<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Evanescent Light :Rann of Kutch

: fleeting, transitory
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Tribespeople of the Rann of Kutch


With the Kumbh Mela portion of our trip behind us, we set off for the western desert region of India known as the Great Rann of Kutch. This landscape of extreme seasonal wet and dry periods is home to many colorful nomadic tribes. Our lodging at a local safari camp allowed us immersion into this diverse landscape of cultures. Our three days here were focused on photographing the indigenous tribespeople who came to visit us from the surrounding Kutch area. With the help of our guide Manish who had great local connections, we met and got to know several colorful groups at our camp for formal portrait sessions. Our sessions included both indoor settings with studio lighting as well as outdoors with natural light and backdrops. We took several field trips to visit some of the tribespeople in their villages and camps. These visits provided lots of opportunities to photograph these intriguing and hospitable people at home while they went about their schedule of daily tasks as nomadic pastoralists.

Ahir Dhaneta Jat Dhebariya
Fakirani Jat Mehwal Vagadia

Ahir tribe

The Ahirs are among the most colourful communities of the Kutch, who claim to be direct descendants of Lord Krishna. Originally from Mathura, his birthplace, this pastoral tribe came to Kutch in search of fresh grazing land. While the men are in the fields, the women spend their spare time creating elaborate costumes of red, green, blue, orange and brown cotton on which a particular kind of intricate embroidery and mirrorwork is sewn.





Meghwal Village

An afternoon visit to people of the Meghwal community in their small smallvillage of round, mud-brick huts painted on the outside with colourful geometric designs and decorated with detailed mirror inlays.


The women are famous for their embroidery work and wear exuberantly detailed costumes and jewellery. Married women are often spotted wearing gold nose ring, earrings and neckpieces. They were given to the bride as a "bride wealth" dowry by her soon-to-be husband's mother. Nose rings and earrings are often decorated with precious stones of ruby, sapphire and emerald.



Mittal - hands down :
Meghwal village, Rann of Kutch, India


Fakirani Jat Tribe

"The Jats of Kutch are a cattle breeding nomadic Muslim community, descended from ancient pastoral tribes of the Indus delta region of Sindh, where some members of the tribe still reside. With the partition of India, the Jat of Kutch have lost all contact with their kinsmen in Sindh. The Kutchi are further subdivided into the Dhanetah, Girasia and Fakirani; the latter consider themselves superior to the other two, and are strictly endogamous. In addition to cattle rearing, the community are also involved in the breeding of camels, especially the Fakirani, and are also known for their embroidery." [Wikipedia]

After rising at 4:00am for a wake-up coffee at our Safari Resort, a 30- minute drive took our tour group to a pre-arranged rendezvous with Fakirani Jat tribespeople at their desert campsite. The sky was still completely dark when we arrived, with the only light coming from several wood campfires that beautifully illuminated the people sitting around them. That made a wonderful opportunity for candid portrait photography, with warm light on the faces contrasting with a perfect black background. Yet, the time was short before dawn...






Dhaneta Jat Tribe

"The Dhanetas are the branch of the Jats that retained their original profession of cattle herding. They now have herds of camels and breed the most superior kind of buffaloes.The Dhanetas are Sunni Muslims. The men herd cattle and search for greener pastures through the day and women take care of the houses, children and chores. Aggressive and protective, they do not appreciate pictures being taken of their women. The women of this tribe wear a fist sized complicated nose ring called ‘ Nathli’. This lends an unmistakable identity to the Dhaneta women. The enormous size of this gold nose ring weighs heavy and is held up by strands of black threads tied to their hair. This gold nose ring is the sign of married women and they continue wearing this at all times. Any attempt to photograph the women evokes a strong reaction from men as well as women, who promptly cover their faces making it extremely difficult to capture their lives and lifestyle on camera. The Dhaneta Jats  earn their living by selling cattle milk and other related products. They live in huts made of sticks and old tarps covered with hay. The water shortage and the drought in the area is having an impact on their only possession – their cattle. Greener pastures are rare, far and few." [Indiainframes]

The Dhanetas are described as protective, traditional and almost impossible to photograph. ("If there is any project that has come close to risking my equipment and life, it was photographing the Dhaneta Jats"). Our access was possible only through the close rapport our local guide had built with the tribe over several years. We allowed some time to introduce ourselves and let the women and children grow accustomed to us before bringing our cameras out, but even then our photography time was curtailed and were restricted to shooting with less than optimal light within their thatched hut.






Dhebariya Tribe

This day we remained at the Kutch Safari Resort and photographed members of two tribes who came to visit. We had the use of a simple studio with black backcloth and modeling lights in softboxes, and also took outdoor photos in the surrounding hills and dry lakebed.

Our visitors ( models) for the morning were members of the Dhebariya tribe, one of the three tribes of Rabaris in Kutch. The Dhebariya still wander in the wild with their sheep and camels.







Vagadia (Wagadiya) Rabari Tribe

We photographed members of the Vagadia (Wagadiya) Rabari community in the studio set up at our lodge, and outdoors with their camels during late afternoon and soft evening light. (A Google search for this reclusive, nomadic tribe returns almost no results.)



Vagadia tribe, Rann of Kutch, India


created 03/17/2019

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