Kotadiya is a small indian farming village situated in the Saurashtra province - or Kathiawar region - that builds the peninsular part of the indian state Gujarat. Kotadiyas population consists of around 500 people, most of them farmers who live in the village and who own and farm a plot of land in the vicinity. Kotadiya is a laid back and peaceful place and although the climatic conditions and hard manual labour are at times burdensome to the villagers, they are always showing a bright mood, great kindness, a fantastic sense of humour and cultivate a rich social life with celebrations at special occasions.
The people of Kotadiya speak Kathiawadi as their native Language (not to mix it up with Saurashtrien, which is spoken in a part of the Southindian state Tamil Nadu). Kathiawadi is a regional dialect of the official state language Gujarati and has no written form. So all writing is done in Gujarati, which not only sounds completely different from Hindi, but also has an altogether different script.
Watch the movie which we have compiled from video footage taken during our visit to Kotadiya in 2002 to get a visual impression and a feel for the place.
The Landscape consists of patches of fertile farmland between stretches of barren land and its terrain is rather flat - only in the distance one can spot a few hills. One could say that the beauty of the place is found in the small details which could easily escape the eye viewing the vastness of the scenery. Usually there blows an agreable breeze, but at times windspeed can increase to severe storms and challenge the land, like 1998, when a hurrican killed thousands of people along the coastal line and caused havoc. At that time Kotadiyas dwellings were severely damaged and many of the already sparing trees in the region were felled.
The houses used to be built from cobbles, which were collected from the fields or sometimes bricks that are available from the nearby town Khambhaliya. After stacking them to walls, they were covered with a mixture of mud, cowdung and chaff, which makes an excellent plaster, keeping the house cool in the hot summers and warm in the cool winters. Even the flooring was done in the same manner and both, cladding and floors were usually redone once a year after rains. This practice has mostly given way to the increasing use of cement available from the local market. As bricks are usually expensive and of poor quality and because walls from cobbles easily fall during heavy storms, they are nowadays substituted by ashlars of tuff, which are cut out from the terrain along the coastline and can be ordered by truckload.
The village is located in a semi arid climate and surface water is quite scarce. In monsoon a small lake near the village fills up and attracts all kinds of migrating birds. Siberian cranes, storks, flamingos, pelicans and many other species of waterflock are then populating the shallow waters, until the pond empties due to pumping water for irrigiation.
Drinking water is usually accessible only by the means of drawing it from an open well or from a borehole. Although a few houses now have their own well, many people still use the two community borewells that are equipped with handpumps. The water quality often varies between different borings and the water sometimes tastes a little salty, muddy or stale.
Traditional crops consist of peanuts, pulses, sesame, cotton, garlic, wheat and millets. Also the vegetables used for preparing the food are usually from own farming and are bartered between the villagers. There is a local miller who can mill the grains and cooking oil can be extracted from own peanuts in town.
The purely vegetarian Kathiawadi food tastes just great! A meal usually consists of an assortment of mildly or heavy spiced vegetable curries, pulses, buttermilk or yoghurt flavoured with ground cumin or fresh buffalo milk and the traditional Rotla (round flat breads) from Bajra and Jowar (two types of millets). Sometimes there is Kir (sweetened milkrice) or Sira (a sweet dish prepared from semolina or from sweet potatos). Gur (thickened sugar cane juice), Ghee (clarified butter), Makkan (fresh butter from curdled buffalo milk) and a Choice of Chutneys prepared from coriander or mint and of course the locally produced marvellous pickles from green mangoes or carrots enrich the meals.
The people of Kathiawar traditionally dress in distinguishing costumes. Men are wearing white baggy pants with very thight lower legs and a white jacket type vest or a white shirt. The head is usually covered either by a knitted woolen cap - even in the hot season - or by a piece of white cotton cloth wrapped around.
Another movie compiled from video footage taken during a visit to Kotadiya in 2005 showing some more of Kotadiya and a celebration for the local deity.
The women wear a traditional costume consisting of a wraparound skirt and a richly ornamented backless blouse with short sleeves and a scarf. A village women is usually decorated with heavy golden earrings and has her arms and throat area tattooed. The young generation however is abolishing this traditions and dresses in contemporary clothing. While the boys wear pants and shirt or T-shirt, the girls usually go in for punjabi khurta, which consists of a pant with a long top, or a saree.
Just ten years ago, this village had no access to electricity, no telephones, no TVs and no tractors. The farmers were tilling their fields using an oxplough and applying hard manual labour. However like all villages in India, Kotadiya is currently underoing big changes with the state of Gujarat being one of the fastest developing and highly industrialized economies in India.
Bathrooms have been completely unknown and just in recent times a few private bathrooms with septic tanks became available having an own bathroom is now becoming increasingly popular amongst villagers. The first bathroom was installed in the local ashram about 5 years ago and has inspired many people to follow the example.
Improved sanitation will definitely contribute to improved health. Also the new doctor on call who can reach the village within an hour has helped to improve health conditions. However, a grave sickness, a snakebyte or a serious injury cannot be treated in the village and has to be referred to one of the hospitals in Khambhaliya (20 Kms) or Jamnagar (70 Kms). In case of emergency this can be a very difficult task, as usually the only means of transportation available is the slow rickshaw by which the ride over the bad roads is a very rough one.
Developments during the past few years have contributed much to the improvement of living conditions in Kotadiya. The fast development however also calls for a change of habits: The proper disposal of non decomposing plastic litter and of empty containers of highly toxic agrochemicals that are carelessly dumped on the edge of the fields requires novel communal solutions.