The Gujaratis have a natural talent for singing and dancing. They have songs and dances for every occasion and festival that is celebrated throughout the year. Gujarat has successfully preserved its rich tradition of song, dance and drama. Most of the art traditions trace back their origin to the ancient period of Lord Krishna. The most popular amongst these are the Ras and Garba. Other popular forms of folk dances in Gujarat are Tippani Nritya, Siddi dance, Padhar Nritya, Dangi Nritya and other local tribal dances. Folk drama in Gujarat is known as Bhavai.
The Ras dance is considered a form of Ras Leela, which Lord Krishna used to perform at Gokul and Vrindavan. The Ras is simple and is generally performed by a group of youthful people who move in measured steps around a circle, accompanied by a singing chorus and a host of musical instruments like the dhol, cymbals, zanz, shehnai (flute). The typical folk costume for this dance is a small coat called kedia, with tight sleeves and pleated frills at the waist with highly embroidered borders, tight trousers, colourfully embroidered cap or coloured turban and colourful kamarbandha (cummerbund).
Also known as the 'stick' dance, this is another form of dance that is also a feature of Navratri. Here, men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or dandias. As they whirl to the intoxicating rhythm of the dance, men and women strike the dandiyas together, adding to the joyous atmosphere. The best Ras dancers are the Kathiawari Ras dancers, who hail from the Saurashtra region.
Just as Lord Krishna popularized the Ras dance, Usha, the grand daughter-in-law of Lord Krishna gets the credit for popularizing the Lasya Nritya, which came to be known as Garba Dance. It is a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a garbo, filled with water. A betel nut and a silver coin are placed within the pot, called a kumbh, on top of which a coconut is placed. As the dancers whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provide the musical accompaniment. The participants clap in a steady rhythm.
Gujarat has a great tradition of music and it has given the country some of the best talents in the field. Tansen and Baiju Bawra, greatest of all the musicians in India, were from this part of the country. Narsinh Mehta, the writer of the famous bhajan 'Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye', was also Gujarat's contribution to Indian music. Famous Indian ragas like Gujjar Tod, Bilaval, Khambhavati are all said to be named after Gujarat, Veraval, and Cambay.
The traditional Gujarati's have safe guarded their rich cultural heritage for centuries, which is very well exhibited by the art and craft of the region. Crafts in Gujarat are a way of life, a process that transforms even the most mundane object of daily use into a thing of beauty. The major handicraft works are :
The variety in textiles lies in the differences of raw materials, the combinations of yarns and in the effective use of traditional techniques. Variations in design used by different communities, castes and regions of the state, have further enriched the range. The most popular textile styles are :
The famous Patola weaving of Patan is known for its colorful geometrical pattern which are strikingly beautiful. The unique tie and weave method of Patola results in identical patterns on the both the sides of the fabric.
Tie and Dye Fabric of Jamnagar, Mandvi and Bhuj are famous for their intricate designs and patterns which are used in wedding outfits called as gharchola odhni and sarees. The tie-dyed fabrics of Gujarat are perhaps the best produced in India. Also known as Bandhej, it is produced on superfine cotton mulmul, muslin sometimes combined with gold checks and motifs worked in the jamdani technique. The highest intensity of Bandhini dyeing is in Kutch, but some of the best works are from Jamnagar and Saurashtra, on the Southern coast of Gulf of Kutch. The printed portion of the fabric are pinched and pushed into small points and then knotted with 2 or 3 twists of thread. The knotted parts remain uncoloured and the fabric is dyed in the lightest shade first, retied and dyed in the darker colour. The fabric may be tied and dyed several times, depending on the number of shades in the final colour scheme. The price of the bandhini depends not only on the fabric, but also on the number of times it has to be tied and dyed and the intricacy of the design.
Pachedi prints are made in honor of goddess Durga by the vahgari community priests.
Surat is one of the biggest and the most important Jari manufacturing centre of India. It is one of the oldest industries, which dates back to the Mughal period. The principal types of products are made of real gold and silver threads or imitation gold and silver threads. The major embroidery patterns are chalak, salaiya, kangri, tikki, ring and katori.
It is a fabric woven with a combination of silk and cotton. Mashru is well known for its bold patterns and colours. Mashru was essential for the use of Muslim men as there was a prohibition on them wearing pure silk. Weaving traditions prevalent in Iraq and the Arab countries may have influenced the tradition of mashru. Mashru was woven all over India, though it survives today only in Gujarat. Today Patan is one of the most important centres where mashru is woven.
Worn originally by tribes of Gujarat, this fabric is printed in geometric patterns with bold black outlines, in deep earthy colours.
It is heavily decorated and embroidered decoration hung over the entrance and is considered a symbol of warm welcome.
The intricate art of printing fabrics using wooden blocks thrives in the riverside town of Jetpur, midway Gondal and Junagadh, and earns valuable foreign exchange along side the more modern screen-printing workshops. Wood is cut and flattened into blocks ranging from around 1 1/2 " to 3" thickness, pin pricked with the outline of the design to be transferred to the fabric and finally minutely carved by chiseling. Next, the colours are separated to fill the niches, and the Chhipa or Khatri expertly runs the block along the length and breadth of the fabric.
The dyed fabric is then fixed in river Gondali and kept to dry. Kutch also specializes in block printing, and vegetable dyes, paraffin wax resist, patricate-printing material. Bright ajrakh prints are still used though now synthetic dyes and modern techniques have been adopted. Dhamadka are block prints that derive their name from the village of origin, well known for its river water that brightens the colours. A range of contrasting maroons, yellows, blues and reds with patterns generated through tiny dots.
This fabric from Surendranagar is inlayed with thread during weaving to create geometrical patterns and peacock motifs.
