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A cup of tea with Nomads and Gypsies of Kutch

August 24, 2010 4 min read


This trip in early 2006  marked the start of my solo travelling life.

A novice solo traveller a bit nervous, but as usual serendipity helped me along…..

Armed with terrible photography skills, a simple Point & Shoot camera, and good people around me, I’ve captured a small fraction of my terrific experience into pixels.

First – spending a day with nomads:

As we were driving along the highway returning from a village, we spotted a family parked on the adjacent field. We walked up across the field and approached them. They asked us to sit and chat and offered us a cup of tea  -which I gladly accepted. Not knowing that this is tea made using GOAT milk!! The thought of this hurt my non-adventurous palate – but it tasted great in the end!

approaching the nomad family

minimalist tent

settling down for tea

tea being prepared in the kitchen

one of their camels taking a snack break

two members of the nomad family

the cradle frame – bearing the signature work that is also found in the swat valley

enjoying his bowl of tea

We talked about their life model – about sustenance and finances….

The family owns a herd of goats. They own no house and everything they own in terms of material possessions can be loaded on to their camel cart. They live on one field for a few days and then move on to another. Is there a cost involved – rent for example – in living on the field?

Of course NOT! Not only do these nomads not pay a paisa as rent, instead they charge the land owner – for having their herd of goats living on the field and fertilising the earth !!   What a perfect model!

So they stay in one spot for a fortnight or so and then move on. The only shelter they need is from the sun and the little tent provides that. Am not sure how they manage when the temperatures rise above 45 degrees Celsius in summer… But they have no need for protection from the skies as it rarely rains in the Kutch.

A large part of the nomads wealth is worn on the woman’s body. Magnificent chunky gold jewelry adorns these women – large necklaces, large nose rings, large earrings… and all traditional and gorgeous! City women are deprived of such joys – for fear of getting mugged!

The plan to return that night for a sleepover with them, did not materialise as I was too tired to come back out 30km out of the city. A missed opportunity that I regret tremendously…..but this regret will probably be the driving force that will take me back someday..


Next a peep into the villages of the settled gypsies…

The rabaris are very closed and will not allow outsiders easily into their settlements. Maama’s presence solved all that. Maama goes from village to village and buys embroidery work from Rabari women to sell in the market…So he knows everyone and everyone loves him. And some of that love  was extended to me – his guest.

The compound of a typical house

Rabaran in the village lane

A patriarch

A earring that I am envious of

Maama and villagers

Maama showing a unique silver adornment that almost every one has – a toothpick and a earwax remover


in the village market

Maama’s Mrs.

Ivory wedding band

Yarn of goat wool

About Kutch Art

Door art

The embroidery work of the Kutch is famous and so I haven’t spent any time on showing off this aspect of Kutch in this travelogue but several Antique pieces are available in the wovensouls collection.

I have seen some swat furniture – and the art work on the folk wood pieces in the Kutch is very similar to the Swat work. Since these settled groups in the Kutch were once gypsies, it is likely that they picked up this art on their way to this location – or may be part of the same genomic group….maybe some experts know the answers…

Me, I am just enjoying discovering common traits between tribes separated by geography, and making conjectures about their common origin!

one of the many kutch textile art forms

(shawls of this type are exhibited on wovensouls here)

Someday i will go back and take more pictures and delve deeper into their lives to explore these conjectures further.

A few pieces of royalty sponsored art of the Kutch…..

Ivory accent for keyhole

ivory inlay

Other sights…

impact of earthquake


Strange geology

The great and the little Rann of Kutch were once part of the oceans. And then something happened (not quite sure what something HUGE happened) And these are now dry salty deserts. Remains of ancient ships and large anchors can still be found in the barren lands.

Salted and dried fish …..

Wild Camel herds grazing along the highway

The palace at Mandvi…..lots of royal colors to Kutch as well but I prefer to focus on the folk aspects …..

maama & me

This trip was taken before I became interested in photography – so the images are with a regular Point & Shoot camera.

More article on the Kutch listed here.


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