Textiles & Handcrafts of India
20 February – 8 March 2020
Visit specialist textile museums, artisan villages and workshops, women’s co-operatives, colourful bazaars and fabulous tourist sites along the way. Participate in five hands-on handcraft activities (block printing, carpet knotting, mojari making, embroidery and resist printing/fabric dyeing). Engage with local women and artisans, be inspired by incredible design and craftsmanship, marvel at stunning landscapes and architecture and experience traditional Indian culture and hospitality … plus much, much more.
Join our small group of like-minded textile and handcraft enthusiasts for the experience of a lifetime!
A nation of contrasts, India is at once raw and exotic, confronting and alluring, distinctly earthy and riotously colourful, delicate and brutal, decadent and survivalist. The sights and experiences, handcrafts and textiles, traditions and architecture you’ll discover on this journey through Rajasthan and Gujurat will touch, inspire and leave you in awe!
This 18 day women’s textile tour is hosted by retreat|recreate and is fully escorted by a local Indian English-speaking guide. Our adventure begins in Delhi where we’ll be introduced to India’s incredible range of textiles and traditional crafts at one of the country’s premier craft museums. We’ll weave our way via rickshaw through the bustling labyrinth of the city’s oldest market, passing flower sellers, fabric merchants, spice traders and many other stalls.
We’ll spend several days in Rajasthan’s capital, the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, where we’ll visit several major tourist sites including the opulent City Palace and its acclaimed museum filled with lavish royal costumes, textiles and art, the Palace of the Wind, the massive Amber fort and a stunning historic step-well. During a guided walking tour we’ll explore some of the artisan communities for which this city is known: bandhani (tie and dye textiles), blue pottery, block printing, lacquer bangles, brasswork, meenakari (enamelled) and kundan (inlay) jewellery, marble statues and more.
We’ll head out of town to a village which has been home to the Chhipa (print/dye) clan for at least 400 years where we’ll observe the stages of the hand block printing process and then try it for ourselves! We’ll each be able to print a block printed scarf to take home as a souvenir of this very special handcraft village. To deepen our knowledge of block printing, we’ll follow up with a visit to a small museum where this art is showcased at its finest.
At a village known for its beautiful hand-knotted carpets, we’ll meet a community of skilled women artisans and watch as raw wool is spun into yarn, the yarns are dyed and then woven on handlooms, ‘knot by knot’ to make the superb rugs. We will each take our turn to sit by an artisan and learn how to make the knots, at the same time exploring the lengthy process behind each carpet.
We journey by train to Jodhpur, the famous ‘blue city’ situated on the edge of the Great Thar Desert. Historically many of the buildings were painted blue to signify the home of a high caste Brahmin; today most of the city is blue as other castes have followed suit. We’ll explore a colossal fort sitting atop a sheer rock ridge in the middle of town and the old market, whose stalls radiate out in concentric circles from a central clock tower. We are also privileged to visit a wonderful organisation working to empower disadvantaged women and girls through vocational training. We’ll be able to meet some of the women and observe them as they work on their handcrafts before we join the women in preparing, cooking and eating lunch.
A day trip out of the city takes us to a pottery workshop and a dhurry weaving village where we’ll get a glimpse into these age-old crafts and local rural life. At another workshop, we’ll learn about the history, materials and methods involved in the crafting of Mojari (traditional Rajasthani leather footwear) and we’ll be able to try our hand at some of the various stages of the construction process.
En route to Udaipur we’ll stop at Ranakpur, one of the most important Jain pilgrim destinations and home to a number of stunning carved white marble temples. Continuing on to the ‘Venice of the east’, we’ll learn about Udaipur’s famous miniature painting and have the option to take a class. A short drive out of town will take us to a tribal village where a social enterprise provides vocational training and employment to over 600 women in low socio-economic neighbourhoods. We’ll enjoy a guided village walk during which we’ll visit some embroidery artisans in their homes and have the opportunity to learn about their lives as we join them for a hands-on stitching and embroidery activity.
Leaving Rajasthan, we continue on to the state of Gujurat and make a stop at a museum where several generations of one family continue to practice and preserve the traditional and ancient art of Patola weaving (double ikat). We’ll also visit a family of Mashru weavers who hand-weave a mix of silk and cotton in such a way that only one side is ‘silky’ and thereby permitted to be worn by moslem men. Nearby is a superb UNESCO-listed step-well where women once gathered daily to collect water, socialise and occasionally arrange a marriage.
In the desert town of Bhuj we’ll visit a family of weavers who will demonstrate the various steps of spinning and hand loom weaving. We will each be given the chance to try our hand at spinning and weaving and are invited to enjoy a traditional home-cooked lunch with the family.
The Shrujan trust aims to preserve, revitalise and promote the glorious craft heritage of Kutch. During a visit to the the trust’s fabulous Living & Learning Design Centre we’ll be able to view an impressive collection of many types of embroideries.
Other artisan workshops and villages we’ll visit in this region are those of rogan artists (oil painting on fabric), bell-makers, lacquer wood-workers, a rabari embroiderer, ajrakh (resist-printers/dyers) and bandhani tie/dyers. Many of these textiles and handcrafts are now being continued by only a few families who are determined to save their craft and the traditional techniques from extinction. We are proud to support them.
After a demonstration of some of the many stages of the Ajarakh process, we’ll each have the chance to print and dye a cotton scarf to take home.
Our tour comes to an end in Ahmedabad. This city has been India’s centre of textile trade and industry since the 15th century. Highlights here include a guided heritage walk through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed old city, a museum renowned for its rare antique textiles collection, a visit to the workshop of a family of Kalam Quaari artisans plus a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram.
