History of Kutch
Kutch has a very rich and vibrant history. People have migrated in and out of Kutch from countries like Afghanistan, Sindh, Britain and Africa for centuries and the various stone implements found by explorations in and around the place verify that it was inhabited from prehistoric times. In fact, traces of the astonishing Indus Valley civilization (3000 to 1500B.C.) have been discovered at Dholavira- Kutch. It was referred to by Alexander the great as `Abhir`, which means the shape of tortoise. It had always remained a place of a lesser population, especially in the 9th century. Kutch has also experienced frequent earthquake since medieval times. The earliest earthquake recorded in Kutch dates back to 16th June 1819. Since then, over 90 earthquakes of varying intensity have struck the region, but none as severe as the most recent one in 2001.
Kutch in Ancient Period (3000 B.C to 920 AD)
Rann was not an arm of the sea during the early days when Alexander the great visited these places in 325BC. The eastern branches of the Indus River emptied the most important channel into the Rann and Kutch was a kind of extension of Sindh on the other side of the larger freshwater lake, which could be easily crossed. The Mauryan Empire broke of the Gujarat, Kutch and Sindh provinces and passed under the rules of Greeks from Bactria in 140-120 BC. Bactrian rule over Gujarat, Kathiawad and Kutch was ended by Sakas in the 1st Century and ruled upto the 3rd century. After that Samudragupta attacked the Sakas and ended their rule.
Kutch in Modern Period (1500 AD to 2001)
Much of Kutch history in the 13th, 14th and 15th century has witnessed a lot of violence through massacres, plunder and arson. In 1510, Rao Khengarji I a successor of Odha, (second son of Rato Raydhan) assumed power with the full approval of the Sultan of Ahmeddabad. He thus became the founder of the dynasty that was to rule Kutch till its merger with the Indian Union in 1948. Khengarji I`s capital was Rahper. This was later shifted to Bhuj in 1549.
After the Partition of India in 1947, the province of Sindh, including the port of Karachi, ended up in Pakistan. The Indian Government constructed a modern port at Kandla in Kutch to serve as a port for western India in lieu of Karachi. There was a dispute over the Kutch region with Pakistan and battle broke out just months before the outbreak of the Second Kashmir War.
The architecture that is followed in the construction of the houses in the Kutch region, and Gujarat as a whole, is called "Bhonga" and is commonly found in the rural areas. It is a tent like structure which has been in use in Gujarat and the Kutch region for over 200 years now. It consists of a single cylindrical shaped room and has a conical roof supported by cylindrical walls. The durability, sturdiness and the reason that this type of architecture is well suited to the desert condition makes it a very common sight across this region. Also, failure of the Bhongas in the last earthquake caused very few injuries to its occupants in spite of their collapse. These Bhongas are similar to the normal mud houses and is usually inhabited by the poor people.
Places of Importance
Bhuj is the headquarters of the Kutch district and apart from its strategic and administrative importance, it is also a beautiful place famous for its amazing landscape.
Mandvi is a port situated along the coast, which is a tourist destination famous for its handicraft, tie-dye, silverwork and interesting architecture like Vijay Vilas Palace. It also showcases a few houses which have a blend of Indian and European styles of architecture and a lighthouse. The Mandvi Beach is also a place of importance with Water Sports and other forms of tourism developing along its coast.
White Rann, named so due to the huge salt content in the desert making it look like ice, is a very common tourist attraction and the picturesque beauty of the place has made it an integral part of many movies as well. The Rann Utsav, a cultural event, happens here in the greater Rann of Kutch every year in December. It is organised by the Gujarat tourism department annually and is an opportunity for visitors to attend folk dance and music concepts, watch artisans at work, visit handicraft villages, see the historical monuments in the state, and go trekking as well.
The Little Rann of Kutch and its environs, the Wild Ass Sanctuary is the last home of the Indian Wild Ass. Other species that could be seen during wildlife viewing drives in the sanctuary are the Nilgai or blue bull antelope, Blackbuck or Indian Antelope, Chinkara or Indian Gazelle, the endangered Indian Wolf, Desert and Indian Foxes, Jackal, and smaller species characteristic of the desert habitat.
