Friday, December 7, 2007
Bhuj; The Jats, the Rabanis and the Harijans
Picture: Harijan woman
Yesterday, I hired a rickshaw for half a day and toured some villages around Bhuj.
Most of the land around Bhuj is scrub but there are some farms too. These tended to be large wall-enclosed green oasises. A bit like farm estates. Yellow flowering kale (cabbage like plants) was everywhere. This crop is grown for animal feed. Also growing at the mo are cotton plants and papaya like plants.
The scrub was mostly short prickly shrubs, cacti and short grass. In places there was salt stained rocks and dry river beds. Unfortunately there was none of the classic cracked salt plains I was hoping to see. These are further north, so I'm told.
The villages have a mixture of people. There are Hindus, Muslims and tribe people. The latter included the Jats, the Rabanis and the Harijans.
The Jats are Muslim. In the village I visited, the main trade is milk producing. The village has many goats and some cows. They are very friendly and I was taken around to see families, women sewing and lastly, I was invited for a cup of pure milk tea. Life seem very slow but it was in the heat of the day.
The Rabanis seem to have the most elaborate jewellery, especially ear pieces. Many were dressed in black, though this isn't the only colour they wear. I was shown some stitch work that the women where doing. These were mainly head pieces. The cloth they worked looked modern and they used stitches and mirrors to add patterns to these. They are also very friendly, especially their children. Unfortunately, the women didn't want to be photographed. Their children did though. They loved the digital camera. Shoot and see it straight away. The magic of modern technology is never lost on children. Local expert, PJ Jethi, describes the Rabanis as 'a mystery. Their life style is totally different from any other tribe.' Many Rabanis are still nomad or semi nomad.
I only met one family of the Harijans. They are also very friendly. The old woman pictured above was a perfect model and didn't mind me fluffing around with my camera.
Here's a link for more detail on textiles crafts of Kutch.