India’s textiles are an integral part of its history, faiths, ethnicities and daily lives. Through their weaving, embroidery, tie-dyeing, block-printing and fabric painting Indians express their identities, their belonging.
This tour will offer you a rich and diverse sample of this great tradition in visiting two regions where the textile and crafts heritage have flourished for generations and where those which have faded during different periods are being lovingly resurrected and nurtured back to their former glories.
Bengal is a treasure trove of textiles and crafts. From muslin-weaving to indigo dyeing, from silk weaving which incorporates stories from the great Hindu religious texts to the unique and wonderful embroidery art of kantha, Bengal offers some of India’s finest work. In tiny villages in the backblocks of Bengal you will hear the click-clack of weaving looms and see the green liquid of indigo turn fabrics into that most wonderful of blue hues. And in the village of Fulia you will see the world’s finest muslin being woven and embroidered – an art that dates back centuries but was almost lost in the competitive trading days of the British Raj.
In Gujarat you are treated to the wonderful work of the famed Rabari embroidered mirror-work artisans - work that symbolises all that is India – rich colours, light-catching mirrors and intricate needlework. Add to this the rare and highly skilled weavers of double ikat patola in Patan, bell-makers and potters as well as the superb Ajrakh block-printing – and you have one of the world’s great visual and tactile feasts.
We will dine in outdoor organic farm restaurants, visit ancient step wells and see the vast landscapes of these two very diverse regions – lush, sub-tropical Bengal and the deserts and salt flats of Bhuj in Gujarat.
Quintessential India ! It is a journey not to be missed.
The first city of the British Raj - India's cultural and literary heart and hub for the collection of myriad wondrous textiles and crafts from across Bengal. Our time in this great city will encompass its architectural splendours, both Anglo and traditional as well as its teeming street life.
In the remote villages and towns of Bengal we will find textiles and treasures seen nowehere else - the highlight of which is the revival of the ancient art of weaving the very finest muslin in the world. This art was lost during British rule in India but here in Bengal it is being reborn, with great care and passion. In addition we will visit an indigo textile artist who produces some of the world's most beautiful indigo dyed textiles. There will be textile museums, a natural dye artist and so much more.
TERRA COTTA TEMPLES OF BISHNAPUR
With no local stone available, these magnificent temples are made from clay bricks and adorned with terra cotta tiles. The intricate work on the walls depicts stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas - the ancient texts of Hinduism. These designs continue to inspire the Baluchari Sari weavers of the town, who still take design inspiration from the walls of these temples.
The vibrant colours and stunning mirror-work here creates a wonderful contrast to the arid, desert environment of the region. The embroiderers and weavers of Kachch sustain highly skilled crafts which date back millennia - from the nomad Rabari people of the deserts to the weavers of double ikat in the small town of Patan, one of the few places in the world now which maintains this textile art form.
GANDHI'S ASHRAM, AHMEDABAD
In Ahmedabad we will visit Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi's home for over 13 years in the 1930s. Here you gain a true sense of the man - an historical icon and one of the great leaders of India's independence movement - his life and ideology.
MIRROR EMBROIDERERS &TEXTILE ARTISANS OF BHUJ
We will see a variety of embroidery work here but the highlight will be a visit to the villages of the Banni - a tribal group who maintain traditional dress and practise many forms of craft, including weaving, dyeing, printing, bandhini (tie and dye), embroidery, leather work, pottery, woodwork, and metalwork.
THE GREAT RANN OF KACHCH
An 18,000 square km salt flat that borders Pakistan. It is a geographical marvel and an integral part of the culture and lore of these desert dwellers of Gujarat.