Sui Dhaaga of India – Saluting the Embroiderers

Sui Dhaaga of India – Saluting the Embroiderers

“With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread.”
(Thomas Hood)
Thread lends itself almost too quickly to metaphor. It is Threading the Needle (sui dhaaga) day today. You needle a thread; you channel your thoughts into a specific stream. Hence, it is not only a day for sewing and the ones who sew but a day for celebrating the victory of one path over various opposing views. Following that line, this article will try to explore the exquisite age-old tradition of Embroidery in India. Which is still reigning supreme with its concept of beauty and labour. Embroidery of India includes dozens of regional embroidery styles varying by different regions and has a wide variety materials. Let’s have a look at ‘Sui Dhaaga of India – Saluting the Embroiderers’.

Stitching: An Art Of Patience

Every single tiny stitch of a piece of embroidery craft is, most of the time, the creation of a woman’s fingers, twinged by the needle’s demands, her bowed head curving her torso into a C. They work day and night, incorporating their screams and silence, sweat and pain, into beautiful and extraordinary designs. The word “embroidery” has larger than life connotations to it. There is no option of undoing or redoing. Though nowadays there are methods like free-motion machine embroidery and computerised machine embroidery. It is still a process that demands an investment of patience and sense of beauty. Before computers were affordable, most machine embroideries were completed by punching designs on paper tape that then ran through an embroidery machine. One error could ruin an entire plan, forcing the creator to start over.

Kantha is a popular form of embroidery often practised by rural women. Kantha stitch makes simple quilts, commonly known as nakshi Kantha. Depending on the use of the finished product, they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha. The embroidered cloth has many applications including shawls, covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In some cases, the entire fabric is covered with running stitches. Along with employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals, birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slightly wrinkled, wavy effect. It has a different class of its own, and with improvements in technology. It is generating an aura, brighter and subtler.

The Banjara Embroidery

There is another exquisite form of embroidery, that is the Banjara embroidery of which Karnataki Banjara crafts and Lambani crafts are the most vivid and popular. The spirit of roaming from places to places reflected a sense of liberty in the Banjaras or the nomadic tribes. It was this sense of continuity and freedom that was reflects through the Banjara embroidery designs. The traditional craft has been hand down from generation to generation, and Banjara communities strive to preserve the artwork that they have inherited from their forefathers.

Despite their gradual absorption into the mainstream of life, the Banjaras continue to keep in touch with their age-old customs, traditions and beliefs. Their artistic creation ranges from bags, belts, purses to apparels and many more utility objects that meet the changing tastes of present-day connoisseurs. There are 14 types of stitches in Banjara embroidery. They are Kilan, Vele, Bakkya, Maki, Suryakanti Maki, Kans, Tera Dora, Kaudi, Relo, Gadri, Bhuriya, Pote, Jollya, Nakra. Apart from these, there are other Various types of Indian embroidery crafts such as Kashida from Kashmir, Phulkari from Punjab, Chikankari from Uttar Pradesh, Kasuti embroidery from Karnataka and so forth.

Final Thoughts

The history of embroidery has in itself a glimpse of “the private inner world” of women, as a chronicler of the Korean tradition puts it. Because it has always tended to flourish in female and feminine spaces, that is the home; it is a kind of secret. To embroider is to embellish, to furnish a piece of cloth with a pint of fantasia and thus be momentarily free. Thus embroidery becomes an oxymoron in itself, letting the caged concepts of the beauty of mind and fingers free as well as stitching them fixed, channeling them through a mind-forged path. In this Threading the Needle Day (Sui Dhaaga), let us celebrate the eternal beauty engraved in those artworks and the toil imprinted upon them.

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