Because cultivation of a crops is difficult, if not impossible, in most dry arid regions of Rajasthan, the desert dwellers have perfected the various forms of decoration- be it to cloth, wood or pottery. Block-printing is extremely popular in all its different forms, and is used extensivly in textiles and clothing. It is the main source of income for Barmer, along with wood-carving, carpet weaving and embroidery.
In the brown desert , bold colors are used, and designs range from simple geometric and floral to animal motifs. Red is the color of brides and is considered to be auspicious. Red is often combined with yellow which is the color of rebirth
Wood carvers create designs in the wooden blocks as they have done for centuries. During the block printing process,these carved wooden blocks are dipped into dye (usually vegetable) and pressed onto the cloth which has been stretched across a low table.
A waterproof resistant material (resin or wax) is applied, and isolates the pattern which is not needed to colour. The cloth is then dyed, and the pattern comes out in reverse.
Finally, the fabric is steamed, washed in water, dried in the sun and ironed.
Block-printing is especially attractive when used as Bed-covers, cushion covers, wall-hangings and lengths of cloth for sari.
The Mallinath Fair (March-April) is one of the biggest cattle fairs in Rajasthan.
Held annually near Tilwara, a village in Barmer District (March-April). it lasts for a fortnight. Cows, camels, sheep, goats and Marwari horses are traded, displayed and attract huge crowds.
Villagers make offerings of sweets during the festival, and once their wishes are fulfilled, they offer miniature carved horses to the local shrine.
Races are organised of bullock, camel and horses and the prize winning animals, which then can command high prices, are awarded white badges.
There are many stalls,and there is the Sadar market.
Tiny shops lining the narrow lanes of the colorful bazaar are a good place to pick up some treasures-beautifully made and reasonably priced.
One can actually watch the artisans and craftsmen at work.The market is always very busy-
I always prefer to buy directly from the markets. The prices are so reasonable that bargaining is not an issue.For the craftsmen, artisans and villagers in this remote little town, life is tough, and the work that is put into the creation of these wonderful products should be suitably rewarded, in my opinion.
What to buy: Fabric
Traditional clothing (some with mirror - work embroidery)
Hand woven carpets
DRINK ONLY BOTTLED WATER- CHECK THAT THE BOTTLE IS SEALED BEFORE DRINKING.
Because of the extreme heat (even winter days can be warm) it is very important to always carry extra water while travelling around. In Barmer, there is bottled water available to buy from small kiosks or stalls. Drink plenty of fluids. De-hydration can spoil your holiday.
At night- the tempretures in the desert drops very fast. So we have hot days and very cold nights. Always bring a jacket and warm scarf for night time.
We enjoyed the drive to Barmer. Rural Rajasthan can be seen at its best. Along the way- the roads do not have much motor traffic. There are, however, many other forms of movement on the road. Many many camel-trains- carrying HUGE loads of ........who knows what?
Goats wandering aroung in the middle of the road. And lots of tiny villages, the mud-huts brightly decorated Rajasthani style. We saw the most gorgeous sunset on our way back to Jaisalmer. Desert sunsets are so special-maybe it has something to do with the dust particles in the air. The colourful Rajasthani (men in bright turbans, and women wearing bright skirts and shawls)
Also - driving through the desert is a pleasure compared to the rest of India-where traffic is a nightmare.
Fondest memory: Seeing the beautiful, stately Rajasthani women walking along the roadsides-often balancing loads of firewood or water-pots on their heads. This daily necessity is what has given them the special graceful upright Rajasthani style of walking, I would imagine.
Beautiful to behold, in their bright, colourful clothing and jewellery. Even the poorest women wear some gold or silver jewellery - nose rings, earrings and wedding rings- on their TOES.
Rajasthani men are fierce looking- but quite outgoing and friendly- the women are shy but also friendly. They will cover their faces to strangers.