Thirumalayampalayam department of costume design and fashion study material

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Social threads of embroidery

As in many traditional societies, Rajasthani women lead somewhat restricted lives. With the exception of a few pastoral and tribal communities, their interactions are usually limited to the confines of their homes and villages. Embroidery, thus, becomes the expression of a woman`s artistic temperament. In fact, activities focused within the household have led to development of a variety of arts and crafts. Often leisure time activities, after the daily chores are done, around the home, in the fields and any other area that falls within their domain. It is then that the needles come out and ply busily until sundown.

Thus, embroidery of Rajasthan becomes the expression of girls, who usually never learn to read or write. These young artists begin their training at the early age of seven or eight, thus learning to create exquisite patterns on plain fabric. Initially working on simple designs, they gradually master their skills, acquiring the daintiness and refinement of accomplished needlewomen. They work as apprentices to their mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunts, who pass on to them designs, patterns and a heritage that has evolved over the centuries. A wide variety of techniques are used in the embroidery of costumes and textiles. Some of the popular styles are, among others, metal embroidery, gota work, and sufbharat.
Embroideries of rajasthan can be grouped as Folk, Religious and court embroideries
1. Folk embroideries-

Also known as Bharat Kaan, means filling work. The main stitches employed in folk embroideries are:

a. Mochi Bharat
Mochi Bhara is a chain stitch prevalent in Barmer district .The cobblers prepare leather footwear by chain stitch and expertise in decorating these goods with embroideries which gradually evolved into the textile decoration. Hand –spun and hand woven khaddar is the base material for the articles. Coarser fabric is used for having ghagras and cholies and finer and lighter variety for odhanies .The base colors were blue, red and black. Green color is very rarely used as a base .Embroidery is worked with either cotton or silk untwisted thread called ‘Pat’, dyed. The colour of the thread is yellow, red, orange and purple were used in little quantities.

The needle used for Moch Bharat is Called Ari or Katharni, Which is very fine awl, having a small notch just above the point to form hook.The main motifs come from bird, animal and, floral kingdoms

b. Heer Bharat

Heer Bharat is embroidery where design is filled with thread work. This filling is done either by button hole stitch or long and short (double satin) stitch.

The art is very much smillar of the embroidery of Kutch and Kathiawar on one side and Haryana in the other. The Jats, the migratory tribe of central Asia (who came to India) were responsible for developing this embroidery.This filling is done on Han-spun hand woven as well as medium weight cotton and woolen clothes. The base colors are blue red and a blend of both, brown. Embroidery is done with cotton woolen or untwisted silk floss of various color combinations white, black, red, green yellow, blue, pink and purple. Mirrors of various size and shapes are used with the Heer Bharat. Geometrical motifs are common; however stylized birds are also seen.

c. Appliqué Work

Marwari community of Rajasthan traditionally engaged in Appliqué art. The work is similar to the path work of Kathiawar the ‘Katab’.

For this mill made medium weight white cotton cloth forms the base on which Patches of various tints ,shades ,sizes and shapes are arranged in a pictorial pattern later trimmed, slip stitched ,whipped sometimes and finished with running stitch and button hole. Now commercialized the art has been prevalent in Jaipur Udaipur and Barmer district.

d.Jaiselmer Applique work

The quilts made by patchwork known as ‘Ralli’are the traditional product of Jaisalmer. The quilt is made by sewing several layers of old fabrics,where the upper most layer being made of new cotton cloth.

The colors used for patch work are olive green, brown, maroon and black. The corners are decorated with tassels of either cotton or silk and Sequins called ‘Phuladi’ .Naval cholies, saddle cloth, bed spreads, cushion covers and purses are some of the products decorated by Jaisalmer Appliqué art.

e. Moti Bharat

Moti bharat is an art of Jalor district of Rajasthan. This work is not done on the fabric. The opaque white beads form the base on which the transparent beads are worked by stringing them together in various shapes and forms of birds, animals, human figures and other articles of day to day life,

