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Pranpur: The India That Rejoices in its crafts.

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As we drive into the heart of India, dubbed Madhya Pradesh, I awake my sleepy self to the sight of the Betwa River, a beautiful expanse of clear water vigorously flowing through a dam. I am suddenly kicked about venturing into an India that is far off the tourist circuit; Spiti & Hegdenagar feel like a long time ago.

My notion that this landlocked state will be devoid of much greenery is dispelled ten minutes past the Uttar Pradesh border. We cross large plots of land growing their own wilderness, and Pranpur, a little village just south of Jhansi, throws us a cozy green welcome. I immediately delight in the absence of crowds, and the pace of passers-by. Unlike other rural parts of India I’ve been to, however, the locals do not seem inquisitive about seeing us walk their streets. That is not to say that they are not welcoming; each time we try to peep inside a village hut, we get invited in and offered tea & food.

Chanderi silk, Pranpur, Madhya pradesh, india, offbeat travel

Men sort layers of Chanderi Silk in open air in the fields of Pranpur.

As we stroll through the two-ish kilometer squares of Pranpur, my friend from the village points to me the three communities that inhabit it. Baboo-da, a 60-something frail man represents the potters; their women make mud utensils (which they use for cooking) and small figurines of gods & goddesses, while the men make bigger festive murals. When I ask him why men don’t make utensils, he smiles broadly to reveal his three teeth, and shyly says it’s the women’s forte.

Potter, pranpur, madhya pradesh, india, offbeat, village, rural india

Potter Bhaiya Lal displays the mud mural he has made for the upcoming Dusherra celebrations.

Potter, pranpur, madhya pradesh, india, offbeat, village, rural india

Baboo-da's wife displays her mud utensil and Ganesha figurine. She proudly claims that the food made on mud utensils tastes much better!

We walk past a traditional step well, locally called a baoli, where kids splash about in the water. The lack of excitement to see foreign faces is affirmed by the children, who don’t watch us curiously or wave to us. Their indifference makes me wonder whether they’ve ever met people from outside of their little village, because it couldn’t possibly be the other end of the spectrum; I see no non-local faces during my weekend visit.

Pranpur, step well, baoli, Madhya Pradesh, rural india, indian village, india, offbeat travel

A traditional step well (baoli), made such that people can step down to the surface of the water to fill their buckets.

A little deeper into the village, I constantly hear clicketty-clack sounds. I can sneak a peak into each household we cross, through its open doors, and soon realize that the sounds belong to the looms of the weavers. I meet men and women, young and old, weaving Chanderi Silk saris in different styles, colors and designs. Randhir Kohli, revered as a master of weaving, invites me to try my hand at the loom. His experienced hands make the intricate work seem so easy that my clumsiness surprises me!

Perhaps if Pranpur was in another country, it would’ve been a hotspot for the talent it homes within its narrow borders. But India is peculiar that way; people (women) all over the country are heavy buyers of Chanderi Silk saris, an expensive variety of the traditional Indian costume, but few know that it is weaved & loomed in the forgotten village of Pranpur, where weavers are barely compensated for the days that go into the making of a single sari. I was guilty of that ignorance until a month ago.

weaver, looms, pranpur, madhya pradesh, chanderi silk, sari making, rural india

Weaving in progress.

The last of the village communities has reduced to two households; that of metal craftsmen. The head of the household greets us with a warm smile, but the sadness in his eyes reflects the state of his business. I look closely at his finished ornaments and instantly draw a parallel to some antiques I’ve seen in a museum in the nearby town of Chanderi. I wonder if his work will be admired only long after our generation is gone…

Pranpur, metal craft, madhya pradesh, village india, rural india

Wax, mud & metal moulded to form this metal ornament.

Pranpur gives me my first insight into an India that rejoices in its crafts. Hopefully some day, when the middlemen are all gone, I’ll be able to use the word “thrive” instead.

To book a trip to Pranpur, visit India Untravelled.

This post was featured on Britannica & Travel Another India.

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23 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a great adventure–thanks for sharing.

    September 7, 2011
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Patti!

      September 7, 2011
  2. Thank you for showing me a side of India I have not seen. I hope these people continue with their crafts. It would be even better if they were being paid a reasonable price for their talent.

    September 7, 2011
    • I’m still exploring this side too :) Hope to show you much more of it in future posts!

      September 7, 2011
  3. Way to highlight local craftsmanship and a reminder of the skilled work that goes into every piece, no matter what it is. It’s a good reminder for us travelers to pay what it’s worth!
    And ps…i LOVE when random people invite me into their homes to eat delicious food!

    September 7, 2011
    • Yes, and to try and buy directly from the source of the craft. Oh yes, me too. And somehow the food tastes even better when a stranger has the heart to offer it so warmly :)

      September 7, 2011
  4. nice captures and lovely reading about this place.

    September 7, 2011
    • Thanks Kalyan, you should visit it sometime!

      September 12, 2011
  5. This is really nice! Are you visiting any other places in the state I grew up in? :)

    September 11, 2011
    • I know! Hmm, do you have any recommendations for me?

      September 12, 2011
      • I think it’s a case of Ghar ki murgi dal barabar for me.. haven’t been around MP much.. :(

        Although, now that I think hard about it, I’d recommend Maheshwar and Mandu – the former is a small town, with a really beautiful ghat on Narmada, the latter is a fortress town with some really interesting structures and history. Yes, would definitely recommend Mandu. Both of these are close to Indore. :)

        September 13, 2011
        • Thanks Abhijit! Noted for my next trip there, which I hope is soon :)

          September 13, 2011
  6. Elizabeth #

    A great read :) You should make all your blog posts and make a book titled – India, the less travelled’ or something like that :P And I’m sure that Baboo-da’s reply did not excite you very much? :P

    September 11, 2011
    • Thanks Liz! Haha, that’s the dream, but I need to travel loads more for that :)
      Oh well, I think Babooda’s reply was based more out of manliness than anti-feminism. Or maybe I’ve just started to make peace with patriarchal societies!

      September 12, 2011
  7. midaevalmaiden #

    Did you ever find out why the children were not curious about you?

    September 18, 2011
  8. I really enjoyed reading this :) Always loved meeting people and knowing the origin of stuff. You should consider adding directions to the place.

    September 30, 2011
  9. Hey Shivya – I saw this story at Clay and found that one can not comment so looked here for this story. Didn’t know about Pranpur though we had a good long session at a weaver’s village right in the heart of Chanderi. :-)

    We were on a driving trip of MP and after staying for a day at Madhav National Park (Shivpuri), we moved on to Chanderi and were blown away by the love and the craftsmanship. We bought quite a stuff but we had the same thoughts.

    Great story.

    October 8, 2011

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