Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TERA – A HERITAGE VILLAGE OF KUTCH




















Tera is a charming heritage village located in the remote Abdasa Taluka of Kutch. The village has a history of over five hundred years old.

During my recent visit to Kutch I entered Tera through a large square – the main hub for meeting and chatting by the villagers. Besides the square I saw a century old banyan tree with seating arrangement and an Ashoka Stambh with stone railing. Behind the stone wall lay an imposing fort wall with strategically built gates. Once a Rajwadu village, Tera has been home to diverse communities – Bhanushali, Koli, Harijan, Parghi, Muslim, Jain, Luhana, Rajput and Brahmin. Some of these are known for entrepreneurial activities. Though farming is the main occupation of the village, the craft of bandhani (tie – and – dye) is also a major form of livelihood of many families.

Tera is located near the Nalia grassland, a fragile eco zone near the Gulf of Kutch and is the habitat for the highly endangered bird species – the Great Indian Bustard. The nearby throne forest also harbours animals such as chinkara, chital, nilgai, jackal, wolf and hyena.

Tera is also an important pilgrimage place for Hindus, Jains and Muslims. About 40 to 50, 000 Jain pilgrims visit Tera every year to see the splendid Shamlaji Parshwanathji Jain derasar. The temple is a remarkable one for its sculptures and the glass paintings. Some of the havelis are also remarkable showing strong European influence yet possessing most of the vernacular features.

According to a popular belief, the village was called Tera because it was sold for tera (thirteen) thousand koris. Some others believe that Tera has been derived from the word ‘Tretera’ – its geographical positioning on the confluence of three lakes.

Tera was founded by the ancestry of Jadeja and Sumara Kings, the Bhayat rulers of Kutch about 500 years ago. Most of the present structures were however built by Rao Deshalji (1819 – 60). He had also granted Tera as a jagir of 50 villages.

The darbargarh is situated in the north of the village. Its strong and massive structure is symbolic of the authority and power of the local rulers. The unique fresco in the palace, based on epic Ramayana are outstanding specimens of the rich heritage of Kutchi art.

The unique feature of Tera is however its three manmade lakes. Their interlinking is a fascinating work of engineering and water management, and is a remarkable example of traditional knowledge of water conservation and management.

Tera is also known for attaining its status as the first heritage village of Gujarat through the initiative of the village gram panchayat and Tera Gram Vikas Parishad, making it unique and an eye opener for the others to follow.