[ SANDCASTLE SHOPPING ] Jaisalmer Fort, India

For the past couple of days I've been literally roasting in the Thar Desert in the far and distant city of Jaisalmer. Like a giant sandcastle, Jaisalmer's fort rises above the sandy coloured city like something from an epic. If adventure if what you seek, Jaisalmer is the place, the place to plod through the desert on a camel before camping up for the night on the sand dunes, under the stars with a cup of chai to sooth your weary camel strained legs. But adventures aside, with all these camels plodding about (and cows of course being redundant), there is no better place to pick up some camel leather accessories (sorry vegetarians!). Here's a few I picked up inside the fort, adorned with brightly coloured embroidered patterns, they please my ethnic sense of style greatly. I just hope a few certain people forgot to be supportive followers today, otherwise they'll find out what's coming at them through the post...



[ JUTTI, JUTTI! ] Jodphur

India, Rajasthan shopping, wandering style, leather pixie shoes, embroidered pumps india
jutti jodhpur, india, artisan, ethnic shoes, wandering style

jutti shoes, indian handmade shows, embroidered ethnic shoes, aladin shoes, street stall india, rajasthan shopping

Shoes! Glorious shoes, everywhere! I've now decided that Jodhpur is my new favorite Indian city. I came across this (thankfully unmanned - and therefore devoid of pushy sales person) stall tucked away at the far end of Tambaku Bazaar, crammed full of line after line of colour-saturated, finely embroidered camel leather jutti and mojaris. Jutti are traditional, ethnic Indian footwear, mostly popular in the north. Easily identifiable by their curled up toes and often high rise ankle pieces, they were originally designed to be worn by royalty and would have been heavily embroidered with real gold and silver threads and decorated with precious gems and pearls. Most of the shoes pictured above are more akin to the flat backed mojari style - like sandals - a little more practical in a land where taking your shoes off at every doorway is imperative!



[ TYING TURBANS ] Colours of Rajasthan

rajasthan, ethnic style, wandering threads, traditional culture, turban meaning, colour symbolism

rajasthan turban, ethnic style, traditional costume india, turban meaning, colour symbolism india

orange turban, indian turban colour symbolism, indian waiters, wandering style

Apparently (as I should really have already guessed in India, a land of spirituality and symbolism, the dazzling colours of Rajasthani dress are not always worn solely for aesthetic purposes. For example, turban (safas, paags or pagris) colour may differ depending on caste, religion, origin or occasion, as with way a turban is tied.  So (with a little help from ‘The Book’ –aka Lonely Planet- here’s a little colour chart for you all to use when studying my numerous photos of Hindu Rajasthani inhabitants, as seen in the examples above and:

Worn by


Rajputs (NW Rulers/ warriors)

Brahmins (priests & scholars)
Dalits (formerly Untouchables)
Multi coloured turbans
White + certain shades of green and blue 
Hindu men and widows

Working class or farmers
Sadness, morning 

Origin/caste or 
Connection to the divine 
Red + yellow sari
Birth of a son

NB: the Caste system is not recognized by the Indian constitution although in many areas its significance still remains part of daily life.



[ BEAUTIFUL BANGLES ] Jodhpur, India

Jodhpur, iNDIA, bangles, jewellery, rajasthan, 50mm 1.4, canon lens

Last night I arrived in Jodhpur, the blue city, ready for some serious fort viewing up at Mehrangarh which towers over the city reminding all of Jodhpurs epic and bloodthirsty past. I did not, however, expect Jodhpur to be one of my favorite shopping destinations in Rajasthan, nor did I expect to see thousands of bangles filling market stalls and bazaars, I thought this was a job for Jaipur, the so called 'jewellery city'.  Stacked high in brightly colour coordinated columns, complete with light reflecting glittered surfaces, hand painted patterns and diamonte embellishments, the mélange of choice is astounding and so are the materials. Choose from clear plastic or resin in rainbow shades of luminous colour or lightweight, shiny, ridged metallics at the cheaper city market stalls. Whilst slightly up market bazaars will sell you carved wooden types (not so popular with the colour obsessed Indians), glass, bone, or for the deep pocketed shoppers there's always the option of gold and silver inlaid with precious or semi precious stones. Evidently, there's a great demand for these jingly-jangly wrist adornments throughout India, so if you're interested to read more about the symbolism behind bangle wearing just click here.


