It was on my third visit to Kutch that I discovered Nirona. As we walk through its dusty lanes, it felt like a typical Indian village with small beautiful houses, its people curious about the newcomers! My first stop was the Copper Bell House at Nirona headed by Mr Husen Luhar. I was invited by the Gujarat Tourism Board to take part in Rann Utsav.
However, the villages special and I realized it with my first stop at the copper bells of Mr. Husen. He is a grandfatherly figure who told me he started making bells at the age of 12! He is in his 70s now! Their family have been making copper bells for at least 7 generations.
I have seen bells so many times without ever being in awe of it! But I was in complete awe when Mr. Husen started weaving his magic. There are no joints in the outer structure or the crown of the bell. It is fitted in together by joining various pieces!
After the crown of the bell is done, it is wrapped in a paste and then placed in a brick kiln. This part is done by the women of the household. Once the bell comes out the most interesting part begins. The clapper is attached but the initial sound is quite bland.
Then Mr Husen starts hammering the bell and the sound changes! I could and hear and see it right in front of my eyes. As he would hammer, the sound would change. He has different sounds for cows and buffaloes. Some of his bells sound like birds chirping and all because he hammers them in a certain way!
The whole family has a way with sound. Faruk Luhar loves to play morchang. I also tried my hands at it and I was such an utter flop at it.
The icing on the cake was the smallest kid in the family hammering a musical instrument and enjoying the sound! It feels like sound making is in the air and even babies pick it as they grow!
Our second stop was the Rogan art center and the third at the lacquer but those are tales from Nirona for another day!
PS. I was invited by the Gujarat Tourism Board for Rann Utsav
PPS. This is the slowest start to year, as this is my first post in 2018. I vow to do better for the rest of the year.
I took notice of the beautiful Thai umbrellas from my early trips to Thailand. Chiang Mai was the place where I acquired a closer acquaintance with them. We visited the Bo Sang Handicraft Center on the San Kamphaeng Road just a little outside Chiang Mai. So come along with me and discover (or rediscover) the hand made umbrellas of Chiang Mai.
Rom means umbrella in Thai. So ‘rom’ is the famous handicraft of Borsang village in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The handicraft center had eye catching displays of umbrellas. They also take you through the umbrella making process. one of the best explanations of the umbrella making process can be read here.
But before we get into umbrella making, you might have noticed the spirit houses outside Thai homes or work places. It is an offering to the spirits dwelling that might be dwelling in the area and may get disturbed because of a new house or workplace coming up! A spirit house is a peace offering to the spirits of the area.
The two key ingredients of the umbrella are the sa paper and the wooden frame. Sa is Thai for mulberry. So the Sa bark is taken off the tree and boiled. It is then pounded by wooden mallets. It is further treated. Finally they are dried in the frame on wooden frames.
These are the wooden frames on which the umbrellas are mounted. Both the paper and the frame are handmade.
The making of the frame requires complex hole drilling in the pieces of wood, which is what this woman was doing with dexterity!
Finally the paper after further treatment is mounted on the frame and then painted. We were told that it is the process of making it waterproof that makes the Chiang Mai umbrellas unique. It is done with persimmon fruit and oil but the exact formula is a secret.
The painted umbrellas are a delight to watch. It was with a lot of difficulty I managed not to buy one to carry home.
The factory also had other artifacts as well, hand fans caught my eye too! Conversing with the people working there was difficult as we did not speak each-other’s language but they were quite cheerful about me going around clicking pictures.
An array of paints were to be seen all around the place! And they not only specialized painting on the umbrellas but on other stuff too.
An Artisan at Bo Sang
For example, this beautiful lady offered to paint my white cell phone in the ravishing colors of Chiang Mai. She could do it on my jeans or handbag too! But the chicken that I am, I did not take up on the offer. I now wonder if I should have taken it up!
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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