Think palaces and royalty in Kutch. Think Bhuj and Mandvi. They are (sorry, were) almost synonymous with each other till the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake which brought much of the region to dust. Yet a few structures still stand, recounting an era that whispers to the traveller.
Kutch was a princely state till India’s independence; the walled city of Bhuj dating back to 1510 the state’s commercial and administrative nerve centre. In 1548 Rao Shri Khengarji started work on the Darbargadh or palace complex. Over the next 300 years, subsequent rulers further added to it, reflecting prevailing cultural and artistic trends. Continue reading →
Deep in the rolling hills outlying the Great Rann of Kutch, some 65 odd kilometres from Bhuj, is a centuries old Hindu monastery, the Than monastery, steeped in medieval traditions and customs, its actual age disputable. There is not another soul for miles; the only sound heard being that of the peacocks singing in the surrounding forests. Within the monastery’s thick limestone whitewashed walls a sole yogi, with a handful of companions, keeps an exclusive tantric monastic order alive—the Kanphata (slit ears) sect founded by the sage Dhoramnath. Continue reading →
With this post I digress to another side of Kutch—the ornamental wall paintings which decorate the walls of homes, temples and work places in the vast salt pans’ midst. An art form sadly extinct, and least known of Kutch art and crafts.
Dating back to the 18th Century, the Kamangari School of Painting, painted on scrolls and walls, and unique to Kutch, is now a vanished tradition—its remnants found in a couple of Bhuj’s museums, a few random surviving homes, and a portico in the decaying monastery of the Kanphatayogis that I visited in Than. Continue reading →