We warmly invite you to join us on this fabulous textile adventure. We do hope you’ll join us!
- Arrival transfer from Delhi airport to our tour hotel
- 17 nights/18 days accommodation as per the itinerary
- Meals as per the itinerary (17 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners)
- Transport as per the itinerary
- Five hands-on handcraft activities (block printing, carpet knotting, mojari making, embroidery and resist printing/fabric dyeing)
- Entrance fees to all museums, galleries, studios and excursion venues as per the itinerary
- Services of a local English-speaking tour guide and retreat|recreate host
- International or domestic airfares
- Travel insurance (essential)
- Passports and visas
- Early check in or late check out
- Departure transfers
- Personal spending (souvenirs, laundry, phone etc)
- Activities marked as optional in the itinerary
- Meals and drinks not included in the itinerary
- Tips (we’ll establish a tips kitty on Day 1 of approx. INR4000 pp)
Things to note
- The tour comprises 18 days/17 nights and operates from 20 February – 8 March 2020. The itinerary is a full one to ensure value for money, however some free periods are built in. The opportunity exists to extend your trip by extra nights at our hotel in Delhi before, or Ahmedabad after the tour. A group day trip to Agra (Taj Mahal) on 20 February may also be booked through our tour operator. You are of course free to book your own pre/post tour accommodation and arrangements elsewhere. Note that the arrival airport transfer may not be included in the price of you book pre tour accommodation at a hotel other than our starting point hotel;
- Transport is by train (2nd class air-con), private coach, auto-rickshaw and jeep;
- Cultural, environmental and economically sustainable travel is important to us. To this end, we: engage local guides; use public transport where possible; patronise local women’s co-ops, social enterprises, not-for-profit organisations and associations where possible; include a carbon offset in the tour price;
- Accommodation – we stay in a range of accommodation to provide you with a sense of India’s history and traditions. Most of our accommodation venues fall within the range of 3-4 stars. (Refer to the Trip Notes for more details.)
- The retreat|recreate host for this trip will be Susan Keeble.
- Is this trip right for you? Please consider your mobility/fitness levels to determine if this trip is right for you. To ensure that you’re able to make the most of this trip, you should be prepared to explore the sights and highlights on foot. Participants need to be able to manage their own luggage for short distances;
- our group size is approximately 12 women;
- retreat|recreate’s tour groups comprise women from all over the globe and embrace all ages, ethnicities and personalities. Flexibility and a sense of humour are encouraged when travelling as part of a group.
Here’s what our travellers had to say about this tour:
I have always wanted to travel to India and I couldn’t have gone with a better company or been in more capable hands. I met so many interesting people and saw so many amazing sights. The textiles and crafts were fabulous and meeting the people who made them was a highlight of the trip. I can’t wait to sign up for the next one. Carol – India 2020
The trip to India was beyond all expectations. Truly amazing to see so many famous sights and incredible museums but it was meeting the craftspeople and visiting the villages that were the real highlights of the tour. Whether you’re a lone traveller or travelling with a friend you’ll soon have a group of new friends with common interests. Looking forward to becoming a repeat traveller with you. Gail – India 2020
I thought I knew quite a lot about India, having travelled for business in Rajasthan some years ago, but I was so wrong. This trip through Rajasthan and Gujurat was one of the most interesting, stimulating and fun things I have ever done. The planning and organisation was excellent, all the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable, very caring and great company too; they really added a great deal to the whole experience. We spent 18 days discovering the heart of two great states famous for their textile heritage and the amazingly talented craftsmen and women living there who are still creating beautiful pieces of art, preserving their traditions and their way of life. Embroidery, dyeing, printing, weaving, pottery, wood turning, metalwork. We saw it all. And it was a joy to be able to spend time learning about their skills and trying my hand at them, skillfully guided by such talented people. The tour took us to places most tourists don’t get to experience, and every day became a new adventure. The two Susans who are retreat|recreate have forged wonderful relationships with the people we visited and everywhere we went we were genuinely welcomed with smiles, great courtesy and of course cups of chai! So, if you want something more than a tour that just whisks you around the usual tourist spots and you enjoy travel that is ‘up close and personal’ then this is the tour for you. It delivers in the most unexpected and delightful ways. Anita – India 2020
This was my second time as a solo traveller travelling with retreat|recreate. The tour organisers, tour guides, fellow travellers, accommodation, itinerary, food, workshops and experiences were even better than I could ever have hoped for. If you’re thinking about traveling through India you will not be disappointed with retreat|recreate. Looking forward to trip number 3! Marianne – India 2020 (and Bali 2019)
A wonderful trip: I just completed the India tour. The itinerary was a mix of must-see points of interest – like the Great Rann desert and the Rani ki Vav stepwell – and delights for textile artists including museums, demonstrations, and workshops. My best memories though are the personal interactions within our group and with the people we met. The artist’s relationships with Susan and our local guides made us welcome guests, sometimes even in their homes. Thank you Susan, Susan, and Anant for keeping us organized, safe, and happy and for your warm caring nature. Susan – India 2020
India is a country with a rich and ancient textile tradition. It was wonderful to be able to experience many of these crafts first hand with local artisans in small villages. retreat|recreate leads an amazing tour which delves deep into textiles but also includes key cultural sites. As a designer I have admired and referenced the beautiful fabrics of India for decades but this trip has taught me the origins of these handcrafts. I look forward to exploring another part of the world with retreat|recreate. Katherine – India 2020