Visuals from fairy tales seem to come alive when infinite stretches of white sand glisten under the pale moonlight and the barren land springs to life with riot of colourful handicrafts at the annual Rann Utsav in Rann of Kutch here.
The festival which began in 2005 as a two-day affair, is now celebrated over a period of three months and is thronged by visitors from across the world to experience the festivities and culture of the western-most state of the country.
“When we started in 2005, we began in a very small way with something that was only two or three days long. Since the last three years, we made it into a 90-day-thing,” says Saurabh Patel, Minister for Tourism, Gujarat.
From elaborately embroidered apparels and multi-hued luxurious quilts to block-printing and wood-carving, a host of handicraft stalls are put up as part of the festival to offer visitors an experience of Kutch’s craftsmanship.
What perhaps makes its handicraft unique is that there is no single form of embroidery that dominates the region. The Kutchi artisans, mainly women, practise multiple types of embroidery such as suf, khaarek, paako, rabari, jat and mutava to create exquisite designs.
38-year-old Rana Sumar Marwara’s stall at this year’s Rann Utsav is replete with brightly coloured bags, quilts, wall-pieces, bed sheets, shawls and table cloths.
“Paako work on a single bedsheet that roughly measures 50 x 90 inches takes about two years to complete,” says Marwara, who has been participating in the festival for the past eight years.
Paako, which means solid, is a tight square chain and double buttonhole stitch embroidery. Often ending with with black satin, slightly leaning outlining, the embroidery has floral motifs arranged in symmetric patterns.
Prices of paako quilts and bedsheets range from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000.
Marwara’s stall also has an assortment of leather jutis adorned with colourful patch work and embroidery.
Another form of embroidery called mutava practised particularly by Muslim artisans is also popular in the region.
A relatively neater and compact form of handcraft, mutava is an amalgam of minute renditions of the other local styles. It is mostly geometric in design and fine in its execution.