Against the monochrome barren desert of Kutch, the colorful embroidered clothes of women, men and even beautiful embroidered adornments of cattle and camels is a vivid sight to cherish. It is a sign of life, culture and our beautiful heritage of embroidery crafts. Embroidery has been a tradition here since centuries.
Kutch Artisan, Kesar doing Suf embroidery for a potli bag
Hand embroideries have been practiced in as a form of self-expression and identity of the various ethnic communities, that have migrated and settled in Kutch from adjoining countries, since centuries now. Each community has its own style(s) of embroidery. There are about 50 styles of embroideries and research is being carried out to explore more to revive the beautiful embroidery crafts that are being lost over the years now, especially after the Bhuj earthquake in 2001. In earlier days, women used to do embroidery for personal consumption only, the embroidered clothes were part of the brides trousseau that she would painstakingly make for years to carry with her and also as gifts for the bridegrooms family and cattle. Every garment has a purpose and tradition associated with it, apart from embellishing it. Each style of embroidery has distinct combination of stitches, patterns, colors. motifs and rules for using them, shaped by historical, socio economic, cultural factors.We list a few popular ones here:
Suf or Soof
Suf is a painstaking embroidery based on the triangle, called Suf. Suf is counted on the warp and weft of the cloth in a surface satin stitch worked from the back. Motifs are never drawn beforehand. Artisan imagines her design and then counts it out in reverse! Skilled workmanship is required for understanding of geometry and keen eyesight to create these wonderful designs using only triangles.
Khaarek is a geometric style also counted and precise. In this style, the artisan works out the structure of geometric patterns with an outline of black squares, and then fills in the spaces with bands of satin stitching that are worked along the warp and weft from the front. Khaarek embroidery fills the entire fabric.
Rabaris are the nomadic community that are believed to have migrated from Sindh region in 14th century and brought their traditional style of embroidery and developed a composite style using other regional styles of Kutch mainly mochi embroidery. Use of mirrors of different shapes is essential to Rabari embroidery. They use fine chain stitch and cording and then decorate these with mirrors(abhlas) and accent stitches. Rabaris also use back stitching called Bakhiya to decorate their blouses and mens kediya(jackets).
Paako embroidery is practiced by Sodha Rajputs and Meghwar community. These communities migrated from Marwar, Rajasthan. It is done with a tight square chain and buttonhole stitch embroidery, often with black slanted satin stitch outlining. The motifs have embossed appearance and are primarily floral designs arranged in symmetrical patterns.
The Jat community of Kutch were said to be migrants from Persia through Baluchistan and settled since 12th century. Garasia Jat women embroidered an array of geometric patterns in counted work based on cross stitch tudded with tiny mirrors to completely fill the yokes of their churi, a long gown. The style is very unique to Kutch. The Jat embroidery looks like bead work.
This community is believed to have migrated from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and consider themselves to be the descendants of Lord Krishna. Ardent followers of Lord Krishna to date, their conversations are filled with references to Lord Krishna, as if he is around them. Ahir embroidery is quite intricate, they use chain stitch to design the pattern and herringbone stitch is used for packing the pattern. Generally, the patterns will be of peacocks, elephants, parrots and flowers. However, the use of mirrors is an essential part of this pattern motif.
The Kutch embroideries weave magic on the fabric by its sheer beauty, intricacy, finesse and variety of stitches that completely transform the fabric to something different. These are used to create garments, torans, bags, table runners, mats, napkins, coasters, bedcovers and many more products for modern consumption.