[ TURBANS & TUNES ] Udaipur, India

For the past two days I’ve feeling a bit sorry for myself having been bed ridden by dreaded Indian diseases (aka food/water poisoning of sorts) in my hotel in Jaipur. A couple of packets of antibiotics later and I’m up and about again and this time I’m posting from the lovely* lake city of Udaipur. I thought everyone might like to hear a little bit of traditional Rajasthani culture, so I’m bringing you a bit of 4D India with this rural man in a turban playing a musical instrument. Sorry, it’s actually called a Sarangi: ‘bowed musical instrument about two feet high, with three or four main strings and up to thirty-five sympathetic strings’ (thanks Apple Dictionary). Check out his awesome multi-coloured turban (or safa) and his jewellery-selling wife’s heavily embellished Rajasthani costume.

Rajasthani Music Man from Wandering Threads on Vimeo.

*(When I use this word in India it must be taken, somewhat, with a pinch of salt as ‘lovely’ is often somewhat tinged with a corner-of-the-eye combo of rubbish pile topped with cow excrement. That’s unless you are viewing from the £200 + a night widow of a luxury suite or air conditioned, chauffeur driven car. Not to put you off or anything. 



[ THE PINK CITY OF JAIPUR ] Day 2: Village Textiles

Upon a little site seeing tour by one, unsurprisingly, not-so-grateful-for-a-tip rickshaw driver, we happened upon one of many local, small scale block printing textile factories. This one, owned by Mr. Viod Kumar has been aptly named Village Textiles due to its work with local rural inhabitants (the women, I am told, traditionally work from home whilst the men work on site). Mr Kumar was nice enough to give me a tour of the vicinity, inclusive of loom weaving, stitching, machine work, a rather ad hoc dying yard and, as seen below, a demonstration of hand block printing. Apparently they make pieces for various UK companies such as Monsoon, as well as many other European and Australian labels.


[ THE PINK CITY OF JAIPUR ] Day 1: Palace Markets

Everyone knows a magnificently beautiful, culturally significant or historically important monument or building comes accompanied, de facto, by an abundance of tourist targeted market stalls, souvenir shops and bustling bazaars. Jaipur and, well, the rest of India, is no different. Thing is, in this country, and with my limited budget, I’m a bit of a sucker for these. What can I say? They are cheap, full of bright, bold, ethnic goodies such as embroidered bags and wall hangings, woven shawls, wooden puppets, block-printed multi-purpose cotton fabrics and of course the token draw string, printed maxi skirts  (lehanga) and embellished kameez and kaftans.  I was drawn to this particular stall with all its patterns and prints contrasting against the crumbling, honey-coloured walls of Jaipur’s City Palace. With a little bit of typical Indian ingenuity this guy has expanded out of his little hole in the wall using the washing line technique and a few trusty Coca Cola crates as display stands. Just to put your minds at rest I can safely say that I fell only into the trap of aesthetics and saved my 1000 rupee a day budget for a little later…



[HAPPY HAMPI ] Day 1: The Gypsies

gypsy stall, Hampi, Indian lady, tribal jewellery

Having arrived in Hampi, Karnataka after another sleepless overnight bus (which I have to admit was more like riding a 7 hour roller coaster), I am happy to report my love for India has once again returned (spending 2 months in a pollution-ridden city being hauled around by con men rickshaw drivers will dampen the spirits of any well traveled foreigner). After a day-long bicycle ride around the sites bewitching yet somewhat forsaken landscape of Tomb Raider style temples, giant boulders and towering palm groves, I happened upon some rather interesting figures. It seems the gypsies have arrived in Hampi in all their mirror-worked, embroidered and bell-jangling glory. For these ladies, less definitely is not more. 

wandering style, Indian gypsy stall, Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi gyspy stall, embroidery Hampi, wandering style, ethnic style, travel photography
gypsy seller, Hampi, Karnataka, India, tribal fashion


[ STITCH, DYE, WEAVE ] Namrata Shah

2 Up 2 Down, Namrata Shah, Indian textile designer, ethnic lucury, indian fabrics, embroidery, tie dye, silk

Namrata Shah, Indian textile designer, ethnic luxury, indian sari, silk fabrics, handmade textiles, 2 Up 2 Down, Namrata Shah, silk print, dye

