Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, India...
Mata Ni Pachedi is used as a hanging in temples which enshrine the ‘Mata’. These ritualistic hangings served the purpose of depicting the epics of the goddesses as well as form temporary shrines.
Modern usage also includes them being used as wall hangings in homes.
When pushed into a corner, people find a new way out. These new ways are often bitter, sometimes disruptive and only in a few instances do we see them giving rise to beauty and art. The Devipujak community in Gujarat, India, has unique beliefs about their origin, their diet and religion, as do other ethnic groups from that region. For a few centuries, this difference led to restrictive social practices and as recently as 140 years ago, an act passed by the British government institutionalized their persecution. Ethnographic studies point to the fact that for a long time, the Devipujak community was not allowed entry into temples. To overcome this abhorrent practice, the community found a unique solution.
They painted an image of the goddess on a piece of cloth, hung it up behind the temple and directed their worship at the painting. This practice took root and the painted textile came to be known as Mata-ni-Pachedis, literally meaning ‘behind the goddess (temple)’. The persecution of this community was detestable, yet resulted in the birth of a new textile art. A lotus was born in the murky waters of social discrimination. Contemporary India has no place for such divisive concepts and so this selective restriction has been abolished. But the tradition of worshipping the Mata-ni-Pachedis continues even today.
Mata ni Pachedi is considered to be a complex system of various beliefs that sees many gods and goddesses as representatives of a singular form. Each division or a panel has a story to tell. The deities are represented as having human or animal form. They are also depicted with humanly desires, needs and emotions. They are looked up to as supreme forces controlling nature and their stories are spread using this medium.
The block printers do not have a singular block for making the Mata or other major forms. The blocks of different parts like head, hands, body etc are placed together to form the entire deity or element. Most of the artwork is commenced as a freehand drawing by the trained hands of the artisan.
The Chitaras or the artisans have inherited various blocks from their ancestors, many of which are still in excellent working condition.
These hangings used by nomadic tribes served the purpose of depicting the epics of mother goddess as well as forming a temporary shrine for her. Traditionally this work of art always had an architectural rendering of a temple at its center which also housed the main mother goddess image. For a nomadic community this was an interesting alternative to a built shrine. A two dimensional structural rendering replete with details of condiments and properties also served as an instructional tool.
Once upon the time, a Solanki ruler wanted a son. When his wife finally bore a child it was a girl. The parents kept the newborn’s gender a secret and named it Tejpal. They brought up their child as a boy and married him to the daughter of a neighboring king. But even at the wedding, people began to suspect that the bridegroom was not really a man, so he fled the palace together with his mare and bitch. Tejpal rode glumly through the desert, stopping at a pool with a tree beside it. His bitch leapt into the water â€“ and re-emerged as a dog. Tejpal then led his mare to bathe in the water as well â€“ and out came a stallion. Entering the pool himself, he emerged from the water a young man. So now he was able to return to his bride and celebrate their wedding. The tree responsible for this miracle is worshipped to this day in the temple of Becharaji, where the goddess Bahuchara resided in the tree. People afflicted by sexual dysfunction or whose longing for children has yet to be fulfilled still make pilgrimages to this goddess.
Godess Amba : According to folklore, the god Shiva was inconsolable when his wife Uma took her own life in protest at her father’s shabby treatment of her husband. Shiva adored his wife above all else and refused to allow her to be cremated, instead carrying her corpse around with him wherever he went. Overcome with grief he was unable to do or think of anything else, so the gods cunningly stole Uma’s corpse, cut it up, and scattered the pieces all over India. Wherever a piece of Uma fell from the heavens a temple was erected in her honor. – “Legend has it that Uma’s heart fell on Ambaji, a mountain in Gujarat, and it was here that the most important temple to the goddess Ambika was built.
Godess Meladi : As another legend goes, one day the goddess Parvati was oiling her body after bathing. She scraped off the superfluous oil, dust, and calloused skin and formed it into a small lump into which she breathed life. The being thus created prayed to Parvati, saying: “O mother, you were kind enough to create me. Please now take me as your own!” Parvati smiled and replied: “Since you were formed out of the dirt from my body you shall be called Meladi (which means -⊃1;made of dirt-º). I will give you a billy goat to ride on and will endow you with strength both to spread joy and to lose your temper. People will therefore be afraid of you and revere you. You will do all the work that a pure goddess would not do. And because the temples in the villages and towns are already dedicated to other gods, you shall reside outside the villages and at the cremation grounds.”
