From the land of colors and crafts : Rajasthan

Both local social and cultural practices and tourism have made Rajasthan a craft paradise. Its diverse communities, each with their distinctive wearing styles, religious rituals, and festivities, mean that costumes, artefacts, the interiors and exteriors of their homes, are all beautifully embellished, with both men and women as makers as well as wearers. Women embroider suf, kharak and Sindhi taropa stitches, both men and women block-print ajrak, dabu, Sanganeri and Bagru yardage and sarees, women do tie-dye bandhani and laheria and now shibori and clamp dying; they combine together to create footwear and accessories – the men crafting the leather, the women embroidering it. Turned lacquer bangles, beautiful silver, enamel, and stone jewellery, appliqué and patchwork quilting, the art of blue pottery that came to Jaipur via Samarkand, striking woven pattus and the delicate tracery of Kota handlooms, the art of the patwa threaded into colourful contemporary necklaces, earrings and pendants. Pichwai, phad and miniature painting tell the stories of warriors, gods and  royal dynasties, while carved woodwork, mud-mirror-work and mandana paintings decorate the walls of their homes. Even their camels and carts are embellished.

Rajasthani women have always been makers – whether for their homes or the marketplace. They have not always been the beneficiaries of their hard work. The AMEX DASTKAR Grant will add a new colourful dimension to their lives.

The craft community in Rajasthan suffered vastly during COVID times, one organisation that turned a new leaf with the support of The AMEX-DASTKAR Grant is Urmul Seemanti Samiti. It is a registered NGO, in Bajju, Bikaner district of Rajasthan since 1991, has worked for the economic and social development of communities settled along the Western border of India, since 1993. Their association with Dastkar goes back to the early 90s. Today they are working with 1500 artisans, 1400 of which are women. Their product range includes apparel, furnishings, bags, shawls, stoles, etc. made using Rajasthani hand embroidery, applique work.

Urmul worked relentlessly during the lockdown last year by providing support to local communities, however despite many efforts, the artisans suffered economically. They developed a new craft program which aimed at giving entrepreneurial training to 5 clusters from different villages who were severely hit during the pandemic. The funds generated by American Express via Dastkar’s Artisan Support Fund were utilised to give the project wings.The mission of the program is to provide more agency to women artisans in terms of conceptualizing and designing their creations.

The funds are carefully utilised throughout the course of this programme from procuring raw materials such as cotton, chanderi, etc to build up Urmul’s inventory to paying the wages of around 105 artisans involved from 5 villages.