Today I was fortunate enough to be invited on a little day trip to the workplace of Bangalore textile designer Namrata Shah. Set amongst almost 350 coconut tress, and a multitude of other exotic home grown fruit trees, Namrata’s ‘farm’ as she refers to it, is a calming retreat away from the polluted craziness of Bangalore.
Whilst taking some photos for her new website Namrata started to explain to me how her textile business 2 Up 2 Down works. There’s far too much interesting stuff to write in such a small space so with Namrata’s cooperation I'm putting together a short video interview using some of the footage from today's venture, which I shall be posting as soon as I find a city with enough bandwidth to upload it! In the mean time feast your eyes upon some of 2 Up 2 Down’s beautiful, vibrant fabrics: hand embroidered shawls, silk sari’s and tie dyed scarves. 


[ WHEN IN INDIA…] Watch Gandhi

Last night during some much needed downtime after my long and exhausting mini break in Mysore, there was nothing more welcome than the thought of bedding down in my Bangalore hotel room with my laptop and a good film. Not taking my stay India for granted I opted for a little bit of passive learning with Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982). Over 3 hours long, it was epic, to say the least. Detailing the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (aka Mahatma Ghandi (1869–1948)) from his early demonstrations against the segregation of Indians in East Africa to his fight for India’s Independence and finally his assassination in 1948, the film is most definitely a must see for anyone traveling or eager to learn about India’s turbulent past. For textile enthusiasts, pay special attention to Gandhi’s (played by Ben Kingsley) indoctrination of the Khadi fabric which played an important part in India’s rejection of British rule. More on that one later…! 


[ I SAW IN MYSORE ] Day 3: Silk & Sandalwood

Famous for its production of premium silk, sandalwood and incense, I couldn’t leave Mysore without a little investigating into the cities time honored traditions. The Government Silk Factory is not just open but free (!!) for visitors to walk around at their leisure! You’ll have to bat your eyelids with the guards at the entrance if you want to keep hold of your very expensive Canon camera (promising of course not to take photos – this time I didn’t risk it, they had guns…). It’s a noisy but extremely fascinating insight into the production of a silk sari, if you’re a bit of a textile enthusiast. You can see the entire process from the twisting of the silk strands from the cocoon (8 whole cocoons for one single thread!), to the soaking, drying, dying, bobbin threading, and finally the machinated weaving on of the design on the looms. The enormity (not to mention the health and safety) of the mass scale production is bewildering but I was lucky enough to have some one-on-one demonstrations by a few of the weary workers (who I think may have been glad for the distraction), not that I could hear a word of what they were saying. 

The Government Sandalwood Oil Factory just down the road is much calmer, if not a little less stimulating a visit. A free (!) guided tour and explanation of the process is provided here and the employees actually refused my tip! Pick up a little sample of guaranteed 100% pure sandalwood oil here. I have to say I passed on this as at 650 Rs (£9.30 approx) for 5ml it doesn’t exactly fit into my idea of a traveler's budget.


[ I SAW IN MYSORE ] Day 2: Tales of Indian Folklore

Set in Mysore University’s sprawling semi-rural campus, the Jayalakshmi Vila's Complex Museum houses a huge collection of traditional Indian folklore items. From leather shadow puppets, rural ceremonial costumes, giant effigies and ritualistic instruments, the museum is a must see if, like me, the sight of a 10 headed wooden puppet depicting the demon Ravana floats your culturally weighted boat. Beware of the autocratic staff who insist on the deposit of your most prized (and most-likely-to-to-be-nicked) Canon possessions. Just tell them you’re a foreigner and that suspicious looking device is nothing more than an innocuous iPod and sneak some photos when no one’s looking (once again) – English blogger in India stylie.


[ I SAW IN MYSORE ] Prints & Patterns at Mysore Palace


This weekend I'm taking a break from big, busy, bustling Bangalore and my current work with VIA Design to venture a little southward to the city of Mysore. Famous for it's silk sari's, sandalwood oil and the supremely sweet local confectionery, Mysore Pak. On top of all this, Mysore has a spectacular palace, said to rival those of Rajasthan (the Land of the Kings). Bursting with brightly coloured floor tiles, almighty hand-carved doors, period paintings, crystal chandeliers and domed, stained glass ceilings it's one awe inspiring sight for artists, designers, architects and heritage lovers everywhere. You'll have to excuse the quality of some of the images...in true India style, photography was not permitted inside the palace, yet it seemed iPhone's were...

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