At the edge of the Little Rann of Kutch are lakes and marshes that attract waterfowl in numbers beyond comprehension. Huge flocks of flamingos, pelicans, cranes, storks, geese and ducks can be seen in winter. The Little Rann is also one of the few places in India where the Lesser Flamingo is breeding successfully.
The place Banni (meaning bani hui, or ready made) gets its name from its geological past, the land was formed from the sediments deposited by several rivers that flowed through the region over several thousand years. People say that prior to the earthquake of 1816, the river Indus flowed right through Banni and the local farmers reaped rich harvests. After the earthquake, the rivers changed course and the place now is almost featureless, arid grassland fed only by the seasonal monsoons with very few farms seen. Due to the high salt content of the soil the vegetation is sparse and plants we came across most were salt tolerant shrubs like Mesvak , Lana, Ooeyen, Lai and Sedge.
Places of Worship
Hazipir, Karodpir, Mata Nu Madh, Narayan Sarovar, Koteshwar, Godhra, Vaishnav Devi, Gundala, Ghadsisha, etc. are places which are of interest to one and many. Each of them have a story to communicate and they each hold historic and religious importance in their own respective ways.
Economy and Industries:
India's fastest growing state in the last decade has been the state of Gujarat. The Kutch region of Gujarat provides investors with both resources and the benefits of investment. The most important feature of the Kutch region comes geographically with two major ports Mundra and Kandla located in the region. These ports are closest to the Gulf and Europe and major trade occurs through both these ports.
Kutch is home to a lot of small truck drivers. There are also NRI industrialists and businessmen who contribute to the economy of the region.
The Kutch region is also blessed with abundance of natural resources like lignite, bauxite and gypsum. Most of these minerals are used for electricity generation by the Gujarat Electricity Board.
The industry scenario in the region can be best described as making rapid strides. Companies of TATA Power, Adani and Sanghi Industries Ltd are housed in the region. Ancilliaries and support systems are also developing in the region at a fast pace. Due to all these the demand for non agricultural land has gone up at an astounding pace thereby accompanied with sky rocketing land prices. An acre of land available for Rs. 500 just 7-8 years ago is now sold at Rs.5 Crores. Although these stories are unheard of in the land of Kutch since its inception, they are becoming the reality of today. Due to such explosion, poor peasants' lifestyles have gone a dramatic change and they are consuming brands like lottery winners. There are so many cases in which many people have opted for retirement from their farms and have sold it off to these corporate for a fat price tag and are now enjoying the fruits of their ancestors hardwork. Traditional industries such as salt, manufacture of shawls, handicrafts and silver items still exist in the region.
The People of Kutch
Kutch due to its geographic location is inhabitated with people from various regions. People have migrated from neighbouring regions of Marwar, Afghanistan, Sindh (now Pakistan).There are several nomadic, semi-Nomadic and artisan groups living in Kutch.
The major communities include Jadeja's, Lohana, Nishar's, Darbar's, Khatri's, Rabari's and Ahir's. The majority of the population of Kutch follows Jainism as religion - the Vanki Tirth temple situated in Mundra district considered to be one of the most elegant temples for Jains attracts over thousands of pilgrims every year - but Hindus and Muslims are also in sizeable number in this region. Especially the Banni region is home to a number of nomadic Sindhi-Speaking Muslim group such as Dhanetah Jaths, Hingora's and Samma. There are also Sikhs residing in this part of the state the gurudwara for whom located at Lakhpat in Kutch was the house that Guru Nanak stayed in during his journey to Mecca.
A person from the region of Kutch is known as Kutchi. Most of the Kutchis are strongly connected to their roots. They have strong social and cultural values imbibed in them. They say a Kutchi is born with entrepreneurial skills and business acumen. This goes to show, as a large number of Kutchis are businessman in small or big way (Adani, Euro Group, Nilkamal, Everest Group, Prince Plastic, Amarsons, Premsons, Benzer and Anchor etc). They also give a lot back to the region where they hail from. They build schools, hospitals, dharma shalas (dormitories), temples, bhojnalaya (free meals for all). They also provide ample job opportunities for all the youth hailing from that place. They train them and also trust them with utmost responsibilities. This is without any merit or skill based and is purely on the basis of a CSR role that they play for the communities that they are born in. They are these big names which are the stones on which a whole village is developed.
