Nirona, Kutch, Gujarat – Treasuring age-old Rogan Art & other art forms (Copper bell & Lacquer Art)

Did you know, Nirona is home to the Rogan art painting that was gifted to American President Barack Obama by our prime minister Narendra Modi.

Have you ever heard of Nirona village?

It looks like any other typical Indian Village, adorned with colorful houses, cattle, enthusiastic and curious children, and small shops until you reach the house with a board that reads, Padma Shree Award Winner!

Wait! A Padma Shree awardee in a small village? Nirona village finds its place on the world map as the only place in the world to practice centuries-old Rogan art.

Nirona village, Kutch, Gujarat

I had no idea about Rogan art and its legacy before visiting Nirona recently. But before I tell you more about Nirona and our experience of visiting this village. Let me tell you more about Rogan Art.

1.         Rogan Art

What is Rogan Art?  

A 400-hundred-year-old form of textile painting originated in Persia, bought to Kutch by the Khatri family, whose generations have practiced and preserved this ancient art form till date. The word Rogan in Persian means oil-based. Creating Rogan art paintings is a time-consuming process and requires precision. Some interesting facts that I learned about this art form during our visit to Nirona –

1.         Rogan art is painted with natural colors made by heating the castor oil on fire for long hours and then casting it in cold water to form a sticky residue called Rogan. The intricate motifs are painted on the cloth by a 6-inch metal stick dipped in the sticky color to create these patterns.

2.         Rogan art redefines the meaning of  “Impromptu”. The design here is not traced on the cloth and then painted. The artisans have no reference book or design sheet in front of them. As Mr. Gafur told us, designs are only in their minds, and they paint them directly on the fabric. Looking at the precision and minute detailing, I would not have believed, if they had not given us a live demonstration.

3.         From a distance, these paintings look like embroidery. It takes months for one Rogan painting to complete, dry, and frame.

4. “The Tree of Life”, is the most popular Rogan art paintings. Mr. Abdul Gafur Khatri himself created this particular pattern. 

One of the fine pieces of “Rogan art Paintings was presented to USA President Barack Obama by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to India.

Centuries old Rogan Art
Tree of Life- Rogan Art , Nirona Village

Meet the Khatri Family: The original family who bought this art to Kutch and kept it alive.

As we entered the front room of the house, all we could see where walls adorned with Rogan paintings in different forms. Some framed and displayed on the wall, some in the form of scarfs, Handbags, etc. Another wall proudly displays the celebrity clientele, while the third wall showcases the framed Padma Shri award.  

Abdul Gafur Khatri, the master artisan, recently conferred with India’s highest civilian honor – the Padma Shri in the Art- Painting category greeted us along with his sons. While explaining the history of Rogan art, Gafur also told us how they have been practicing this art from generation to generation and kept it alive for the past 400 years. He also discussed the challenges faced by the family while keeping the art alive. He patiently answered all our questions. Mr. Gafur’s Son gave a live demonstration by painting a piece of cloth. It is hard to believe, that only one stick and sticky natural colors can create this fine artwork. That too, without any design reference.

After meeting Abdul Gafur and his family, my respect for this art has gone manifold. 

Artist performing Rogan art
Rogan Art painting in Nirona Kutch

Other Art forms of Nirona: Copper Bell and Lacquer Art

Nirona is famous not only for the Rogan art but also for the copper bell and Lacquer art. After spending quality time with Mr. Abdul Gafoor, we headed for our next destination, a small shop cum workshop decorated with copper bells and chimes of different shapes and sizes.

2.         The Copper bell house, Nirona, Kutch

The copper bell is another unique and intriguing art form practiced at Nirona. At copper bell house, the sweet melodious sound filled the air. Mr. Husen at copper bell house started making these copper bells when he was just 12. Now he is in his 70s. This family has been making these melodious copper bells and chimes for the past 7 generations. Mr. Husen gave us a live demonstration of how copper bells are made without any joints on the outer structure, just by fitting one part with another.

