To Gujarat we go…

On November 25, Brian and I ventured together on our first journey outside of Delhi.  We were headed to the states of Gujarat, renowned for its rich textile heritage, and Madhya Pradesh, the site of my research and bursting with ancient history.

We boarded a train at the Old Delhi Railway Station and settled in to watch the crowded city melt into cotton fields and camels replace cars.  Twenty-six hours later (yes, the train has sleeping berths) we arrived in Bhuj, a city of 150,000 people about 125 miles from the border of Pakistan.

Riding the sleeper train

With the Delhi winter comes “smoke”, a somewhat pleasant euphemism for lung-clogging pollution, so both Brian and I welcomed the visit to Bhuj.  The air was cleaner, and the entire experience was a breath of fresh air.  Children and adults piped up with “Hello! What is name?  Your country from is?” as we walked through the narrow streets, where cows roamed freely.  Rickshaw drivers quoted us fair prices.  A family making the Indian equivalent of Flav-a-Ice in their living room invited us inside from the street when I expressed curiosity in their operation.  We were definitely not in Delhi any longer.

A group of children watching something very interesting behind the wall...

...until an adult out of frame alerted the children that a foreigner was taking their picture...

...and then the screaming horde stampeded toward us...

...and could not have been more adorable.

Cows. Everywhere.

We had made the long journey to Bhuj in order to attend the Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya Mela.  I will translate.  Kala Raksha is an organization, started by an American woman (and former Fulbrighter), whose mission is to preserve traditional arts in the Kutch Desert region of Gujarat.  Six years ago, Kala Raksha launched the Vidhyalaya, a design school for artisans, and the Mela we attended celebrated the graduation of some of these students.  A crowd of a hundred or so tribal people turned out to support the graduates from their communities, and Brian and I jumped right into the mix.

A live musical performance of traditional instruments

A man spinning

Rabari women waiting in the lunch line

A few years after Kala Raksha opened its doors, Tata the Indian mega-corporation built two imposing, enormous coal power plants nearby, forcing Kala Raksha to move to a new location in the coming months. Currently, you must pass through Tata's security checkpoint to reach Kala Raksha. The smokestacks are an eerie symbol of modernity creeping up on and overtaking the traditional way of life.

Bri and I dig into lunch with the Rabari ladies. (Note there are no forks and no other men...)

More to come…

3 thoughts on “To Gujarat we go…

  1. I love it! When will we see more textiles? What are you wearing? Is there any dying done there ? Any sign of preshrinking? or dye setting? whenisthenextchapter? I feel like a kid at the Saturday afternoon movies(long before your time).

  2. Some great photos in here. It is good to leave Delhi, yes? Will be fun to hear your thoughts on Myanmar in comparison to the more rural/small town parts of India. C

  3. Beeee-u-tiful!! So excited for the next chapter..i love all of the pics of the children and their curiousity of you and your hubby’s visit to their town. Happy almost New Year, too…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>