Kutchis follow a patriarchal system and the male child still holds an important position in the house, they believed if it's a male child he will be part of family business and if it's a female she will be married off soon. There is some difference as to how a girl child is brought up and a male child. Kutchis till early 2000 did not lay special emphasis on education. Now the mindset is changing with people moving to cities. They want their children to be educated; kids today have aspirations to become doctor, engineer, and cricketer. Education now is an important consideration even for girls and there are girl schools that have been constructed. But even in the 21st century a girl child is engaged in as early as the 8th standard and is taught how to run a house at a tender age. Although now things are changing and girls are getting equal importance in a lot of families.
A Kutchi believes in maintaining relationship throughout his life. Relationship is as important to him as money is. Also customs and traditions are extremely important to him. There are set practices which he follows for every occasion, the places of worship are extremely important and many in numbers.
People of Kutch are very welcoming to people from other communities. Due to a large population of Hindus, Muslims and Jains etc, all the festivals are celebrated with a lot of exuberance. Most people are very warm hearted and treat everyone equally. For their own community Kutchis have also created sanatoriums for people to come and stay as hotels cannot be built everywhere. This reflects in the warm hospitality which they offer to any stranger who walks into their house and is offered a cup of tea and bidi. They feel honored and privileged if they are offered a bidi in anyone's house. These are 2 conversations starters and also customs around which the whole community revolves around. Entertainment, socializing, conversations, rituals, etc. are all an offshoot of the warmth that they infect people with.
Post the earthquake there has been a lot of developmental work done in the region of Kutch. There have been several industries set up, power plants have been constructed. Job opportunities have been created for the people and due to this there has been increase in the purchasing power of people. Now they have more disposable income in their hands and they have also become brand conscious.
Kutch is home to people from all strata of the society, there are large business houses which come from Kutch and there are also people who live on daily wages. The social status of people varies from SEC A to SEC E2. There are people who belong to the working class and house wife as a concept is predominant in Kutch.
Kutchi's have been following a joint family structure since a very long time but off late due to migration and other factors slowly the families have started moving into nuclear structure. Even if the families have moved into smaller units, kutchi's are still a very closely knit unit, they look after each other and ensure that every member of the family at least gets his daily bread. Most of the employment opportunity is first passed on to family members then people from kutchi community and then to the outside world.
Kutchis pride themselves on their rich culture and heritage and reflect the same through their dressing, language and even food habits.
The people of kutch have unique set of costumes as against the conventional wear. They normally wear embroidered work .Mirror work is also an important part of their outfit. In different parts of Kutch you will see different set of designs on the outfit as the workmanship of each region differs. A particular community in Kutch can be recognised on the basis of the costumes they wear for example, a rabari woman will always be seen in a black open blouse or odhnis which cover her face, the Jat women always wear red or black Chunnis. Chaniya Choli is another important costume for the women of Kutch. In Rural areas women wear abhla(mirror work) chaniya choli. They wear kanjari which is a long blouse embroidered with mirror work and choli.
The men in Kutch wear a white outfit, they wear a white dhoti (lungi) and a khami and a white jacket .Another traditional costume of the men in Kutch is the Kaidiyu which is again white in color. The bottoms of these people are tight at the feet so that no insects enter them while they are working on in their fields. Bandhani print of Kutch is really famous in Indian and abroad and is in huge demand across market. The bride and her family is supposed to wear a special kind of Bandhani called as 'Gharchoda'. This is still prevalent in the cities where a lot of expat kutchis get married. Widows can be recognised by a typical Red saree which she wears without any ornaments as accompaniments.
Kutch has a rich heritage of traditional folk music. Musical instruments are also related to origins of people in Kutch, their taboos, their style of worship etc. It allows us to understand social and religious traditions. Some of the musical instruments of Kutch include
Bhorrindo: A folk instrument which is a simple vacant dirt ball or like an egg twisted with three to four holes
Dak or Dhaku: Dak is similar to Damru and is made up of hour glass frame with vellum heads. The Cords are pressed hard and released in quick succession to give the effect
Dholak: One of the most important instruments in the folk music of Kutch. which is played at all major occasions - be it a small event or the navratri functions
Jodia pawa: A pair of double flutes is also known as Alghoza. It is mainly played by the shepherds in the desert. It is used in folk dances. One of the renowned artist of the same is Musa Gulam Jat from Kutch
Morchang: A simple device made out of brass .It has an outer frame fortuning the instrument and in the shape of a harp.
