Kala Raksha Trust: Preservation of Traditional Art of Kutch

Kala Raksha Trust, a grassroots social enterprise, is dedicated to preservation of traditional arts. They envision this broadly, as holistic encouraging of the creative capacity of the artist.

Comprising artisans, community members, and experts in the fields of art, design and museums, Kala Raksha was founded on artisan initiative in 1993 in the desert region Kutch, in India.


Sumresar (Sumresar Sheikh to be precise) is a small village located at a distance of about 27 km from Bhuj, a little off the Bhuj-Khavda road. The village has a big population of Hindu immigrates from Pakistan (Sindh) who settled down here after the 1972 war. And this is where Kala Raksha is located. This Non Government Organization was started in the year 1993 by Prakashbhai, his sister and Judy. And Judy was the reason why we were here. It was a name I had heard often when Nidhi (Nidhi Dang, Textile Designer) was doing a part of her Diploma Project there and invited us (Amruta and me) for spending a weekend with her. The trip never happened, but the names stayed. Here is a brochure for Kalaraksha.

This time it was a friend's (Aparna) friend (Vivek Sheth) who had work at Kala Raksha and I decided not to miss the opportunity. Plus I enjoy using all weekends to the fullest now a days, plus the option of staying at home was highly unappealing.

On the way to Bhuj, from my train window
An old woman, waiting near the Hamisar lake

This was my third visit to Bhuj. Once earlier I visited the town and areas around with a few of my NID classmates and the second time it was with Muzayun for our systems project. Both were memorable in their own ways, but it was actually in my second trip that I saw most of Kutch (including Dholavira, Lakhpat, Naliya and many other towns/ villages in the region). I can never forget Muzayun's desperate calls for water and escape from heat.

We reached early morning and checked into Pankaj Guest House (non recommended unless you are really low on cash) on the Station road and then went off to Kavio for a superb Jain breakfast, surprisingly Aparna wanted Poha and that's exactly what we got there. Met an angry Judy a while later near the Hamisar lake and soon we were on our way to the Kala Raksha Kendra in her car. But before that I came across this really charming class 6th boys and girls who were answering a paper on the life and philosophy of Gandhi (it was right outside the museum in front of Gandhi's statue) on the occasion of his 141st birth anniversary. I even managed to flick an examination paper, attached below. I wonder how many of us can actually answer all the questions here.

Kids taking part in the contest
Kids taking part in the contest

And about half an hour later we reached Kalaraksha. The kendra is small one, the architecture mirrors the now famous and almost rare to find Bhunga houses of Kutch. The living style was frugal, yet very welcoming.

Kala Raksha
The famous swing of the Kala Raksha
The Bhunga style room at Kala Raksha.

There are few people and even fewer permanent staff, apart from the artisans. There is Tashi (a young and forever smiling lad from Leh, working with Kala Raksha for marketing etc) and Rutika (Shristi student who is doing her diploma project there). While Vivek worked, Aparna and me looked around at the place, their shop and the enjoyed a very filling lunch in an almost open space.

Kala Raksha jeep
An art piece at the museum
An art piece at the museum

Judy telling us about the museum collection inside the store room for all exhibits

The workshop at Kala Raksha.
The workshop at Kala Raksha.
It was amazing to see so many visitors just walking in from different parts of the world, we saw two foreigners and an Indian family over the 6 hours that we spent there. Sadly the museum isn't ready, otherwise the visit would be even more worthwhile. Aparna, Rutika and me also went around the village meeting artisans and looking at their work, Aparna almost had tears in her eyes and insisted on paying more than even what the artisans asked for. I found it funny, she thought it was God's will. Thankfully the day wasn't hot and Judy very slow, hence we could walk around for hours.

Kids at an artisan's house.
Traditional rabari Men's shawl.
Aparna trying out the traditional rabari women's shawl made with wool.
The Muslim and the Hindu clothes, the Muslim men always wear colorful clothes with a longer kurta, while the rabari Hindus always wear white with short kurtas.
Artisan's wife and grandson
This is what made Aparna cry.

The return journey was interesting too, with people in our jeep staring at us and trying broken English. We were gifted the famed kutchi shakar-teti when the journey got over, I could never exactly figure out why though. We greedily grabbed it and said a Thank you in English, much to his delight. The same guy had told us a story a while back about how stranger locals use black magic for getting tourists naked, but the shakar-teti was too tempting and none us us (barring the girls, I guess) had any particular issues about getting naked!

