If you were to out to chart the history of Bhujodi’s sartorial landscape, you might get lost in the journey itself – this is a village that seemingly defies time.
The district of Kutch boasts a weaving history that spans centuries. Among the many weaving clusters present here, it is safe to say that Bhujodi is the centerpoint of Kutch’s textile industry.
So widespread is the appeal of its handcrafted cloth that the village has now grown to become synonymous with what is popularly known as "Kutchi weaving". In fact, the exalted "Kutch Shawl" has even been granted the Geographical Identification (GI) tag. Today, many design greats – from Chinar Farooqi for her home decor line to Anita Dongre in her collection titled "Earth Song" – are trying to revitalize the art.
Nearly 200 expert craftspeople are harbored in Bhujodi alone, which is commendable, considering the dwindling weaver count in the nation. These vankars (weavers) are believed to have been the descendants of the Meghwal (Marwada) clan who migrated from Rajasthan to Bhujodi centuries ago.
The weaves of Bhujodi forged a symbiotic relationship between the vankars and rabaris (pastorial nomads or cattle herders). Theirs was a paradigm of co-dependency – the rabaris provided the weavers with fleece, and the weavers, in turn, weaved the wool into blankets that kept the rabaris warm during frigid winters.
The herdsmen may be long been but the handwoven heritage birthed from this harmonious barter stays on, as many natives traverse the rickety roads of the village wearing the exquisite fabric draped across their torso (known as a pachedi) and over their shoulders.
Today, Bhujodi beguiles the discerning craft aficionado with its iridescent sea of handcrafted shawls, scarves, rugs and even quilts. These are originally woven using jungli or coarse cotton and wool. However, the yarn employed in the weaving of the fabric is extremely brittle. So the threads are strengthened by being dunked in a lukewarm wheat paste. After being soaked in the sun, these paste-coated threads are combed for separation and alignment. The yarn is then moved to a wooden instrument called chaukhta which turns it into the warp, and a bobbin is used to prepare the weft. Later, it is woven on a pit loom (a type of loom whose legs are fixed inside a pit, which helps the yarn to naturally catch moisture, resulting in a more efficiently weaved output).
Perhaps the highlight of the weave is its treasury of fine motifs that bear names such as dholki, hathi, vakhiyo, etc. Created with the extra-weft technique, these designs represent the cultural mores of the weave’s wearer community. The fabric is further augmented by a smattering of intricate embroidery and abhla (mirror work) inlay.
But much has changed now. In order to keep up with the market’s changing – and growing – demand, yarns have become finer (as many weavers have now replaced natural coarse cotton with synthetic fibers), while looms are being operated by pedals for faster results.
In an effort to retain the integrity of the weaving tradition, and to keep it from dying out, the Bhujodi Weavers’ Co-operative, a coming together of weavers from all over Bhujodi, was formed.
A brief interaction with renowned Kutchi vankar Chaman Siju at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017 comes to mind. In between weaving demonstrations, he remarked, “Due to the introduction of machinery, and in order to be at par with the outside world, we are compelled to replace pre-existing materials with new ones; to bring in design innovations and to perform reverse engineering. But those in my village still prefer wearing handwoven attire. So I am glad that we have not wholly given into the industrial onslaught.”