Godess Momai : About the Goddess Momai, she used to be worshipped only in the far-off Indus Delta. A man returning from the delta to his home in Saurashtra brought with him two baskets containing her emblems, a peacock and a swan. The peacock was torn to pieces by the local dogs, however. Fearing Momai’s wrath, the shepherds asked their local goddess Chamunda to bring the peacock back to life. They have venerated Momai ever since, although in the absence of a whole peacock, she is symbolized only by a fly whisk made of peacock feathers.
Godess Shikotar : According to a rural legend, The ship of a merchant from Gujarat was caught in a storm on the high seas. The merchant promised the goddess Shikotar half his profits if she would rescue him. The goddess calmed the tempest and the ship was saved.-“That same night a priest in the port city saw the goddess Shikotar in a dream. When the priest went to the temple next morning he was amazed to find that the clothes on the cult figure of Shikotar were soaking wet. -“ A few weeks later the merchant came to the temple with a large sum of money. He told of his adventure and thanked the goddess for rescuing him. His gold was used to make a crown for the figure of the goddess.
Goddess Khodiar : A court minstrel had seven daughters who each day would collect water in seven earthenware pitchers. After that they jumped into the pond to bathe. The water thus became muddy and the king’s horse refused to drink it. After four days it had died of thirst. The king summoned his servants and questioned them to find out what had happened. Next morning he rode to the pond himself to watch the girls bathing. Spiking their clothes on his spear, he said: I will give them back only if one of you will marry me. But because the girls were goddesses they couldn’t marry a king. Khodiar was the eldest. She gave the king a lock of her hair, saying: Hang it above your bed and at midnight send your servants away. So the king had his bedroom decorated and scented. When midnight came, each hair turned into a snake, and the king spent the whole night cowering on his bed in terror. Next morning he summoned the court minstrel and his daughters and ordered him to drown them. They were bundled into a basket, but when they came to the watering place they said to their father: “Leave us here and go home, but do not look back.- But he did look back, and was immediately transformed into a boar. This boar got into the king’s garden and laid waste to it. The king summoned his army and commanded: Don’t let the boar get away! Anyone who allows him to escape under his horse will be hanged -“ whereupon the boar ran away under the king’s horse. But the king threw a spear at the boar and slew it. The seven sisters were dismayed and set out to steal the king’s water buffalo in revenge. Khodiar turned herself into an old woman and lay down on the banks of the pond in which the buffalo was bathed every day. She cast a magic spell on it making it mortally ill. One night, while the buffalo was lying in its stall, the sisters came to kill it and hid its flesh in baskets. The king’s guards came looking for the buffalo and when they found the baskets they asked to see what was inside. Suddenly the contents of the baskets were transformed into little sheep and goats, whereupon the sisters laid on a great feast with lots of meat.
Historical evidences for this craft go back to five hundred years. Mata Ni Pachedi was crafted by the nomadic tribes and rural communities of Gujarat to worship the various incarnations of Mata, the divine singular form on the goddess from whom the others emanate. The narrative hangings of epics of Mata or Devi or Shakti were executed by the nomadic community of Waghris and were used by the people of this community. Communities of Waghris gradually settled on the outskirts of towns/villages as they shifted from a semi nomadic stage to a fixed state. A Mata Ni Pachedi for the nomadic Vagharis served the purpose of a portable shrine. When they started settling down later these fabrics served as backgrounds in the shrines. Traditionally maroon and black were the colors used, with the surface of the material as the third color. They were natural dyes sourced from alizarin and oxidized metal. Maroon was associated with the color of the Mother Earth or ‘Gaea’ and believed to possess healing powers. The color black was meant to repel malevolent spirits and intensify spiritual energy. Gradually other colors from nature started adding to the color palette without having any religious significance. As time went by the community got introduced to pigment dyes which had begun arriving in Gujarat for a fledgling textile industry.
Unfortunately, unlike other temple hangings or block printed textiles of the country, Mata-ni-Pachedi never obtained much of a significant position in the history of Indian textiles. With time it is slowly losing its sacred significance in the religious context of Gujarat, due to the emergence of other mediums like posters and idols of gods and goddesses.
The Devipujak community has been practicing this worship and art form for 300-400 years. In the beginning, individuals used a wooden stick to draw their own ‘Pachedi’ and offered these for worship. As the art evolved, clay blocks were created for ease of replication and were used to apply mineral dyes to the cloth. These were coarse and the print became diffused over subsequent uses. So after a short productive life span these clay blocks were laid to rest in the river. They were eventually replaced by wood blocks that not only lasted longer, but also allowed for sharper drawings. Wood blocks are used even today to make Mata-ni-Pachedis. The production of hand-drawn â€˜Pachedis’ continues, but is more labour-intensive, making them more expensive than block-printed ones. Economics forced a shift and today only a few Mata-ni-Pachedis are hand-drawn.
