Bikaner and Churu- An overview of the craft sector
BIKANER AND CHURU
An overview of the craft sector by Indian Artisans Online
TRADITIONAL CRAFTS OF BIKANER
Tie & Dye
URMUL AND RANG SUTRA
Urmul Rural Health, Research and Development Trust was one of the first
NGO to use craft as a means for income generation in and around Bikaner.
Setup in 1983, Urmul Trust initially worked on health issues but severe
drought in 1987 made the organization focus on livelihood issues.
The organisation started its income generation program by reviving
traditional weaving which people had stopped doing due to lack of
Urmul also helped Pakistani immigrant communities at border villages
who escaped to India during the ’71 war. The women in these
communities were skilled in kashidakari (embroidery). Their work was
being taken by middlemen from Barmer and Jaisalmer on very low price
and sold at very high margins. Urmul organized these families in groups
and helped them market their products through market linkages which
they created for them.
Another organization that is working in Bikaner is Rang Sutra started by
Shumita Ghose, (wife of Sanjoy Ghose, founder of Urmul). Rang Sutra
gives orders to the weavers and women in border villages through Urmul.
Bhojasar, Biyansar, Sardarshahr, and Badasar
Weaving is the traditional occupation of the Meghwal community. Weavers are mostly found in the villages of
Bhojasar, and Biyansar (Phalodi, Jodhpur). There is also a group working in Napasar (32 kms from Bikaner). In
Churu the concentration is in Sardarshahr and few can be found in Badasar.
During the 87’ drought Urmul began income generation programme with weavers. The organization discovered
expert weavers in Phalodi who were producing ‘pattus’ for the local market. Since the market demand for their
products were going down, Urmul offered them a job of training locals of Lunkaransar in weaving.
The weavers still use traditional mud pit looms. Almost all of them are associated with Urmul and other
organizations like Rang Sutra. They do not have the financial capacity to work independently.
The younger generation have become disinterested in the work due to low pay and long hours of work. The
number of weavers have reduced drastically. Most youngsters are now working as construction workers.
Although kashidakari is done by women across Rajasthan, Bikaner is especially important because of the
refugee communities residing in villages like Poogal and Dhandkalan near the Indo-Pak border. These
communities are known for the traditional embroidery done by their women.
Most of these villages are poor and people depend on agriculture and cattle rearing. Strong patriarchy in
these communities means that women are restricted to household chores and they rarely venture out of the
villages. But they have found a way of earning by doing embroidery for organizations like Urmul and Rang
Sutra. Urmul was one of the first organizations to discover the craft in Dandkalan village (50 kms from Indo-
Pak border). Their reach soon spread to other villages like Poogal where refugee communities resided.
The women specialize in different types of Kashidakari- pukka, mukka, Sindhi and soof. Girls learn to
embroider at an early age since they use the skill to prepare items for their dowry like embroidered
handkerchief, buchki (small purse) etc.
The quality of embroidery is now deteriorating as the girls from these villages are married off to places like
Barmer and the new brides getting married to men in these villages are not skilled in embroidery.
Usta art is a type of Naqqashi (painting with gold
In Bikaner, most Usta artists can be found in Usta
ki Badi in the Old City.
Most of the artists are now working as fresco
painters and they get work from local havelis.
Work with gold dust is done only on orders.
The art is in decline and most traditional artists
have shifted to daily wage labour.
Matheran kala is an old tradition of making idols used during the Gangaur festival. It involves two
communities- the Matherans and Suthars.
Matheran’s paint the idols which are worshipped during the Gangaur festival.
The suthars make the wooden idols and then sell them to matherans who would then paint and
decorate them with jewellery and clothes.
Some suthars also paint and decorate the idols.
The matherans work in family units and they get orders throughout the year.
A craft form which has survived in India for a long time, silver carving is popular all over Rajasthan.
Mostly orders are for idols of gods and goddesses which are made to be used as offering in temples.
The costing is done according to the weight of silver.
One of the most famous artisan in Bikaner is Dev Dutt Jangid who has been doing silver carving for
almost 40 years. His eldest son is also working as a silver carver.
He has even worked on orders from Dhirubhai Ambani.
1. A replica of the figurine is made in
wood. It is pressed onto a bed of mud
so that a mold is created.
2. The wooden replica is removed and
the mould is covered with another slab
3. Liquefied silver is poured through the
4.The mould is left to cool. Later the
silver pieces are removed from the
5. Smaller pieces are made
separately and then soldered
6. A wooden replica of the figurine that
is being worked upon
PROCESS OF SILVER CARVING
TIE & DYE
Tie & Dye is widespread all around Rajasthan. In Sujangarh (Churu district), a small organization Disha
Shekhwati is using the craft to empower women.
In Sujangarh a lot of women have been abandoned by their husbands who migrate to Gulf countries in
search of work. Disha Shekhawati started by Amrita Chaudhary, helps women become financially
independent by using traditional tie & dye work.
Traditionally, in tie & dye women are only involved in the process of bandhani (tying knots on cloth
before dyeing). But the women of Disha Shekhawati do everything at the center - from tracing the design
on cloth to dyeing it.
The organisation has helped women in the area become confident about their work. Now they are not
afraid to bargain for a better price for their work. Even traders in the area have increased the pay scale for
Disha Shekhawati markets its products through exhibitions.
1. The design is traced on the cloth using a
tracing sheet and a mixture of clay, water
2. The cloth is then distributed to women
residing in nearby villages for bandhani
work (tying knots).
3. Disha has helped women become
more confident and they now openly
bargain for better prices.
4. The finished product is brought to the
center for dyeing.
5. Some women prefer to come to the
center and work.
5. Shibori with bandhani- a saree design by
Leather craft found in areas
around Bikaner is similar
to those found all around
The village Lohawat in
Jodhpur district is famous
for the craft.
Except for a few families,
most artisans make mojaris
meant for the local market.
Artisans involved in weaving and embroidery are not financially
capable to take independent orders. Any organization/individual
interested in working with them will have to provide their own
material and design.
Many small groups have now started working in the craft sector of
Bikaner for example Disha Shekhawati.
Craft is not a financially sustainable employment option for most of
the artisans. Poverty and the rise of some artisans as middlemen
gives restricted market access to other artisans.
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