kutch is arid and most of the land part is barren and we should make sure we are carrying enough drinking water and weather is hot most of the time.
Our first stop was the hamlet of Nirona. This little village is actually the home of a very unique art form called the Rogan painting. Rogan means oil in Persian. Only possible by experienced and skilled artists, this painting is done with thick needles, brightly colored castor oil seeds and the palm being the palette. The credibility doesn't stop here. This painting was also presented to Mr. Obama by Mr. Modi during his visit to the US in 2014.We were lucky to witness live Rogan painting being done by the artisans there, which makes into gorgeous bags, wallets, stoles and dress materials. No matter where you go in Gujarat, shoppers will never get disappointed. There is always something for them, everywhere. From Nirona, we travelled to the city of Bhuj. We stopped at a local restaurant for lunch, after which we headed to a memorial that is bound to make every Indian proud - Vande Mataram Memorial, Bhujodi.
The first and the foremost thing that make people want to visit Kutch is its rich traditions in handicrafts that can be spotted at various small towns in the region. People from across the world visit small villages around Kutch and bring back their own version of preferred souvenir. Rogan Art of Nirona Village, copper art of Vedhar, they have all made it to the headlines already, and their exclusivity over any other art form in India speaks highly of their acquired fame.
Rogan art in NironaThe first time most of us heard of Nirona, was when PM Narendra Modi gifted US President Barack Obama an exquisite piece of Rogan. A quick online search revealed that Rogan is a popular art form traditionally used as a part of wedding ceremonies. It is created using special paint, made using oil from the seeds of the castor plant. You’ll see castor growing abundantly on your drive from Bhuj to Nirona. As we navigated our way through the narrow lanes of the village, we were told that while Rogan art was practised by various families in Nirona and some nearby villages, today a lone family that goes by the name of the Gafoorbhai Khatri household, guards the secret to this art form and keeps it alive. Almost every member of this close-knit family has won a national award. When a junior Khatri laid out some of the meticulously-crafted pieces, we couldn’t help marvel at how fine the strokes were.The process of dishing out a Rogan piece is far from simple. Rogan means 'oil' in Persian. The base of the paint is prepared by heating castor oil and bringing it to boiling point over three days and then cooling it down. Once it thickens, the colour is mixed with this base. The mixture is then stored in earthen pots with water, which stops the mixture from drying up. A flat, thin iron rod serves as the brush. The sticky paint is twirled around the rod that is flat on both ends. Intricate motifs are created without the rod touching the cloth. The small pieces sell for about ₹4,000 while the price for large wall-sized ones could go up to ₹85,000 as well.
Metal bell-making in NironaA five-minute walk from the Khatri house led us to the homes of the bell makers or the ghantadi. The art of beating copper into bells (remember the ones that make for popular souvenirs from Switzerland) has been mastered and passed on through generations. Each bell has a distinct sound that is created by beating the material in a particular way. Cattle herders place a request for particular kinds of sounds to be able to identify their herd, once the bell is tied around their neck. Beaten sheets of scrap metal are joined together using only a locking system. No welding is involved to create this. Pick up a small-sized bell for ₹100 or choose the larger ones with metal belts for ₹300.Getting there: Nirona Village is 40km or 50 minutes away from Bhuj