Kutch is unique! This claim is not just an expression of pride of a people in love with their homeland. The geography, the geology, the ecosystems, the diverse communities, the values that Kutch embodies – the synergy of all these factors makes Kutch a unique habitat.
Not only does Kutch have the four main geologies of the world but these diverse geologies also gave rise to its diverse ecosystems. There is the desert ecosystem of the Rann, the mangrove ecosystem along its coast, the thorn forest ecosystem with its extraordinary biodiversity, and the grasslands of Banni.
This could be the reason why so many communities from Central Asia and other parts of Asia migrated to Kutch and made it their homeland.
Each community had the wisdom and the knowledge to sustainably live off one of the four ecosystems that Kutch is blessed with. The maaldhaari (cattle-herder) communities of Banni in the north are predominantly Muslim. The Hindu communities of the south are entrepreneurs, the seafarers and the traders who set out into the world.
The presence of different communities and the way they interacted with Kutch is also responsible for the rich and varied crafts tradition.
The migrant communities that settled in the north brought with them a lot of their crafts and their embroidery skills from the traditions of Persia, Central Asia and Turkey. The seafaring communities of the south also influenced the crafts. They brought in the best timber from South-East Asia to build their wooden mansions called havelis. In doing so they patronized several crafts and several generations of craft families.
The rulers of Kutch, who were migrants themselves, also played their part in sustaining the craft traditions. The most famous example of royal patronage is the Aina Mahal commissioned by Lakhpat Raja of the Jadeja dynasty in 1752. Ramsingh Maalam, a gifted artisan proficient in many crafts, lavishly decorated the palace with a variety of crafts, including mirror work, carved woodwork, inlay work, wall paintings, Aari embroidery and silver work.
The diverse geologies and ecosystems, the rich and varied crafts and building traditions – all these make Kutch unique. However, its most cherished feature is the happy intermingling of opposites. The best metaphor for this syncretism is Lakhpat. Among its 43 heritage structures are places of worship belonging to many religious traditions – some of the oldest Shiv temples, mosques, gurdwaras and dargahs sit next to each other in this remote corner of Kutch. They tell the world that opposites are not to be feared but understood and celebrated.