In the olden days ‘Pachedis’ were meant for group worship and once hung up, the ‘Pachedi’ would be viewed by a large group of people. The proportions therefore, of both the textile itself as well as the motifs drawn upon it, were large and the Pachedis could be up to three metres in length. Today they are much smaller. During the last century measures have been taken to undo the crimes committed against this community. Along with gaining equality, entry restrictions to temples have been lifted and today the Mata-ni-Pachedi is not the only shrine available for worship.
The framework of the Pachedis is usually the same. The Mata is placed in the centre and the other elements surround her. The themes are influenced by goddesses, epics, myths, tradition and the worshippers. The other main characters are Bhuva, Purvaj, Panihari etc and mythological characters like Sita, Ram, Ravan, Radha Krishna etc also play an important role in the narratives.
The ‘Pachedi’ has decorative elements like the borders, flowers and trees. The animal on which the Mata is placed depicts the incarnation.
A few elements shown in the ‘Pachedi’ are as follows:
Bahuchara Mata – Her block is placed in the centre of the ‘Pachedi’. She is shown seated on a rooster which symbolizes innocence. A smaller block is sometimes placed on the top left side of the panel.
Durga Mata – She is positioned in the centre and on a pedestal. Her ‘Vahana’ or vehicle is the lion or the tiger. She is depicted with many arms as she is the warrior incarnation.
Momai Mata – She is placed next to the central Mata in the middle of the right panel. She is shown seated on a camel and is worshipped as the goddess of the desert.
Jogani Mata – She is usually placed on the third row from the top of the right side. A pedestal or a flower forms her base.
Solanki Mata – She is also known as ‘Siddhi’ and is placed in the centre or on either side of the Pachedi. She is shown seated on an elephant and has four hands holding a trident, sword, flower and a chain.
Vanvati Mata – She is also known as ‘Shikotar Mata’ and is placed in the central panel. She is shown travelling in a boat on water which has fish.
Ganesha – This deity is placed on the top arch of the Mata’s temple. He is considered the lord of the beginnings and is therefore worshipped before starting any ritual or ceremony.
Narada – He is placed along with Ganesha on the top panel above the central figure. Narada is a divine sage from the Hindu tradition.
Saraswati – She is portrayed along with other goddesses on the middle left side of the central Mata. She is the consort of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.
Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Ravana – The main deities from the Ramayana appear in the middle section which is dedicated to different events from the Ramayana.
Suraj – This is the symbol of the sun which controls day and night. It nurtures the earth and its elements. The Suraj is placed on the top left corner of the Pachedi.
People – The various non-gods are Bhuvo. Shravan, Jyotish (Astrologer), Shehnaiwado (Shehnai player), Malan (Garland seller), Chowkidars (guards), Paniharis (Water bearers), Pari (angels) etc.
Animals – Bakro (goat), Pado (buffalo). Gadho (donkey), Kutro (dog), Hiran (deer), Mor (peacock), Jal machali (fishes), Popat (parrot)
Poor infrastructure and workspace facilities have led to the decrease in the Pachedi production. Most of the activities are now outsourced. The artists depend mainly on natural lighting. If the light source is weak, it also affects the drying which in turns gives uneven colour.
Manufacturing of new blocks is proving to be expensive and the quality of craftsmanship has decreased drastically.
Mata Ni Pachedi is made in a multi-stepped process of mordant dyeing, drying, block printing and hand painting. This blend of techniques gives rise to a fabric brimming with narratives of the goddesses, mythology and epics.
Cotton – ‘Madar Paat’ is a grey cotton cloth used in this craft. It is sourced from the Sindhi Market or New Cloth market for around Rs 25-30 per meter. The traditional fabric was handspun but nowadays mill spun cotton is also used.
Mordants – Harda or Myrabellum is a natural herb and the mordant commonly used.
Kachue ka Aata – It is the gum base used in the fabric made using crushed tamarind seeds.Iron scraps, jaggery and different powders like Daru Hardar, Phitkari, Hirakshi etc, Dhavdi flowers, Alizarine.
Fire wood – to make the colours and dyes.