Kutch is a place which is filled with a lot of vibrancy even if it's known as land of desert. Be it the costume the people they wear or the color of their house they make use of bright colors such as blue, pink yellow and red. Rannoutsav, the combination of White Desert and vibrancy of Gujarat, is also a celebration of colors amidst the land of white sand.
Predominant language is kutchi - influenced by sindhi and gujarati owing to its geographical location. The script of Kutchi language has become extinct and so Gujarati script is occasionally used. Gujarati as a script and language has also become more popular because of people moving out and the schools being gujarati medium.
Rituals & festivity
The Kutch Festival - colorfully attired dancers, music concerts, Sindhi Bhajan performances, Langa Desert Music and shops selling embroideries and jewelry are the hallmarks of the Kutch Desert Festival
Makar Sankranti and Kite Flying Festival (14 January) - Uttarayan
Significance - Sun's direct rays reach the Tropic of Capricorn to mark the end of winter season. It is celebrated by flying kites - the threads are glass strengthened and the purpose of the fighter kites is to cut the other kites' thread and be the winner. At night, kites with Chinese lanterns are flown and held aloft.
Food - Undhiya, sugar cane juice and local sweets to celebrate the day.
The Rann Utsav
The Rann Utsav is the annual cultural extravaganza of the region held in the months of December and January. The Rann Utsav seeks to bring out to the world the uniqueness and rich diversity of the region. Though focus has always been on traditional art and culture, this year it has evolved with the addition of dances and pageants. Most notably, visitors are made to feel a part of the programs and are invited to perform. The Rann Utsav though is mainly for the urban population and the rural crowd tend to shy away from the festival. Tourism has grown by leaps and bounds, more so with the roping in of Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador of Gujarat.
Handicrafts & Artistry
Bandhani - traditional handiwork of tie and dye. Bandhanis are very closely associated with deep rooted social customs. It is treated as a symbol of married life and is worn by Hindus and Muslims during their marriage. It is also worn during major festivals like navratri and diwali by women across caste and age.
Decorative arts of pottery, embroidery, printed and woven textiles, wall paintings, jewellery and leatherwork - Lodai (the potters are here are muslim and slip decoration executed by women is highly regarded) and Khavda ( clay bunga - round hut made from mud and wood with a conical roof) important regions of districts known for clay crafts which are more than normal pot making
Diverse embroideries - aari embroidery - carried out for the royalty and wealthy families. Traditionally women in rural areas do the embroidery for their dowries. Important resource centers for embroidery in the region are Shrujan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), Kalaraksha and Women Artisans' Marketing Agency (WAMA).
Ajarakh printing - a very complex hand printing technique using wooden blocks and natural dyes. The printing is done by a lengthy process which can take up to a couple of months for the most complicates pieces. Ajarakh is being practised today in Dhamadka and Ajarakhpur villages in Kutch.
Mud work - Artistic wall pieces made with mud and mirror work are used to decorate homes.
Leather artisans - products like leather shoes, sandals, mirrors, small pouches, etc. The very high skilled artisans decorate the articles by doing embroidery or cutting various shaped windows in the leather. These artisans can be found in the villages like Sumarasar, Nirona, Zura, Bhirandiyara, Hodko, Khavda, etc. in and around the Banni region.
Handloom weaving - shawls, yardage, jackets, etc. woven out of wool, cotton and acrylic yarn. Bandhani <discussed earlier> is carried out on the shawls in some cases. The biggest center for this is Bhujodi village near Bhuj.
Food and Drink
Jains, Buldhmins and some other caste perform strict vegetarianism making Kutch a predominantly vegetarian district. As for Jains - they also refrain from eating kandmool food grown below the ground such as potatoes, garlic, onion, suran, etc. Beef is an ultimate taboo since Hindus consider the cow holy even though they might practice various levels of vegetarianism.
