The stillness of the early morning enabled us to begin our day with a quiet conscience, a cheerful mind and positive energy which motivated us to make the best out of our expedition to the villages in Bijnour. We covered four villages in Bijnour- Khiwar, Nageena, Kajiwala and Sedha. The artisans here weave magic to form beautiful fabric and handmade products so utterly pure and perfect that it truly compliments the intricate designs on it.
Bijnour District in Uttar Pradesh
20th June was like every other day, but the sun was way liberal to us and thankfully we managed to escape ourselves from the oppression of summers. Sheela Lunkad – the co-founder of Direct Create, Bittu Singh- Marketing Manager, Rashmi- the onboarding person , Navneet- our guide to every corner of the villages we went and the artisans out there, and myself, the DC content writer, headed for this wonderful journey full of fun and learning. A day before this trip all of us were allocated with our respective jobs and responsibilities so that we can come up with best results.
Reminiscing the rich cultural history of the country and keeping one connected with its roots are Indian Fabrics that hold a special place in our hearts and our wardrobes even today. Portraying many unique aspects of these legacies are thousands of specialized weavers across the country who by employing millions of looms are weaving magnificent fabrics in cotton, silk and other natural fibers.
Needless to say that these weavers and their ancestors have done a lot in taking the Indian handloom sector of India to new heights. This sector now provides direct and indirect employment to over 13 million weavers and is the largest economic activity second only to agriculture. The most ironical part is that besides reaching out such a crucial number of achievement , we still have artisans who have hardly gained any recognition in something they are expert at. With rising technology and availability of network we now have ample of sites selling the products made by niche artisans but those sites don’t speak of the efforts and hardships a maker goes through for the making of such marvels. Thinking of it as a matter of prime importance and consideration, our team thought of taking the initiative of popularizing the works of our artisans.
The strategy we planned to execute our motto well followed like this –
- Reach out to the maker’s place and eye witness the making of beautiful fabric.
- Introduce makers with the perks of onboarding their products on our site.
- Open their shops on your site with a small description about them and their shop.
- Interview them.
- Do a blog on the artisan’s story which speaks of the legacy.
Our journey began from Kiwar village which is located at a distance of 202.5 km from Gurgaon, Haryana and 61.9 km from Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh.
It took us around 4 hours 30 minutes to reach Khiwar village. Not only this place served us with fantastic lookouts shaded with scenic views filled with memories, but also made us discover a unique clan of people. Indian villages are often stereotyped as poverty-stricken, and devoid of basic facilities, but amidst of all this we forget to notice the warm hospitality of people out there.
Sheela Lunkad, Co-founder of Direct Create in conversation with Aftab Alam, Proprietor of Aftab Textiles.
As we reached our destination, we engrossed ourselves in our respective jobs which included the onboarding of makers on our website, familiarizing them with Direct Create’s vision and knowing the story of makers. At Aftab Ji’ s workshop we eye-witnessed the Jacquard woven fabric being produced on a special weaving loom fitted with a jacquard patterning mechanism. This device enables the individual selection and lifting of any of the warp threads (which run vertically along all fabrics), allowing a wide variety of complex patterns and designs to be produced. Therefore, woven jacquard fabrics are typically multicolored, or figured with intricate and textural designs.
While we trying to figure out the making process of the fabrics made out of the loom , Mr. Aftaab served us with ice-cold water, to make it easier for us to beat the summer heat. We were even served with mouthwatering delicacies like cookies,chocolate cubes,pomegranate seeds,dry fruits and beverages.
Khatirdari by Aftab JI
Apart from fulfilling the orders by his customers, Aftab Handloom even makes cotton fabric sheets for Fabindia.
Here are some snapshots taken from few other workshops in Khiwar.
Our next destination was Nagina, a small town located at a distance of 31.5 km from Bijnor, a district located in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. This town may seem nondescript at first glance, but look deeper and anyone would be able to see the rich cultural impact it has had on the art and craft traditions of India. Nagina being one of the important wood carving centers in Uttar Pradesh, is popular throughout the world as ‘Wood Crafts City’. The history of wood crafts industry of Nagina is about 500 years old. The town is mostly inhabited by Multani people who originally hailed from Pakistan. The curious wooden items manufactured by these people have been admired and encouraged from the Mughal period.
On our visit, we met two artisans who have been practicing this craft for generations. Those artisans are Asharam and Rifaqat Ali.
We met Asharam Ji in Kajiwala , a small village located at a distance of 48 km from Nageena. Asharam Ji, now 55, started practicing wooden carving at age 25. He learned this art from his master Abul Salam , who himself was awarded with a medal by the President of India then, for the wooden combs he made. After Abul Salam passed away, Asharam continued this legacy of making remarkable products out of wood. While interacting with him we saw some of the best samples of his wood works. As told by Asharam Ji, the wooden combs and frames he make features Mughal carving , which is highly appreciated across our nation. The wood type used is Sheesham. Other than combs and frames he makes geometric puzzles and many more products to name.
At Nagina, we visited the house of Mr. Rifaqat Ali, who with other experts in his team, makes carved wooden products. Out of all the products they make, we saw some of the best pieces of carved wooden jewelry, kitchen ware and games. In our conversation with Rifaqat Ji , he enriched our knowledge by briefing us with the making process of such remarkable wooden works.
Rifaqat Ali ( center) with artisans from his family
As told by Rifaqat Ji , sheesham wood is used for making the products and their shine is retained by buffing. Buffing refers to the use of a tool or machine to correct and shine the surface of a metallic device or machine.
Nitesh , Android App Developer from DC in the mid of registering Rifaqat Ali’s shop on DC’s website.
A glimpse from the streets of Nagina
Sheela Lunkad in conversation with Rifaquat Ali and his family.
Our last destination was Sedha,a small town located at a distance of 31.5 km from Bijnor, a district located in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh.
At Sedha, we went to meet Mr. Fareed Ahmad, the maker of cotton fabric sheets, cotton dupattas and home furnishing items like table mats, coasters,table runners and many more products. We eye witnessed the making process of wonderful fabrics, as those giant and beautiful looms covered with threads of various tones and colors were running and pounding hard, generating exquisite quality of fabric.
Fareed Ji officially became a part of this business in 2001. Fareed hired this legacy from his father and past two generations in his family have been practicing this craft.
We met many such artisans like them. One common point which seemed particularly alarming to us was the fact that most of these artisans seemed to be amongst the last generation in their family who were inclined to be in this profession. All their sons and daughters were pursuing education and looking for a different set of employment opportunities.
After Sedha we headed back to Gurgaon. Though we suffered a few hardships and struggled hard in the scorching summer heat to execute our work well, but in the end hard work paid off . Thankfully, we were able to onboard the shops of most of the sellers we met, in a hope that this effort from our side can turn out to be a milestone for the artisans who are upholding the traditional reservoir of knowledge and skills.
From left to right : Sukriti Khandelwal – DC’s Social Media Content Writer, Rashmi Kashyap- member of product team and DC’s onboarding person. Navneet- handicraft cluster expert, Bittu Singh- DC’s Marketing Manager
We wish our urban sensibilities to make space for these languishing art forms and shower all the support and help our artisans need, in the form of monetary assistance or rewards, in order to flourish the glory of Indian art at a global level.
Our team will constantly look forward to more of such expeditions and wonderful experiences. We hope that one day India will move beyond endorsing mass machine made goods to actually appreciating and providing patronage to glorious Indian art forms.