Traditionally blue, green yellow and red colored beads were commonly used. Now wide range of coloured beads is available locally for the craftsmen to make use of. Stylized human figures, geometrical designs, glimpses of daily life, horse and camel riders, elephant with haudha, horse with carriage, the famous love legend of local hero Dhola and his lover Maru are the designs repeatedly used. Various articles like, Purse, cap, toran. Play articles, cradle decoration, showpieces are prepared by Moti Bhat.

f. The sujani work

The sujani work of eastern Rajasthan is of a very fine quality and is inspired by the original suzani art of Biihar and Kanth of Bengal. An old cloth is folded three or four times and stitched together and new cloth is then attached over it for doing chain and running stitch embroidery of creepers and flowers, and sometimes of sakhi or peacock design. The sujani style of embroidery is used for winter wear, also especially for making sadaris (jackets). Embroidery is also done in south Rajasthan where chain-stitch on leather has gained a name for itself. In earlier times, this work was done on scabbards, shield-cushions, and on covers for gun-powder bags

Different communities of Rajasthan have their own style of embroidery. Some of them are:

g. Meo Embroidery

The Meos of Alwar has again their unique style of embroidering a rich pattern with chain stitch in contrasting colours and the body is roofed with the `phulkar bagh` stich. Dancing figures, Flowers and peacocks are the favorite motifs. The base material is Khaddar, handspun & hand woven and the embroidery is generally done on long skirts locally called Ghagras and mantles or odhanis.

The main stitches used are chain and darning and thread employed is silk floss.the background is worked with darning stitches with golden yellow color and the motifs are worked in either white or black colors by chain stitch .green ,red and purple color are sparsely used.

Uniqueness of Meo embroidery lies in the balanced effect of geometrical forms with circular movements. The swirling effect is produced by using darn stitch along with chain stitch.The embroidery is done on dresses, footwear, cloak draped over the oxen and so on.

2. Religious embroidery

a. Pichwai embroidery

In the temples of Rajasthan, a cloth hanging named the `pichwai of Nathdwara` can be found, which is also very nicely embroidered. In some cases, the embroidery is done with golden threads to highlight the design. Generally, the pichwai has red cotton background and the stitches are in cream, green, yellow and black, while the white colour is used for the outlines. The motifs of tree, birds and animals are generally embroidered on their skirts (ghagras).

The traditional pichwai is done on colored cotton ,satin or velvet varied seaso wise,as such summer and winter respectively.The motifs are wide variety picked up from nature ,animals,like cows,calves,fish,birds like parrot.peocock,garda.fruits like kalka,flowers like lotus and above all human ganesh,hanuman,Surya.The traditional Pichwai has Shree nath ji with his dark blue face surrounded by his play mates ,cows under ever green tree.this colorfull embroidery has black outline. Some times gold and silver threads are alwys use to rnglighten the structural unit oh the motif.The pilgrims get Pichwai orderd where the devotee himself gives out line of the design and the actual embroidery is done by Mochi,Gold and silver workers.Darker shades like green & red,red,green orange and yellow are commonly made of.

In few case Pichwai are also made of Applique work,where the basic material is inveiably red in color,whte cord for emphasizing out line and cream,green, yellow and black in needlie work.

b. Jain embroidery

Jain occupies the main trading population of Rajasthan where Jain temples at Dilwara and rankpur are very famous.The orign of the jain embroidery goes back sixteenth century.

The base material being Satin & blue red or violet in color some time the rich looking soft velvet is also used. Basic stitches comprised of stem, satin and chain and worked with silk floss of blue, green, yellow and white colors, along with little combination of silver thread, to add to the luster.

The basic concept of jain Philosophy has been pictured on these articles along with floral motifs ,the main ones are Mandala, depicts jain beliefs& shows different parts in heaven where various gods and goddesses live, Adivipa are representation of cosmology, which depicts universe, as the mangla or astha mangalika implies at suspicious projects, related to eight jain Tirhankers. There was great influence of court embroideries during eighteenth and nineteenth century which is evident on some of the article where human figures have been dressed similar to court people.