The usually Kutchi Cuisine consists of Roti or Rotlas, Curd, Butter milk, Dal, Curry, Vegetables, Papad, Kachumbar. Dry rotlis or Theplas and Khakras and Sev (of Gram Flour) are made and stored as food during travelling etc..
Staple food - Rotlas made of Bajri (millet) which the local relish with Butter milk or 'Chhas', Butter and Jaggery or 'Gud'.'Khichhdi' made of rice and dal (pulses).
Beverages - Tea is the most popular drink in this region and is enjoyed irrespective of sex, caste, religion or social status. Most people drink it with milk and sugar and like it sweet but strong. . Tea without milk is offered when people are visiting host to mourn death of relatives and is hence never served to guests on normal occasions.
Delicacies - Khaman dokla, Gathia, Undhia, Muthia, Raita, Dahi wada, Kachori, Bhajia, Bhaji made of brinjal, bitter gourd and lady's finger,etc.
Snacks - Dabeli, Puri Shak, Pav Bhaji, Bhakarwadi, Papdi, Kadak, etc.
Desserts - Adadiya, Gulab Pak, Son Papdi, Mohan thal, Pedas, Halwa, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, etc. Seeds of Dhaniya or Dhana dal, Betal Leaf or Pan with Supari is served after food as mouth freshner.
Consumption Pattern in Kutch has seen a steady change in the past two decades with increase in media proliferation. More brands are targeting Kutch as a potential market owing to their considerable disposable income. Kutchis are becoming more and more aware of the brands available across segments. Companies such as HUL , P&G, Pepsi, Parle, Brittania, LG, Samsung, Maruti are expanding their distribution channel to reach out to these consumers.
It was important to study and understand the brand awareness level in the villages of the Kutch region. The most pertinent sector of consumption is the FMCG category. Hardly anyone in the villages of Kutch possesses an automobile, as a result of their economic status, but SUVs were common among the urban population of Kutch.
It was fascinating and somewhat surprising to learn that young girls in the villages of Kutch know about brands such as Nissan Micra, although that was attributed to Ranbir Kapoor. The power of celebrity endorsements was there for all to see.
In the household, the most common brands which were spotted were Bournvita, Nycil, Ponds and Salora among others. Most of them used the local brands when it came to cooking ingredients like milk, ghee, oil etc. According to the retailers, FMCGs in small packs sell better than large packs and Clinic Plus is a fast seller. Confectionaries like Cadbury's Perk, Hide and Seek are some of the brands the kids consume.
Apart from this though, there are also cases of selling of counterfeit and local brands which have similar packaging as that of the original brand. A few instances were noticed in the case of packaged drinking water, analgesics and FMCG products.
Impact of advertising on consumer behavior:
Upon interaction with the natives of the Kutch region, it was found that celebrity advertising had the maximum impact among the younger population. Also, after the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj, there was a marked change in the buying pattern due to higher disposable income.
Consumer durables are a huge market in Kutch and television and refrigerator are some of the products which have started finding their way into every household. People have also started becoming brand conscious. Electronics stores such as LG have opened outlets in recent times.
Television is one of the major media vehicles. People of this region are mainly hooked on to the soap opera, Gulaal , which showcases the culture of the Kutch region. There are also different perspectives to this soap where one fraction believes that the Kutch region has not been depicted properly, while the other are happy with the serial's depiction of the culture and practices of the region. There is also a slow trend in moving from traditional CRT TVs to LCD screens.
Newspapers are also an important medium in the region. In the villages, mainly the regional newspapers like Divya Bhaskar and Sanj Samachar are circulated, while in the urban areas English dailies such as DNA and Times of India are widely read.
The radio is used as a mass medium too. People are tuned into their favorite radio channels and communication is mainly through news, music or commercials.
Impact of Social structure:
The society is predominantly male dominated. The villages follow a structure where the village headman or sarpanch is the one who takes the decisions aided by his council. The villages in the Kutch region provide equal opportunities to women. As in case with most of the rural population of India, women are married off at a very young age, having barely finished school.
How this structure impacts the buying behavior is seen from the fact that although the chief wage earner is the male (in most cases), the woman of the house buys the products for daily use.