Pichhi / Brush – It is a stick cut from the date palms found near the Vasna dam. One end of the Pichhi is chewed to make it soft enough to use as a brush.
Kalam – It is the narrow stick used for the outlines. One end is chipped to make a fine tip.
Tamdi – This is a huge vessel used to process the different dyes. They have a capacity of 45 to 70 kgs.
Kundi – This is a tray or a rectangular container to store the dye paste while printing. It is sourced from Chippawad. A Jaali or a wireframe of plastic thread is used as a base which lends colour evenly to the wooden blocks when dipped.
Patia – This is a wooden table made to ergonomic requirement by the artists themselves. Saag wood is used since it is long lasting.
Wooden blocks – These are used for block printings and the artists get their designs made in Pethapur. These blocks are made of Mitti (clay), Seesam or Teak wood.
The Pachedis are used as a backdrop for Mata in temples four times in a year during Magha – February, Chaitra – April, Arshad – July and Ashvin – October. The artisans worship the wooden blocks on the ninth day of Navratri. The community gathers to worship the goddess in the evening. The ‘Bhuvo’, the musical storyteller, sings and goes into a trance after intoxicating himself with a locally brewed drink. Music is played as part of the ritual and people sing songs dedicated to the Mata. ‘Pooris’ are prepared as a part of the offerings to the Mata. A sacrificial goat adorned with bright fabric and garlands is brought inside the temple and fed with sprouted barley before the Bhuvo sacrifices it to the goddess. The Pachedi which was used in the ritual as a part of worship are then stored in an earthen pot to be used next year.
At the time of worship, groups of Devipujak worshippers assemble, hang up the textile painted with images of the goddess and conduct the rituals, consisting of group singing of bhajans, aarti and other puja rituals. One or more Mata-ni-Pachedis are hung up and all the rituals are performed using the Pachedi, the portable shrine, as the focus of attention. At the centre of each Pachedi is a picture of the main goddess and surrounding the central image are the legends of her life. There are 999 avatars of the goddess and so there were 999 variants of the Mata-ni-Pachedis, each narrating a different tale. In the social system of beliefs all over India it is common to take a vow that is associated with the asking of a specific boon or wish. For instance, a young student may take a vow that if she gets admission into medical college, she will perform certain religious rites and abstain from certain foods for a year or embrace a particular new habit. A man may vow that if he gets a son, he will give up smoking. To mark the granting of that boon, there is a worship ritual or Pooja. In the case of the Devipujak community this Puja takes the form of animal sacrifice before the goddess along with an offering of a new Pachedi.
Mata Ni Pachedi is made in a multi-stepped process of mordant dyeing, drying, block printing and hand painting. This blend of techniques gives rise to a fabric brimming with narratives of the goddesses, mythology and epics.
Treating the cloth : The base cotton fabric is soaked in water for a day to remove the starch or kanji. This makes the fabric softer and fully absorbent to the dyes. It is then dried in the sun.
Mordanting : Harda is applied to the fabric to make it easier for the dyes to penentrate.One kilogram of harda is used for every 3 metres. It is mixed in water and the cloth is dipped for about five minutes. Once soaked properly, it is left to dry in the sun.
Block Printing : The wooden blocks are immersed in the tray filled with black colour and dabbed a couple of times for the colour to catch well. It is then stamped onto the fabric stepwise starting from the borders to the base of the core, the Mata and then the decorative elements. The main theme is predefined by the artist before work begins. The animals are mostly hand-drawn since it is not viable to have such huge blocks. Even the negative space left in the Pachedi is painted by hand using a Kalam. The cloth is laid out in the sun to dry again.
Painting and Kalam-kari : Once the fabric dries, the women and children start filling in the colours. The application is done evenly and carefully using the Pichhi. Care has to be taken so that the colours don’t bleed and mix with each other. If there are errors, lemon juice is brushed on the specific area till it fades away. This is again left to dry.Washing in the river : The fabric is taken to the Vasna dam to wash away the gum base and excess colour. The alum and ferrous sulphate used in the cloth gets absorbed into the fabric. Two iron rods are fixed into the water parallel to each other. A rope is tied on which the fabrics are hung for fifteen minutes. The fabric is kept at water level so that it does not sink when the current changes. The orientation of the fabric is changed after ten minutes so that the gum is removed from all sides. Coarser the fabric, longer is the duration that it is required to be immersed in water. The fabric is dried under the sun without crumpling or twisting otherwise the colours would mix.
Treating to develop colour : The dry Pachedis are immersed in the Thamdi (vessel) containing water. This is heated using firewood. Dhavdi flowers and Alizarine is added when the water is lukewarm. This is left to boil for almost half an hour. The flowers help retain the white colour while the Alizarine makes the black darker and the pale greens turn red. After the colours intensify, the fabric is immersed in cold water. This process of fixing and developing is repeated if there are more colours to be added.
Around the 11th century, archaeological evidences state the existence of Ahmedabad by the name of Ashaval. Karandev I, the Solanki ruler of Anhilwara waged a war against the then Bhil king of Ashaval and established a city called Karnavati on the banks of river Sabarmati.
Gujarat was taken over by the Vaghela dynasty in the 13th century. It was soon seized by the Delhi sultanate in the 14th century. Soon during the early 15th century Muzaffar Shah I crowned himself the sultan of Gujarat after he detached himself from the Delhi sultanate. He founded the Muzaffarid dynasty which went on to rule till the Marathas came in during 1758. Ahmedabad derived its present name from Muzaffar Shah's grandson Ahmed Shah who ruled from 1411 AD. It went through a series of occupation by the Mughals and then back to the Muzzafarids till emperor Akbar set foot in 1573.
During the Mughal reign, Ahmedabad became one of the Empire's thriving centres of trade, mainly in textiles, which were exported as far as Europe. The Mughal ruler Shahjahan spent the prime of his life in the city, sponsoring the construction of the MotiShahiMahal in Shahibaug.
The Mughals surrendered the city to the Marathas in 1758. The British East India Company took over the city in 1818 during the Third Anglo-Maratha War. A major development took place in the year 1864, when railway line was laid that connected Ahmedabad with Bombay. These developments brought Ahmedabad on the map of leading centers of trade and manufacturing.
The Independence struggle and movements had seen a strong centre in Ahmedabad with the presence of Mahatma Gandhi who established the Kochrab Ashram near Paldi in 1915 and the Sabarmati Ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati in 1917. It witnessed many protests like the Dandi salt march and the Quit India movement until India got its Independence in 1947.
During the 1960s a large number of educational and research institutions were founded in the city, making it a center of higher education, science and technology.
Ahmedabad has now flourished into a thriving city with strengthened infrastructure and economy and lived past the many trials and tribulations in the form of riots and natural calamities.
Ahmedabad lies in the state of Gujarat at an elevation of 174 ft above sea level. It is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River. The Kankaria lake and the Vastrapur lake are the two manmade lakes within the city limits. Its longitude and latitude are 720Âº 41' E and 230Âº 1' N respectively.
By Air - The Sardar Vallabhai Patel Airport is just 10 kms from downtown Ellis Bridge/Ashram Road area. It functions for both domestic and international purposes. Direct Air India and Indian Airlines flights go to the Gulf and to other destinations through intermediate stations. Domestic flights on Air India, Indian Airlines/Alliance Air, Jet Airways and Gujarat Airways will take you to Delhi Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Jaipur and several other destinations within the country.
By Rail - Ahmedabad has a well maintained railway network connected to important destinations of the country. Ahmedabad railway station is the largest railway station in the state of Gujarat. Various express and super fast trains are available between Ahmedabad and important cities of the country.
By Road - Ahmedabad has a good network of roads also. National highways connect cities like Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Mumbai. The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) runs express and luxury deluxe buses to the neighboring towns and cities. One can reach the city by taxi from nearby cities.
Ahmedabad has a hot, semi arid climate which is mostly dry throughout the year. The temperatures peak to 45 degrees Celsius in the summer months from March to June. The monsoons bring in relief from July to September with an average annual rainfall of 800 mm. The winters span from October to February bringing in mild chills with temperatures dipping to 10 degree Celsius.
Ahmedabad is a thriving city with its infrastructure matching upto many of the metropolitan cities. Ahmedabad is endowed with abundant supply of natural resources like minerals, forests and rivers. The principal mineral resource in the city includes crude oil. The river Sabarmati is the main water resource for the people of Ahmedabad. It provides drinking water to the entire city. There are two lakes present within the city's limits - Kankaria Lake and Vastrapur Lake. Kankaria Lake, in the neighborhood of Maninagar, is an artificial lake developed by the Sultan of Delhi. The city's forest cover is decreasing day by day due to rapid industrialization.
Ahmedabad city is an administrative headquarters of Ahmedabad district, administered by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The city's suburban areas are administered by the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA). Electricity in the city is generated and distributed by Torrent Power Limited, owned and operated by the Ahmedabad Electricity Company, which was previously a state-run corporation. Ahmedabad is one of the few cities in India, where the power sector is privatised. The Sardar Sarovar Project of dams and canals has improved the supply of potable water and electricity for the city.
