In Bhujodi, weavers mainly create shawls and stoles, though carpets and placemats are also being made lately. Traditionally, these products were created to bear the harsh winters, but now cotton is also used to weave summer garments. This has ensured a flourishing yearlong market for the artisans
It takes around 10 to 12 days to weave a single shawl and around 5 to 6 shawls of the same model are woven each time. The craftsmen work by hand on patterns and intricate designs, which can take months to complete. There are many awards and accolades to their credit. Vishram Valji, a seasoned weaver in Bhujodi won the President's award in 1974, for an elaborately patterned shawl created by him. This beautiful piece of art took him an entire year to complete. The 'Kutchi' shawls have also received the 'GI (Geographical Indication) tag'.
The division of labor in Bhujodi weaving is decided by the amount of physical exertion and stamina required. Men sit at the looms, while the women do the yarn making and ready the looms. The intricate patterns are worked by hand, as they go between the threads of warp and weft. This unique technique of weaving motifs, by lifting the warp with fingers without a 'Dobby' or 'Jacquard' and the 'Athh tako' technique (with four peddles in the loom) is unique. The craftsmen train their children to weave from a very early age. The children learn by watching their elders at work and also by helping out.
Myths & Legends
A popular belief says, that 500 years ago the daughter of a rich 'Rabari' family came to Kutch after her marriage. A weaver was sent along with her as part of her dowry, so that he could weave whatever she desired. The family of this weaver grew into a large community over time and they came to be known as the craftsmen of Kutch.
Bhujodi weaving is a craft practiced by almost 200 weavers of the village. The nomadic tribes that were on the move needed warm clothing to bear the harsh winters. Traditionally, weavers would use hand spun yarn provided by the 'Rabaris', a nomadic community of sheep and goat herders. Among them 'Meghwals' and 'Marwadas' developed a unique style of weaving, that provided the Kutchi community with blankets, cloth and traditional dress fabric. They came to be known as the 'Vankars' or the weaver community. The 'Vankars' slowly developed designs that suited the requirements of the 'Rabari' community, and so the designs became characteristic of this clan. This helped in distinguishing the work of communities separately, even though they worked interdependently as the craft grew.
Traditionally, the shawls were made from wool but the craftsmen now explore other materials like silk and cotton. The craftsmen weave traditional motifs as well as contemporary modifications suggested to them by the designers. The shawls are usually adorned with several borders on the shorter length side. They are made in natural colours of wool or dyed to suit requirements. Some of the popular colors are Indigo blue, red, green, off white, black etc. The most popular embellishing styles from Kutch are 'Batik' work, 'Bandhani' (Tie Dye) patterns, 'Ahir', 'Rabari', 'Mutwa', ' Abla' embroideries (mirror), 'Aari' or 'Mochi' embroideries (chain stitch) and 'Sindhi' embroideries (Kutch work). Many designs have linear patterns interspersed with motifs running throughout the body. Sometimes even tie-and-dye technique is incorporated to add value to it.
The border sizes differ from shawl to shawl. The common sizes are 3, 9 or 18 inches. The borders of 18 inches are mostly used in shawls for males. The finishing of the shawls or stoles is done using colorful tassels, which is a characteristic feature of the Kutchi weaving.
Hiraghiryu - This is a traditional 'Dhabda' or shawl and is woven in two parts due to the small width of the looms. It is then pieced together using a traditional hand-stitch known as 'khelavni'.
Jhar - This motif is said to resemble a tree.
Chaumukh - This is a four-sided motif made by lifting warp threads. This is a distinct feature of the Kutchi weaving style. It has a religious connotation and represents the Mandala.
Sachchi kor - This is a warp based design having a pointed temple-like figure with a thick base. This is done on a black and white weave.
Sathkhani - This is a pattern that requires seven steps in its making.
Dholki - This is a drum shaped motif.
Wankia -This motif resembles a crooked or 'zig-zag' line. The inspiration for this is said to be the pattern created by a cow as it walks on soil.
Bhujodi weaving is a craft that requires high levels of concentration and expertise. It is a physically strenuous craft that requires the craftsman to hunch over his loom for days together. This causes health concerns like sore arms, poor eyesight and stomach problems. This is a big cause of worry for the weavers.
The craft is time consuming as it takes more than a fortnight of hand weaving at a stretch, all the warp put around the drum at once. The weaver has to handpick the warp and weft from memory and any error will mean starting the entire process all over again.