It was mesmerizing how his hammer turned a non-appealing sound into soothing musical delight. Mr. Husen has different sounds for cows and buffaloes. Some of his bells sound like birds chirping. Besides copper bells, the family also makes other musical masterpieces like chimes, xylophones, jhumar, etc.

Husen Luhar making copper bells
Copper bell art, Nirona
Copper bells, Nirona

3.         The Lacquer Art, Nirona, Kutch

Walking past the colorful houses with ornate facades and artistic doors, we reached our final stop at Nirona, the traditional lacquer artisans. While waiting for the rest of the group to join, I strolled around the open courtyard of the mud house appreciating, the simplicity. We sat on a bench under the shade of a tree, while the artisans demonstrated how these natural lacquerware articles are made using simple handmade tools. The patterns include zig-zags, kaleidoscopic designs formed from bright and contrasting natural colors. The articles include simple kitchenware, toys and, furniture also.

The Lacquer art is practiced by a nomadic tribal community called Vadhas, who migrated from the Sindh area and settled in the Nirona region of Kutch. Traditionally, the lac was obtained from insects found in the forests. Later, the artisans began to collect and prepare lac from some trees.

Lacqured art, Nirona village
House of artisans practicing Lacqured art in Nirona
Lacqured art ,Nirona
Artisans showcasing lacqured painting on wooden article in nirona
Artisan working on wooden article
Lacqured articles, Nirona

Where is Nirona?

Nirona is a village in the Kutch region of Gujarat, situated around 40 km from Bhuj. The population of this village is a small quaint village is approximately 6000.

How to reach Nirona

Bhuj has the nearest Railway station and airport from Nirona, which connects it to other major cities in India. Public and private buses connect Nirona to other cities.

It took us around 1 hour 15 minutes to reach Nirona from Tent City, Dhordo.

Why visiting Nirona should be a part of your Kutch Itinerary?

If you plan to visit Kutch or Rann Utsav, including a visit to Nirona to your itinerary is highly recommended. It is because of 2 reasons.

1.         This beautiful village is home is a treasure house of unique handicrafts and artforms. It is something you can see only in this part of India.

2. Shop for beautiful artifacts and understand the process of their creation. It is a paradise for art and craft lovers, even if you are not. Visiting this village itself is an enriching experience.

3.         Nirona is approximately 70 km from Tent City Rann Utsav, and it hardly takes an hour to reach here.

How much time do you need in Nirona?

You can visit these three workshops and explore the art at leisure in 2-3 hours. However, you can spend more time if you wish to interact with locals and explore the village further.

The overall experience at Nirona

Some places touch your heart. Nirona is one such place for me. Spending time with the local artisans, understanding the process and hard work behind each handicraft was a humbling experience. It was an eye-opener to the rich heritage and the talent residing in every nook and corner of our country.

Some of the most memorable experiences in Nirona include strolling through the narrow lanes, soaking in the rustic beauty of houses, especially the colorful doors, interacting with curious children who followed us enthusiastically and showed us the path whenever we lost our way. The humble artisans answered our questions and showed us their art.

To sum it all, I am taking back the warmth and memories of this lovely village to cherish. I hope to visit this treasure house of art and culture again soon. 

Nirona village, Kutch , Gujarat
Nirona village, Kutch

Special Thanks: Visiting Nirona was a part of the All India Influencers meet 2021 organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Gujarat tourism. Specially thanks to the Ministry of Tourism and Gujarat tourism for showing us the real treasure of Kutch along with many other soulful experiences.

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10 thoughts on “Nirona, Kutch, Gujarat – Treasuring age-old Rogan Art & other art forms (Copper bell & Lacquer Art)

  1. I have never heard of Rogan Art before so it was interesting to learn about it! I love your portraits of the local people. This must have been a very authentic and culturally rich experience. Would love to visit this place 🙂

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