If you have been following my posts on the vibrant Kutch handicrafts, then I am sure visiting this phenomenal destination has crossed your mind. So, before I whet your wanderlust more, let’s get started with this Kutch handicrafts tour guide.
Where is Kutch?
Kutch is a large region located in the westernmost point of India. It is in the state of Gujarat and the region is an intriguing patchwork of seasonal salt deserts, mudflats, marshes, arid badlands, and beaches. It is a hotbed for vibrant indigenous communities and as many as 18 different tribes live there in perfect harmony. As each community revel in their unique handicraft style, Kutch is a culture lovers delight. In this Kutch handicrafts tour guide, I will mention some of the highlights of artist villages, along with the craft they excel in. Please note that all these villages can be accessed from the main city of Bhuj, which is an excellent base for going on a Kutch handicrafts tour.
Bhuj travel guide
Air There are one or two daily flights to Bhuj from Mumbai.
Rail Bhuj is connected to Mumbai by two daily express trains. The Bhuj Express and the Kutch Express takes 8 and 16 hours from Bhuj to reach Ahmedabad and Mumbai respectively.
Road The bus is the most convenient option of reaching Bhuj from Ahmedabad. There are several private companies which offer sleeper bus facilities and they leave Ahmedabad at 8 and 11 pm to reach Bhuj at 6 and 8 am respectively. Bus tickets can be bought at their offices at Paldi in Ahmedabad.
Getting around Bhuj The best way to go on a Kutch handicrafts tour is by hiring a guide (I recommend my guide and friend, Ketan Goswami) and a car in Bhuj. State Transport buses go to many destinations around the district. The remote places can be accessed only by private cars or taxis.
You may like: The show stopping beauty of Kutch artist villages
Where to Stay in Bhuj I stayed at the odd airplane shaped Hotel KBN in Bhuj. Though it was a bit outdated with its facilities, the staff were courteous. Wifi is slow all over Bhuj and Hotel KBN was no exception. The hotel had a good restaurant. It was comfortable and clean enough for mid-budget travelers like me. The more discerning guests can opt for the superb eco-friendly resort of Sham-e-Sarhad.
Best time to visit October to March is the peak season in Buj and it is advisable to book ahead to avoid last minute disappointments.
Recommended Read: Highlights of Kutch
The must visit villages on a Kutch handicrafts tour
Bhujodi (Kutch batik prints)
No Kutch handicraft tour is complete without mention of this famous village. Located 8 kilometers away from Bhuj, Bhujodi is a major textile hub of Kutch and here you can meet the Vankar community weavers, block printers, and tie-and-dye artists. The Ashapura Craft Park is about a kilometer away from Bhujodi. established by a non-profit wing of a local business, this park aims at showcasing the best of Kutch handicrafts and performing arts. The Shrujan School is a must visit here and it is a fascinating exhibit of embroideries along with a production center. Bhujodi hosts handicrafts fairs all year round, where you can buy most of the unique Kutch handicrafts like mud murals, metal bells, potteries, bandhni shawls, and woodwork. Do stop by at Bhujpur to take a look at Kutch batik printing workshop of the artist,Anwar Razzak Khatri.
Ajrakhpur (Ajrakh block prints)
Ajrakhpur, as the name suggests, is the hub for beautiful Ajrakh block prints. Believed to have been brought from Sind (now in Pakistan), nearly 400 years ago, Ajrakh block printing is a 3,000 years old art. This block printing uses natural dyes sourced turmeric, pomegranate, rhubarb, and mud. The printing blocks are pieces of art themselves, with only one family in Kutch now carving them with absolute precision and skill. Practiced by Muslim Khatri artists, Ajrakh home industry was badly hit, when the 2001 earthquake badly damaged the block printing village of Bhuj and Dhamadka. In its wake, the Ajrakh artisans came together to build a new village in order to reconstruct their lives and their production line. Make sure to pay a visit to the workshop of the dedicated, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri‘s sons in Ajrakhpur. Drop in the morning to enjoy a demonstration of this fascinating millennia-old art. You can shop for exquisite Ajrakh printed textiles and garments there. (email@example.com, +91-02832-299786)
Suggested Read: The astonishing world of Kutch embroideries
Sumrasar Village (Kala Raksha, leather ware and embroideries)
The best reason to visit Sumrasar village to go to Kala Raksha, a non-profit organization that works with various local communities to promote and preserve Kutch arts. It highlights the Suf, Rabari, and Garasia Jat embroideries. There is a small museum dedicated to these crafts and this trust employs nearly 600 artisans from the neighbouring areas. Sumrasar falls en route Bhuj to Banni.