The city is equipped with health facilities both private and government aided. Ahmedabad hosts many prestigious educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Management, the National Institute of Design, CEPT etc.
Ahmedabad was once a fortified city. It has now grown beyond the old gates and walls. The city is divided by the Sabarmati River into two physically distinct eastern and western regions. The eastern bank of the river houses the old city, which includes the central town of Bhadra with the Bhadra fort. This part of Ahmedabad is characterized by packed bazaars, the pol system of close clustered buildings, and numerous places of worship. The colonial period saw the expansion of the city to the western side of Sabarmati, facilitated by the construction of Ellis Bridge in 1875 and later the modern Nehru Bridge. The western part of the city houses educational institutions, modern buildings, residential areas, shopping malls, multiplexes and new business districts.
Monuments and structures of the Indo-Saracenic style can be still found in Ahmedabad. The Sidi Saiyyed Mosque is one such example. Many Havelis from this era have unique carvings and can be seen in the ancient pols of Ahmedabad. When the city stepped into the modern era it was honored with many world renowned architects like Louis Kahn, F.L.Wright, B.V Doshi and Le Corbusier who were commissioned to design many of the buildings like IIM, Calico Mills, Gandhi Ashram etc.
The Gujarati culture is a vibrant and active one. Popular celebrations and observances include Uttarayan, an annual kite-flying day on 14 January. The nine nights of Navratri are celebrated with people performing Garba which is the folk dance of Gujarat at venues across the city. The festival of lights, Deepavali, is celebrated with the lighting of lamps in every house, the decorating the floors with the 'Rangoli' and the bursting of firecrackers. Other festivals such as Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Gudi Padwa, Eid ul-Fitr and Christmas are celebrated with enthusiasm. The annual Rath Yatra procession on the Ashadh-sud-bij date of the Hindu calendar and the procession of Tajia during the Muslim holy month of Muharram are integral parts of the city's culture.
The people of Ahmedabad enjoy rich culinary traditions. The most popular form of their meal is a typical Gujarati thali (meal) consisting of rotli, dal, rice and Shaak (cooked vegetables, sometimes with curry), with accompaniments of pickles and roasted Papadums. Popular beverages include buttermilk and tea; sweet dishes include laddoos and mango.
The major religions followed by the people are Hinduism, Jainism and Islam. The city is also home to a substantial population of Parsis. The traditional Gujarati dresses for women consist of the lehenga choli or the ghagra choli. These are colorfully embroidered and complemented by bare-backed blouses extending to the waist. Ghagras or lehengas are gathered ankle-length skirts that are fastened at the waist. The entire outfit is completed by a veil cloth called Odhni or dupatta which is thrown across the neck or over the head. Gujarati men usually attire themselves in dhoti, long or short coat and turban cap. The urban population, however, has progressed towards contemporary forms and sports the latest in fashion.
The kite festival of Ahmedabad is sight to behold. The festival marks the days in the Hindu calendar when winter begins turning to summer, known as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan. Kites of all shapes and sizes are flown, and the main competition is to battle nearby kite-flyers to cut their strings and bring down their kites. Since 1989, the city of Ahmedabad has hosted the International Kite Festival as part of the official celebration of Uttarayan, bringing master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to demonstrate their unique creations and wow the crowds with highly unusual kites.
Navratri celebrations are another striking feature. The place erupts into a nine-night dance festival, perhaps the longest in the world. The dance form called Garba is followed where people dance around in circles uniformly to beats in the traditional steps.
The Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad is a site which is prominent in Indian history. It was the center of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent struggle for India's independence. The ashram is located on the banks of river Sabarmati and was established in 1917.
The Adalaj stepped well is a much visited architectural attraction of Ahmedabad. Built in 1499 by Queen Rudabai, wife of the Vaghela chief, Veersinh, this five-storey stepwell was not just a cultural and utilitarian space, but also a spiritual refuge. It is believed that villagers would come every day in the morning to fill water, offer prayers to the deities carved into the walls and interact with each other in the cool shade of the 'Vav' (well). Another remarkable feature of this step well is that out of the many stepwells in Gujarat, it is the only one with three entrance stairs.
List of craftsmen.
Interview: Vasant Manubhai Chitara, Ahmedabad (16.6.2010)
Interview: Syam bhai Chitara, Ahmedabad (4.4.2010)