is also widespread in Kutch practised by communities like - Aari, Ahir, Chopad, Gotaav, Jat Dhaanetah, Jat Garaasiya, Kambhiro, Khatri, Khaarek, Mukko, Mutwa Pakko, Neran, Node, Rabari, Sodha Pakko, and Soof.

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Each community has their own embroidery styles with different stitching patterns; every form unique from each other.

Just to give an example of the diversity of different embroidery styles of the communities - Sodha and Jadeja communities alone have 54 stitching styles. Also the embroidery by Ahirs features motifs such as peacocks and parrots, and uses the chain and herringbone stitches. 

However, bringing to the forefront these living tradition of crafts in Kutch has not been an easy journey for Shrujan.

The Living and Learning Design Centre, a campus in Ajrakhpur, plays an indispensable part in Shrujan’s journey. Set up in January 2016, LLDC is dedicated to the crafts and the craftspeople of Kutch.

Women Working At LLDC

Ami Shroff said, ‘Shrujan is a no profit, no loss organisation. Our profit per cent is 15. We don't need any interference in the NGO. But the sector and LLDC needs government support. National and international fairs will be of great help. Moreover, government is also thinking of setting up a ‘Bhuj Haat’, similar to ‘Dilli Haat’, for small and medium traders.’

She added by saying, ‘We want companies to choose LLDC as their CSR activity and provide funds. So that we can further move ahead with our mission to celebrate the craft heritage of Kutch.’