The swaying colors of Kutch!

Still trying to look their best, even with milk all around.
Almost crying baby next to me in the van
Liked the blue with the yellow background. The blues of Kutch are phenomenal.
Milkman in the van
The Black Magic/ Shakar-teti guy

Kutchi Dabeli was experimented with, including the not so successful Sandwich Dabeli and Kadak (I, of course, skipped all this).

Shopping was something everyone, excluding me, was looking forward to right from the moment we got into the train; apart from visiting the ever-so-elusive 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' monument (which remained elusive right till the end). The monument never happened, though once we came as close to getting into an auto to go (but then nature called Aparna and the super-sweet shakar teti ala locally produced musk melon called us). Apparently there were two things which had to be purchased from Bhuj, apart from all the shopping from Kala Raksha and other artisans houses in Sumresar. And these were Silver and fabric, especially the hand done Ajrak work fabric. I too was interested in purchasing some fabric - the Pakistani cloth which gives you the feeling that you are walking around naked (as per Abdul bhai who is a driver at Kala Raksha). None of us found the fabric we were looking for though, perhaps better luck next time.

Dhabeli consumption, currently kadak on the plate

To purchase Silver visit the Soni Bazaar, we had help from Rutika and though we struggled to find it, finally located the shop. Everyone shopped while looked on, wondering what could I possibly purchase from there. I liked the neck pieces, but they were so heavy that you could easily consider giving it to an enemy! Or for that matter even some of the ear-rings (if you could call them that). Cloth markets are also close by, try Kansara Bazaar for the many shops located there. My travel mates didn't exactly find what they were looking for, but found many other things which were never the part of the original agenda.

Amazingly we also came across a not-so-expensive antique shop which was a discovery  itself. Even I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the stuff there, was in fact very keen on buying the old and dilapidated wooden chest! But alas, I only admired the beauty of the paces, and bought nothing. By then we were already late for dinner and the shopkeeper or his house, so we rushed off to the Thali place called... Dinner was authentic Gujarati hali, and all of us hogged and then struggled to walk, even to the auto-rickshaw. Dropping off ... home, we proceeded ahead to the Railway Station. Exhausted after a long and eventful day (but surprisingly and unexpectedly not very hot), we crashed  on our seats after making a few love-filled phone calls!


  1. seems to be a very interesting place! and very nice pics too! The almost crying baby is too adorable.
    Wish u could hv done some extra shopping there! (for me... not exactly!)
    ohh and i guess this is my first visit to ur blog!

  2. Need clarity:

    "super-sweet shakar teti"

    "love-filled phonecalls"

    hahaha and why did you find it funny that i was in tears :P it was the truest emotion at that point! ;) the only justification was good will.

  3. thanks bhavin, surprisingly the baby didn't cry. generally all babies cry when i am around. and i wish you were around for the trip with us too :)

    oh yes, i skipped the shakar-teti story, the post was getting too long.

    so this is how it goes, we got this amazing smelling shakar-teti from the black magic guy. initially we thought that we will give it to rittika, but then it became adam's apple for us and led to our own downfall (i.e. we missed the 'HDDCS' monument). basically it was not exactly sweet; aparna wanted to add sugar but we scolded her imagining that the teti is farm-fresh and so would automatically be sweet. but a colossal disappointment was to follow. it was sour in taste, there was just about nothing sweet or nice about it. i couldn't escape the weird taste till we had the hurried dinner. i hated it and absolutely convinced that it had strong black magic in it!

    the love-filled phone calls are defined in three ways:
    a. calls to people whom you love
    b. calls to people who love you
    c. making love on the phone call

  4. Some really nice pics out dere... amazingly d place luks exactly d same everytime I visit it... luk at d wrkshp, ppl r sitting in dere exact same positions like 2 yrs bck.. makes me feel nostalgic all d more.... so u finally made it!! :)

  5. yes i finally made it, feel bad about missing out on the evening there. am sure the place would be amazing for walking around in the nights and night-gazing!

    maybe i will persuade judy to let me stay thr for a while and do some work for her :)

  6. Yes, u did miss out d most beautiful evenings.. pls convince her fr sum wrkshp.. last time I tried to do tht but it never happnd.. very small price fr sky gazing and night walks.. :)

  7. hmmm...lets see, if i ever get to go there again :)

  8. I have on my list to visit this interesting place someday. Thank you for this lovely post.

  9. thanks! do visit the place, the best time would be winters - anytime between nov to feb.


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