There are more than 72 terracotta craft families in Gundiyali, Kutch (near Mandvi), from which about 25 families are engaged in the craft practice today. They practice the craft as a family, and also independently. Through the years, associations were developed with all the craftspeople of the community, information about whom are documented and presented through an extensive mapping process. A diverse type of product ranging from traditional pots to contemporary terracotta water bottles were also mapped.
Gundiyali is a village in Mandvi Taluka in the Kutch district of Gujarat State, India. It is located 60 km towards South from Bhuj and 6 km from rural Mandvi, located close to the Arabian sea. Mandvi was once a major port of the region and has a 400 year old shipbuilding industry, which was practiced by the Kharva community that still builds small wooden ships. The proximity of Gundiyali to the shore and a major trade route enabled export of the clay products in earlier times. A tight knit set of communities, Gundiyali has a lot of crafts practices including carpentry, pottery, textile crafts of tie-and-dye, and more. There is a blend of faiths in the area, with the Muslim community, Jain community and Hindu community together. The trades are often practiced amongst the members. The village is divided into various community zones.
A mosque between the cluster of small houses visible from a short distance marks the village of Gundiyali. On a usual day, people can be seen arranging matkas in open areas, preparing them to fire in open firing pits. The Kumbhar community of Gundiyali has been historically known for making matkas – earthen pots. These matkas are painted in red, white and black colours defining the local style and mark. Many craftspeople have also begun to innovate based on contemporary audiences, articulating craft practices into many different products other than matkas.
All clay craftsmen families are settled around one side of the village. Stories shared by potters show interlinkages between their religion and craft practices. Potters are said to be the descendants of the second son of Dhai Halima, who adopted Muhammad Paigambar. Gundiyali potters earn their living by selling products in local markets or to a fixed network of resellers around the nearby towns and villages. Majority of craftsmen are highly skilled and make matkas throughout the year. Some artisans are also making water bottles, cups, glass, lamps, plates, piggy banks or gullaks. Matkas were not only used as utensils but also used in many religious rituals and festivals, which has led to bringing together faith and their collective meaning.
Mandvi was once an active trade junction and one of the key ship building yards of India. The beach and bay area of Mandvi, in the past, was an ideal location which connected traders and travelers of Malabar Coast, the Persian Gulf, and East Africa. In 16th Sanctuary, Rao Khengarji, a Jadeja ruler, established the town of Mandvi and built a fort that surrounded the city. The early town had a wall, about eight meters high and 1.2 meters thick. Much of the wall has disappeared, but originally, it had many gateways and 25 bastions. One of the bastions is used as a lighthouse which is near Mandvi Beach.
During the colonial era, European powers controlled most of India’s main ports. Yet, kings of Kutch and the Port of Mandvi were well-respected by foreign traders, and even the Mughals, who used the port for pilgrimages to Mecca as well as for imports and exports. From the 1860s to 1900s series of natural disasters which destroyed the harvest in adjoining areas and massive disease outbreaks created a massive impact on the economic state of the town. Markets near the Mandvi ship docking yard still have old fabrication facilities running, a few ships can also be found getting built, while passing from Mandvi, by road. The ship industry of Mandvi is slowly fading out, but new and massive industrial ports have already been developed at Mundra and Kandla. Today, Mandvi town is mostly promoted as a tourism spot. Existing ship industry is small scale. Other small industries in and around Mandvi are fishing and handicrafts.
Mandvi has mix of Hindu, Jain and Muslim communities living together with many sub-ethnic groups. One can find a lot of mosques in and around Mandvi along with some old architecture. In 2010, the Government of Gujarat built a museum near the Mandvi beach in the memory of Late Shyamji Krishna Varma. The museum is dedicated to freedom fighters of India; it’s called Kranti Tirth. Mandvi also has many workshops, including those of carpenters, metal fabricators and collectors who store old furniture. There are places where local people visit like the Mandvi Beach, Azad Chowk, Bheed Bazar, Topansar Lake, Garden Area and market spaces. Small stalls can be found across Mandvi and Kutchh, selling delicious Dabeli. With a couple of beach sides, Mandvi also has become a sweet spot for many hospitality services, resorts and hotels. The best time to visit is between October to February, with the festivals of Diwali and Christmas during that time, along with the popular Rann Utsav festival in Kutch.