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Worldwide Small Group and Tailor Made Adventure Travel

Sue Lawty's Colours of India

By Kirsty Parsons in India , Cultural Experiences - 8th April 2024

Gujarat in western India is renowned for its sumptuous, dazzling textiles. They are produced by intricate techniques that are deeply rooted within the traditions of local communities or ethnic groups. We explore this fascinating region in our Colours of India tour led by textiles expert Sue Lawty.

In this blog article Sue reflects on some of her experiences on last year's tour: the beautiful scenery, the generous people, the compelling culture and the remarkable artisan traditions handed down through the generations. Add Pravin, our top-notch, highly experienced and well-connected local guide into the mix and you have the makings of a pretty excellent trip!

Colours of india gujarat Great Rann of Kutch 600x450
Cattle herder & cattle, Great Rann of Kutch at sunset

Whilst the focus of our trip was to meet with exceptional families in small villages who make exceptional textiles, we also found ourselves amid beautiful tranquil landscapes. For example, peacefully taking in the subtle pink tones of each early morning sunrise over the lake in front of our individual round houses in the countryside outside Bhuj; or here in the words of one of our group recollecting an experience in the Little Rann of Kutch ‘an extraordinary time was the early morning safari in a Jeep. Watching the endangered wild asses so close by was incredible, and the flamingos, cranes and pelicans at the water....awe inspiring, magnificent, a privilege.’

Colours of india gujarat Sunrise Kutch Safari Resort Bhuj 600x450
Looking across the water from our rooms near Bhuj at sunrise

During our enthralling two-week trip we visited centres of excellence, immersed ourselves in the very best museum and private collections and learnt directly from indigo and natural dye masters. We saw the indigenous organic kala cotton being grown, hand spun, hand dyed and finally hand woven into beautiful soft cloth. We watched it being being block printed with hand carved blocks – and with such skill, precision and speed, it was mesmerising.

Colours of india gujarat spinning wool 600x450
Shamji Vankar spinning Kala cotton

Many times, we were invited into the lives of local families. Once, onto the rooftops of an Ahmedabad apartment to fly small kites together as part of the amazing annual kite festival; and we danced in the dark around a bright burning fire whilst listening to folk music from local musicians accompanied by their children keeping time (or not!) with their shakers. And on visiting a family who are reigniting the ancient tradition of mashru weaving from their compound near the south coast, we were given hot chai and proudly welcomed into their beautifully kept home.

Colours of india gujarat Learning mirrorwork bhirandiyara village kutch 600x450
Being taught mirror work in Bhirandiyara

It is these unique, almost incidental occurrences with local people that make a trip so very special; rich, personal encounters held close in our hearts. I asked the group to tell me of any particularly memorable experiences that they had enjoyed. Interestingly three spoke of the same morning and I describe it here in their words:

‘One of the many highlights on this fabulous tour was to be able to sit beside the women and girls of a traditional village and sew with them …We communicated in sign language and expressions, laughs, frowns, and the odd word, as my work on a small sample piece slowly improved…We had a shared love of pattern, fabric and thread and the skill in bringing it all together for the joy of the wearer and beholder. Wonderful!’

‘Sitting outside on the floor having a hands-on lesson from one of the ladies in her beautiful traditional dress with her wonderfully welcoming and patient manner on how to apply mirror work to fabric whilst a flock of migratory cranes flew over was for me truly magical. In the midst of this, she quietly took the end of my very plain scarf, held a small circle of mirror over it and indicated that she wished to stitch it on for me which she did. It was a gesture and a gift of such kindness and humility, so unique and so precious that I will treasure it and my memory of her forever.'

This moment really did capture the essence of the trip for me. Kind, giving, welcoming and hugely skilled and talented people, creating textiles of such utter beauty from the
humblest of dwellings and so willing to share with visiting strangers.'

I would urge anyone with an interest in textiles or Indian culture to join my next inspiring journey through the evocative state of Gujarat in 2025. Sue Lawty

Colours of india gujarat Mud bhuja Bhirandiyara village Kutch
Colourful mud bhuja, Bhirandiyara village, Kutch

Sue and Pravin will be once again leading our unique, 17-day, Colours of India tour in 2025. For dates, prices and a detailed itinerary click here. If you have any questions about the trip please contact Harry at the Mountain Kingdoms office.

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