Embroidery Traditions of Gujarat
The western coastline belt of India comprising of Kutch and Saurashtra up to northern Gujarat and the western Rajasthan is one of the richest source of folk embroidery in the world.
- The Pastoral Women Living in the Desert Regions of India
- Embroidery, the Hereditary Traditions of Women from Gujarat and Rajasthan of India
- Gujarati Weddings and Embroidered Trousseau
- Women Embroider To Support The Family
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The Pastoral Women Living in the Desert Regions of India
Kutch, Saurashtra, and western Rajasthan are areas of arid scrub-land in India, occupied by small farmers. These farmers do not find work all round the year; their work is seasonal, being dependent on the monsoons for cultivation of their land and to provide pasture for their cattle and camels. Embroidery is the hereditary occupation of pastoral women in these areas.
Embroidery, the Hereditary Traditions of Women from Gujarat and Rajasthan of India
Costume in this desert regions of India is embellished with embroidery and mirror work and made as colorful as possible, and they provide a pleasing contrast to the generally dull shades of the surrounding desert landscape.
Gujarat's handicraft traditions have existed since centuries. Kutch is the embroidery center for Gujarat as it was once a part of the trade route between Central Asia and Far East. With the influx of ideas flowing from Iran and Central Asia, the handicrafts have assimilated diverse traditions and styles and maintained their distinct signatures as well.
Gujarati Weddings and Embroidered Trousseau
The women who weaved the enchanting colorful designs probably began as old as four or five, just when they were old enough to hold a needle, learning from their mothers or the older siblings. At first, they learn to make embroidered motifs to hang at the entrances of their homes and on their walls. Then they embroider their own dresses, and you can see the dresses the women wear are a riot of colors. Since it is customary for Gujarati bride to have exquisite hand embroidered ghagras, odhnis, quilts and house decoration articles as part of her trousseau, there is no dearth of embroidery work to be done for one's own home.
Marriage costumes, wall hangings, quilts, and furniture covers embroidered, appliquéd, decorated with bead work and embellished with mirrors, sequins, buttons and shells are some of items given to the bride at the time of marriage. The groom's family members also receive the exquisitely embroidered dresses.
Women Embroider To Support The Family
In the earlier days, the embroidered items were never sold and did not have much commercial importance. With time, the already hard life of farmers and other artisans became tougher, with their livelihoods falling prey to the burgeoning globalization and to recurring droughts.
The women realized their crafts could fetch them supplementary income during difficult and penurious circumstances. Several commercial fashion designers have stepped in to tap the commercial wealth hidden in the creations of these women. Many non-government organizations have helped to form cooperative societies that help women to procure materials and market the finished products.
NGO representatives interact with the clients and get their requirements. Thus new designs and products are introduced and the market for these products becomes wider. The benefits trickle down to the women and give them financial independence. Their young girls, encouraged by the mothers, complete the school education and get employed. Remember, the percentage of girls who have completed school education has been dismally low so far, but is improving every year.
The clothes embroidered by the women of Kutch and Kathiawar are popular throughout India, having been endorsed by several top fashion designers, and are becoming quite popular in Western countries as well.
With the rising number of urban women working outside home, the domestic demand for embroidered dresses have spiked up too. And weddings are not the only events when you see people sporting the colorfully embroidered clothes. At many religious festivals held at places of pilgrimage all over Rajasthan, Gujarat and Sind, it is common to find bards and musicians entertain the crowds. At such fairs, men and women lend color to the festivities in their colorful attire. Even the animals such as camels, horses and oxen, are not to be outdone and can be seen decorated with embroidered trappings - on their backs, necks, ears, legs, chests and muzzles.