Gujarat is especially known for its Saris. Different styles of sarees available in Gujrat are :
Sarees woven with gold and silver thread known as ganga-jamuna. The borders retain the flowing patterns of old chanderi and paithani sarees, which were a specialty of western India.
Chinese weavers first introduced tanchoi in Surat and the Parsi community used it extensively. They continue to be woven into sarees as well as fabric in silk.
These silk sarees from Cambay are first woven with silk and zari threads and then tie-dyed or block printed.
The Patola Silk from Patan is famous and one of the biggest selling fabrics in some of the larger cities.The patola is one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. This is a specialty of Patan, and is famous for extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. Besides Patan, Surat is acclaimed for velvets with patola patterns. There were four distinct styles in the patolas woven originally in Gujarat by the Salvi community. The double ikat sarees with all over patterns of flowers, parrots, dancing figures and elephants were used by the Jains and Hindus. For the Muslim Vora community special sarees with geometric and floral designs were woven for use during weddings. There were also the sarees woven for the Maharashtrian Brahmins with a plain, dark-coloured body and borders with women and birds, called the Nari Kunj. There was a cloth specially woven for the traditional export markets in the Far East. The weaving is done on simple traditional handlooms, and the dyes used are made from vegetable extracts and other natural colours, which are so fast that there is a Gujarati saying that "the patola will tear, but the colour will not fade." A patola saree takes 4 to 6 months to make, depending on how complicated the designs is and if the length is 5 or 6 metres, it can cause from Rs.50, 000/- to over Rs. 100,000/- a piece.
Jewellery making is the art of highest anituity, the famous among these are filgree work, open wire work. carving etc. Wnamelling is another noteworthy artistic craft. Kutch region is renowned for its necklaces, ear-rings etc. Silver jewellery is always in great demand with Rajkot and Ahmedabad being centres for silver ornaments.The brass industry of Jamnagar is one of the largest in India. Gujarat's other paramount craft is silver and iron works, found nowhere better than in the former princely state of Saurashtra and Kutch. Beads stones are prepared from Agate, a semi-precious stone mostly in Cambay region for ear rings, necklace and other ornamental articles. Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagadh and other places are also known for bead work.
Saurashtra and Sanked in the Vadodara district are also known for their lacquer work. Toys, stands, parts of bedstead, cradles, cradles, low chairs are some of the important items of lacquer work. Ivory is mostly used in inlay work and preparation of artistic bangles. Mahuva in Bhavnagar district and Idar in Sabarkantha district are known for the manufacturing of wooden lacquer toys.
Exquisite wood carvings can be observed in the temples, havelis and many houses in various parts of Gujarat. The major centres of wood carvings are Visnagar, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Mahuva, and Bilimora. Sandalwood boxes from Surat are very popular. Wood carving is another important craft in Gujarat, evident in the many elaborately carved temples, havelis (mansions) and palaces as well as objects of daily and ritual use. Utensils are another area where the craftspersons of Gujarat have excelled. Gujarat is also famous for its terracotta work, especially votive terra-cotta figurines which one can find by the hundreds at small shrines built in forests, along roads, outside villages, on lonely hill-tops and under large trees, especially in south Gujarat.
Another handicraft industry that has become synonymous with Southern Gujarat is the lacquered furniture of Sankheda near Vadodara. Wood is rounded with tools and painted with floral and abstract designs in bright shades of gold, silver, maroon, green, vermilion, and brown by using sticks dipped in a coloured mixture of dyes, powdered zinc, lac and resin. The furniture and woodcrafts of Surat, Kutch and Saurashtra are also popular. The artisans of Kutch make wood take on beautiful designs and intricate filigreed appearance of lace. Lacquered furniture similar to that of Sankheda is also made in Mahuva near Bhavnagar, Surat and Kutch.
The temple curtain work is a specially of some Vaghari Harijan families of Ahmedabad. Its is prepared in the old madder process and depicts the Goddes Durga riding tiger a well as other illustrations from Puranic legends.
The state's oldest handicraft is certainly pottery, which achieved great standards of excellence in ancient times. The commonest of art forms, pottery is also one of the most fascinating. With the few turns of the wheel and expert flicks of the hand, village potters mould an ordinary lump of mud into a well proportioned and useful clay utensils, embellished by their wives with paintings and colourful lines. Terracotta toys are another craft of the potters of Kutch, but it is in the Aravallis and Chhota Udepur tribal lands that potters make the famous long necked terracotta figurines of the Gora Dev (tribal horse God), said to protect crops, villages and families from evil spirits, evil intentions and natural calamities.
Embroidery is Gujarat's quintessential handicraft and many of the artisans are wives of herdsmen, nomads and agriculturists battling for a second income. Techniques vary with the community and region look for the simple needle work but exquisite effects of Bavalia embroidery to the fabulous bright yellow and red Banni embroidery; the embroidery of the Rabari cameleers, reminiscent of their pastoral life style, inlaid with triangular, square and almond shaped mirrors; the geometric and floral motifs of the Ahir community with circular mirrors; the chain stitches and tiny mirrors used by the Jats; the delicate soof embroidery of the Sodha Rajputs around Lakhpat ; the tiny broken mirrors embroidered into fabrics by the Mutwa cameleers; and the exquisite Mukka embroidery of the Hali Putras, Rasipotra and Node herds people.
Dhurries, carpets, blankets and rugs are woven on primitive pitlooms in the villages of Kutch. Wankars dexterously weave designs with their hands while the machine is worked by foot pedals. The result, gorgeous patterns and remarkable colours combinations. Durries can be made from wool, goat hair and cotton. Colourful quilts and camel comparison are also woven traditionally on pitlooms, shuttle looms and other handlooms. Handloom weaving is an important occupation in villages on the Ahmedabad - Bhavnagar highway.