3. Court embroidery

This style of embroidery starts with the Mugals and spreaded to the courts of various states like Rajasthan where Jaipur and Jodhpur.

a. Gota Work

The metal embroidery of Rajasthan is known as Gotta work. The embroiderers of Jaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer, Udaipur and Kota are world famous for their uniquely styled gota work. Gota is a band of gold or silver ribbon of that varies with width, woven in a satin weave. The gold embroidery of Jaipur, known as gota-work, is intricate.

In Real Gota, Silver & Gold metals are used. But in routine, the base metal is copper, coated by Silver etc. Now the copper has been replaced by Polyester film which is metalized & coated as per requirements. This has resulted in better quality at lower cost. This Plastic Gota (as it is popularly known) has good resistance to moisture & does not tarnish as compared to metal-based Gota.

The raw material comprised of a yarn of silver polished with gold and passed under 10 Calendars to make into fine strand called "Kasab" and further drawn under a calendar to give it a flattened effect known as "Badla". The motifs used are animals, birds, flowers and human figures.

b. Zardozi or Zari work

Zardozi or Zari or kalabattu is an embroidery work done in metal wires. Jaipur, Ajmer, Tonk and Jodhpur are important centres for zari work in Rajasthan. Zardozi is a more elaborate version of zari which involves the use of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, gota and kinari.The art of this embroidery is mostly passed on from father to son where certain skills are taught with utmost secrecy.

The fabric on which the work has to be done is first mounted on a wooden frame called adda, which bears a close resemblance to the Indian charpai or bed. The chhapai or tracing of the design to be embroidered is then transferred on the fabric with neel or chalk powder. Then the embroidered starts.

We can broadly categories the zari handwork in four categories (a) Dapka (b) Salma or nakshi (c) Arri work (d) Badla work


Dapka is a very detailed type of needle work which is done after the fabric has been put on the adda and chhapai is completed.

At least three to four worker workers are required for a detailed and fine work at the same time on the same piece. First a thick cotton cord is stitched on the pattern to be embroidered. Then on this cord prefabricated zari thread is looped on with an ordinary stitching needle. The patterns mostly made are of flowers, leaves, or the national bird of India – the Peacock.

Salma or nakshi
Salma or nakshi is cheaper than dapka and considered slightly less exquisite than dapka by some. But a wedding skirt or lehanga or odhani or mantle cannot be complete without nakshi as it shines much more than dapka. Nakshi puts life in the art work. This form of embroidery is also done by using prefabricated golden thread on the chhapai.
At first the design is traced on the material with the help of oil and ink. The work commences from exterior to interior that is the outline of the motif is worked with the twisted metallic wire gigai, followed by filling with twisted circular metallic wire, the Salma. For fixing the accessories, back, running, chain, couching stitching stitch is employed. Meenakari the enamel effect is bought about combining Salma work with appliqué and other hand stitchery, which is an exclusive work of menfolk. The motif s comprised of either floral or geometrical and are popular with distinctive names like Ganga-jamuna(blend of gold and silver thread),jamavar(overall elaborate trellised pattern)Bel(trellised border), Hazar butas (fine work with glittering thousands butties),Katao kibel(scalloped trellis borde)and so on.
Arri work
Arri work is a more delicate form of embroidery. It is done with both colored and golden thread. The thread is put on the tip of a pen-like needle which is passed through the cloth giving chain-stitch-like impressions.

Badla work
In this work, metal ingots are melted and pressed through perforated steel sheets to convert into wires. They are then hammered to the required thinness. Plain wire is called badla, and when wound round a thread, it is called kasav. Smaller spangles are called sitara and tiny dots made of badla are called mukaish.
Rajasthan is also popular for `karchobi`, a form of zari metallic thread embroidery done with needle. This kind of embroidery is done by flat stitches on cotton stuffing and can be found on bridal and formal costumes. This is also seen on velvet coverings, curtains, tent hangings and the coverings of animal carts and temple chariots

  1. EXPLAIN BRIEFLY ABOUT THE Traditional embroideries of India – Origin, Embroidery stitches, types and colours of fabric /thread used

  • embroidery of Kashmir ,

  • Phulkari of Punjab ,

  • Gujarat -Kutch and Kathiawar,

  • Kasuti of Karnataka ,

  • Chickenwork of Lucknow,

  • Kantha of Bengal

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