Kachchhi weavers traditionally come from the Marwada and Maheswari communities. The Maheshwaris’ art is known as mashroo, while the Marwada style is now well known as Kachchhi weaving. This community crafts woven textiles, leather and woodwork all over Kachchh as a show of versatility.
One family of weavers which stands out is Debmji Premji Bhai’s family.
Debji Premji Bhai comes from the beautiful village of Bhujodi, a major textile center in Kutch, where the vast majority of the people are involved in textile handcraft production. Here one can meet weavers, tie-dye artists and block printers, most of who belong to the Vankar or weavers community.
Debji Bhai grew up in a weaving family. Both his father and grandfather were weavers. The tradition of weaving in his community has existed here for many years.
Both he and his wife area National Awardees. His father, Premji Bhai, was awarded with National Merit certificate in 1991 and then the Shilp Guru award in 2005. In 1995, his brother Hiraji received a National Award for weaving, in 1997 he was honored with the National Award. In 2000 his brother Chaman received the National Merit Award and the following year he got a National Award. Then, his younger brother Damaji got a National Award in 2006 and last but not the least, his son Hansraj was also honored with a National Award in the year 2008.
All in all, almost every member of his family has succeeded in carrying onwards the family legacy.
Last December, we went on a tour to Kachchh, Gujarat, India to explore its rich arts and crafts.
On 16th December 2015, Damaji Premji bhai came to pick us up from our hotel after breakfast and took us to his home in Bhujori village. Where we met his family including his Shilpiguru Father Premji bhai.
On arrival, we met with the family and explored the product display centre as well as the loom – both part of their home. They showed us how they worked the loom to make fabric. The intricate process of handling the loom and watching it turn thread into beautiful fabric is itself a awe inspiring moment.
Damaji Bhai had also invited our old friend famous singer Mooralala Marwada of Coke Studio fame, to his home.
Moorala Marwada is a Sufi folk singer and hails from the Janana village of the Kutch District, Gujarat, India. He sings the poetry of Kabir, Mirabai, Ravidas and others. Moorala traditionally sings in the Kaafi form of music that has evolved and been adopted by the Hindu singers of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. He has also been featured in the Kabir Project.
Mooralala had come to the village to visit his sister before his participation in the Rann Utsav the next day and came to Debji’s house as soon as he had learnt that we would be there.
Lunch was served in the courtyard of the house. There is no dining table and everyone sat on mats and ate the various preparation of authentic Gujrati cuisines.
The typical Gujarati thali consists of rotli, dal or kadhi, rice, and shaak/sabzi (a dish made up of several different combinations of vegetables and spices, which may be either spicy or sweet). The thali will also include preparations made from pulses or whole beans (called kathor in Gujarati) such as mung, black eyed beans, a snack item (farsaan) like dhokla, pathra, samosa and a sweet (mishthaan) like mohanthal, jalebi, doodh pak. Kachchhi cuisine varies widely in lavor and heat, from other regions of Gujarati. Many Gujarati dishes are distinctively sweet, salty, and spicy simultaneously.
After lunch, everyone sat around Mooralala while he played his stringed instrument and sang his famous song “Bari Jaun Re…” along with 2 other songs all of which are Kabir Dohas. We were completely mesmerized by the rich metallic voice of Mooralala. His beautiful soulful voice made us feel nostalgic. Damaji’s son also participated and sang a Kabir Doha.
We had seen the display shops on arrival and were keen on spending our well earned money on some of those items. The intricate detailing of the fabrics was what attracted us the most.
There was a jungle just behind the house which we explored. The younger generation showed us around and told us what berries we could pick and eat and what not to touch.
We ended the day with tea in earthen cups and snacks and thanked the family for being such gracious hosts.
Come evening, Damaji Bhai brought us back to the hotel. After dinner we went to sleep tired and happy, Mooralala’s soulful voice still floating in our ears.