Bhirandiyara Village (embroidery, leather ware, and Maavo, a local dessert)
Bhirandiyara is famous for the local delicacy called Maavo (a thick fudge-like sweetened dessert), stunning handcrafted embellished leatherware, and colourful mud bhungas (local mud huts) of the Meghwal community. Whether, you are a photographer, craft hunter, or a foodie, Bhirandiyara should not be missed on your Kutch handicrafts tour.
Khavda Village (pottery)
Though famous as the gateway to the famous flamingo colony at the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Khavda village is very culturally rich. This village is home to the skilled traditional potters and Khavda is a must stop in your Kutch handicrafts tour. These Kutch potters produce their wares using resources from the Rann and decorate them in delicate designs with bamboo brushes. The colours too are sourced locally and are all natural, thus making Kutch pottery a precious piece of art.
Ludiya Village (embroidery and mud murals)
Located 3 kilometers away from Khavda, Ludiya is famous for the Meghwal community who live in perfectly painted circular huts. The women of the village excel in embroidery, while the men carve wood into exquisite designs. Ludiya houses are visual delights. The exteriors are painted with colourful motifs, while the interiors are richly decorated with traditional mud murals.
Navavas Village (wood carving and embroidery)
Located just before Ludiya, Navavas is a great pit stop in your Kutch handicrafts tour. It is a fantastic place to discover beautiful Meghwal embroideries and meet Hirabhai Marwara to learn the traditional Kutch wood carving technique.
Kukma Village (Khamir)
Kukma is village located 16 kilometers away from Bhuj. It is an erstwhile weaving center of Kutch and the Khamir Crafts Resource Center has an active school there. The campus is open for those who want to understand the intricacies of local arts and is a must stop on your Kutch handicrafts tour.
Jura (copper bells)
Jura deserves a stop in the Kutch handicrafts tour due to its unique tradition of copper bell-making. Practiced by the Lohar community, these bells are now made from recycled metal scraps, thus making it a sustainable art.
Nirona (Rogan art and Lacquer ware)
A few kilometres from Jura and 40 kilometers away from Bhuj, Nirona Village is the center of the delicate Rogan Art. A highly skilled and labour intensive craft, Rogan has graced the White House, when the ex-US president Barack Obama took one home with him. The technique of Rogan involves dipping a metal needle in vivid oil-based paints to create intricate Persian inspired designs on fabric. Make sure to pay a visit to Abdul Gafur Khatri in Nirona in your Kutch handicrafts tour. He hails who from the last staying family of Rogan artisans and happily demonstrates this art to the guests. Do visit Sugar Saya or Mala Khamisa in Vadavas and learn the unique Kutch lacquer work.
Hodka Village (A bit of everything)
Hodka lies on the edge of Rann, the salt desert. The village is popular among tourists and here you can buy crafts like decorative mirrors, letter boxes, wall hanging, lather, clay, wood, metal, mural work, patchwork appliques, and beautiful silver jewellery. The artisans sell their items directly from their colourful bhungas.
Dhordo Village (Mud Murals)
Located 80 kilometers away from Bhuj, Dhordo needs an overnight stay. It is occupied primarily by the Mutwa community who are famous for their mud murals, embroideries, and beautiful folk songs. The clever Mutwa ladies are skilled in incredibly fine embroidery which are patterned around tiny mirrors.
Endangered crafts of Kutch
Apart from the mentioned arts, this exceptional region has many rare and endangered crafts, like Namda, Mashru, Kharad weaving, and Bela printing. Though it may be not easy to visit the artist workshops of these crafts, try to promote them by buying a piece or two from reputed stores on your Kutch handicrafts tour.
Attractions apart from the Kutch handicrafts tour
Do visit the Kala Dungar (Black Hill) at sunset for panoramic views of the incredible Rann of Kutch. Kala Dungar is accessible via the village of Khavda, which is 25 kilometers away and around 70 kilometers from Bhuj. The old Lakhpat Fort (140 kilometers from Bhuj) also provides a fabulous view of the Rann of Kutch.
Permits required before embarking on a Kutch handicrafts tour
Due to its close proximity to the Pakistan border, the Rann of Kutch is a sensitive area. Written permission is required to visit the salt desert and this is available at the Bhirandiyara village checkpoint, nearly 55 kilometers from Bhuj. The permit costs 100 rupees per person, 25 rupees for a motorbike and 50 rupees for a car. The documents required to obtain the permit are a photocopy of your ID( plus show the original). The checkpoint opens around 11 am. Permission can also be obtained from the Gujarat Police DSP office in Bhuj near Jubilee Ground (closed on Sundays). Nowadays you can get your permits online via the official Rann Permit website.
This comprehensive list has been made with my personal experiences, along with inputs from reliable online sources like. Please feel free to add to this list and share your experiences of Kutch handicrafts tour with us.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE