I often feel grateful for having travelled in the hinterlands of India as much or may be more than its urban counterparts. I feel at home in both worlds, may be a wee bit more in the hinterlands. What enhances this experience is having roots in interior North Karnataka (maternal side of the family) and Coastal Karnataka (paternal).
I recently visited my mother’s (paternal) ancestral home after almost a decade. This charming abode has been inhabited over the last 100 years and in all this time, only conservation work has been taken up. Absolutely no structural changes have been made. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate this quaint, simple yet stately home.
Snapshots of the interior and exterior of the home
A visit to the nearby Lambani settlement, gypsy folk, was going to be a first. My mother had been excitedly telling me about their folklore and most importantly their adornments – jewellery and embroidered trousseaus. Being adorned and bejewelled is their ‘way of life’.
Lambani’s are a nomadic tribe who hail from the North Western regions of India. They have been said to have dispersed to various States in India after the fall of the Rajputs in Rajasthan.
Legend has it that my great grandfather (a zamindar), granted a Taanda, or a settlement, for a group the Gypsy tribe when they first came to the hamlet in Chinmulgund, in interior North Karnataka.
As we drove up the settlement, it was not hard to miss the change that was sweeping over : most of the womenfolk, all of the young women, dressed either in salwar kameez or saris. Thankfully, a few elderly women still continue to dress in their traditional attire. And I got to meet them.
To say that their clothes are intricately embellished, would be an understatement. Each piece made by hand. One dress of a ghagra (skirt), blouse and chunni ( a long scarf-like fabric draped on the skirt and taken over the head) takes them almost 4-6 months to ready. All their trinkets, jewellery and adorments they pick up from an annual mela/flea market, that happens around the first week of May.
The Lambani women in their traditional attire and adornments
The waist-band, bundled and ready to be embroidered
Of sewing and embroidering
A lovely interpretation of the kaasin-sara, or the coin-necklace
An embroidered chunni or long scarf
Disparate elements beautifully brought together
Elements of Lambani dressing