There were also exquisite paintings depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata on the walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, the 2001 temblor brought the village down and most of what was salvaged was sold in scraps.
Now, the present generation of these craftsmen neither has the inclination nor the skill to rebuild the village. Though the entire village has been rebuilt, it is sans any art work.
The place may now have sturdier houses, bigger school, a new chabutara to house the pigeons and 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply because of the jyotigram scheme, but the village, one of the 18 of the ‘mistry gams’ or craftsmen villages scattered in Anjar and Mundra Talukas, has now nothing to show that it was once the home to some of Kutch’s finest artisans.
The scenario is no different in Kookma, Madhapar, Deoria, Khamara and the other craftsmen villages of the region. While the younger generation prefers jobs in factories, the skills the mistris, as they are called, are all but dead and gone.
Jayantibhai Chavda, retired headmaster of the primary school in Sinougra, says, “Now, there are mistris only for name. The craftsmanship that was done 50 to hundred years ago cannot be found now. The young people don’t want to take up this profession. It requires a lot of hard work and patience to acquire these skills. Moreover, they are getting better paid jobs at Kandla and Mundra ports easily.”
When the 1948 earthquake destroyed the village, its residents from East Africa to Kolkata rebuilt it with care, making the walls, facades, the jharokhas of the houses — the entire architecture was some of the finest repository of their ancestral skills. But the post-2001 quake years did not witness any such painstaking effort.
Navin Shivji Chauhan, who comes from a long line of master craftsmen, says, “The skills that my great grandfather and my grandfather had cannot be found now. The people of the village can be found all over the country and even abroad, and many of them are rich too. But our artistic heritage has gone.”
Pramod Jethi, curator of the Aina Mahal Trust Museum, Bhuj and an authority on Kutchi art says, “People from Sinougra were working in the construction of the Howrah Bridge. In fact, many Victorian buildings in Kolkata have been built by the karigars (artisans) of the region.”
The mistris are said to be originally from Saurasthra region, who migrated to Kutch, which offered better opportunity to artisans because of the patronage of the Jadeja rulers.