To the extreme right is the master artist Sanjay Manubhai Chitara.
In the Vasna area of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, resides Sanjay Manubhai Chitara and other artisans of Chitara family. Practicing the ritualistic art called Mata Ni Pachedi & Mata Ni Chadarvo. “Mata Ni Pachedi” literally translates to “behind the mother goddess” in Gujarati. This art form is believed to be 300-year-old tradition with a few dedicated practitioners remaining.
Mata Ni Pachedi is an eon old art of Gujarat but very similar to the South Indian art of Kalamkari which involves the use of pens (kalam) shaped out of bamboo sticks. This art came into existence when the nomadic Vaghari community from Gujarat was barred from entering temples. In order to worship the Goddess, they made their own temple in the form of a cloth with an intricate painting of the Mother Goddess. This is believed to be the origin of the sacred art.
Chitara’s, the family of master artisans Sanjay, his mother, Manjuben Chitara, and brother, Vasant, have all won national awards for ‘kalamkari’ art. Sanjay’s father Manubhai and his family used to prepare Mata Ni Pachedi cloth for rituals in distinctive painting styles that was passed through on generations of the Vaghari community. Natural vegetable dyes and colors prepared from flowers, herbs and other natural sources are used to paint the designs on the cloth. This Mata Ni Pachedi & Mata Ni Chadarvo become scaffoldings for temporary shrines and are offered to the Mother Goddess during Navaratri festival and then immersed into rivers.
Sanjay along with his wife and other family members work together on these paintings. To prepare the fabric dyes are made from natural materials like madder and alum for red, henna for orange, pomegranate and mango extracts for yellow, indigo for blue, iron and molasses for black and so on. Herbs, tamarind seeds, and castor oil are used in dying process. This art of Gujarat is very unique and practiced only by the Chitara’s.
The paintings made by Chitara family are delicately detailed. Sanjay Chitara was one of the master craftsperson and weaver selected from all over the country for National Awards in the year 2000. While, his brother Vasant won the National Award in the year 2001 and mother Manjuben won in the year 2004.
Art of Gujarat Fact: After treatment with Myrobalan and applying alum for the red, the fabric is immersed in Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad. Only after this other colors are applied to complete the painting.
The Salvi family of Patan is the true sons of their soil, mastered in the weaving art of double ikkat that has been traditionally passed on to generations. Today, Salvi Kanubhai Mafatlal Patolawala and his four family members are the lone flag bearers of this traditional art of Patola.
Double ikkat is a technique where both the warp and weft threads are resist-dyed to create the patterns of textiles before they are set on the loom. The artisans have to carefully monitor the tension of the warp and weft threads during the weaving process. The completed sari has the same pattern on both sides. Double ikkat requires most skills to nail down the precise patterns. These patterns are really complex and very time consuming. Double ikkat work is rarely woven except for places in India, Japan and Indonesia. This art form is very unique in itself and only trained weavers can make it. The process of tie-dyeing the threads can take up to 75 days. The dyed threads are then strung on the loom in a sequence that makes the design visible. The weft threads are wound on to bobbins and fed through the bamboo shuttle. Working on a hand-operated loom that is slightly inclined to make it easier to move the shuttle, three to five people work a sari, which can take anything from four to six months to finish. Since vegetable dyes are used, the fabric of the Patola may tear but the colour will never fade for centuries.
Today, Double ikkat Patola sarees are made only by four families; three in Patan and one in Vadodra. These families are the extended families of Salvi’s. In the last two decades, many excellent weavers like Chhotalal Salvi, Vinayak Salvi, Bharat Salvi, and Kantilal Salvi, have won national awards. Satishchandra Salvi, who was selected for the Sant Kabir Award 2009 says that the entire Salvi family is involved in the complex process of weaving the Patola. Similarly, in Vadodara, Mafatlal, his son Kanubhai and his two daughters, Neepa and Hetal, are carrying on this tradition.”
Patola saree weaving is a famous art of Gujarat and is appreciated from very ancient time. Gujarati women wear this Patola sarees on festivals, wedding, baby shower and other auspicious occasions. This Patola art of Gujarat is now gaining worldwide importance with an increasing demand.
Art of Gujarat Fact: Recently, at the Garvi Gujarati National Craft Fair in Gujarat, the Patan patola weavers were handed over with the Geographic Indication (GI) certification. This certification was to safeguard their creations from duplication and ensure that no weavers from elsewhere can call their ikkats as Patan Patola.