Sometimes in life you meet people who look like ordinary country folks but when you really get to know them you realize you are too small and silly in front of them. I had this experience in Nirona, a remote village in Gujarat.
When Akbar bhai (our cab driver and guide) pulled up the car in front of a house in Nirona, I didn’t know what to expect. Akbar bhai had in fact given us a heads up of the kind of painting the villagers in Nirona make and that they are the only people in India to still produce the art, but I was very skeptical and disinterested.
When we entered the house, a simple man squatting on the floor was already in the middle of his painting work. We were asked to sit around him and watch and listen to his explanation of the art. Since I don’t understand Hindi, I didn’t pay much attention to it. But I could see the art requires a lot of practice, skill and time to perfect it as everything is done by hand.
Another man from the house gave us a pamphlet to read. From the pamphlet I learned, that the painting is called Rogan Art, that Rogan art of painting is an ancient art of Persian influence over three hundred years old, that Rogan means ‘oil-based’ in Persian, and, that Rogan is a product of castor oil.
While I was immersed in reading the pamphlet, Prashant, my friend, was busy clicking photographs. The way he was going about it – asking things in details and photographing things, they wanted to know what profession we are into. To give them a credible answer and to create more photo opportunities, he told them we were journalists working for a magazine. Once he told that, I knew I cannot sit around and show a lack of interest in things, so I snapped into action – rather reluctantly though.
I took out my camera and started taking pictures.
Seven generation of the Khatri family have been practicing the art of Rogan painting. The Peacock design is one their trademark design.
An exhibition of all the awards they have won so far
Medals from the hands of Prime Minister, President and Chief Ministers.
News of two journalists collecting reports on Nirona arts soon spread across the village. By the time we finished our ‘report collection’ of Rogan art, two men were waiting outside to take us to their house where, they told us, they make special copper bells.
We walked through the narrow lanes of Nirona to the bell-maker’s house. All in a day’s work of a journalist!
Currently, only two villages make these types of bells – Nirona and Zura. It is done by the Lohars of the Muslim community.
An old man demonstrated the craft of making copper coated iron bells.
Prashant inspecting the bells
After visiting the bell-maker, we were invited to yet another handicraft house, but we had to politely turn them down as we didn’t have enough time.
At the end of the visit, I realized how silly I had been to underestimate the ability and talent of these men. They are men who have won numerous awards and received medals from the top dignitaries in the country. I felt too small in front of them.
Nirona is only about 40 kms from Bhuj. If you are on the way to the Great Rann, you can take a small detour and reach this place. In Nirona, in those narrow lanes, you will pass by men who are regarded and respected by the Prime Ministers and Presidents of this country, but you may not see them, not because your eyes are blinded by vanity, but because those men are simply great.
If you want to know more about Rogan art, visit this website, Traditional Rogan Art .