Jewels of the Desert – Indigenous Embroidery Styles

A snapshot of four different embroidery styles from the  region comprising the barren, desert lands of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat to western Rajasthan and the Thar Parkar district of Sind in Pakistan, which has been described as the world’s richest source of indigenous embroidery.  From the bold flamboyant style of the nomadic Rabaris, to the delicate geometric patterns of the Rajput, to the intricate embroidery of the Jats, to the figurative style of the Kanbi, each tribal group passes on its own style, colours, range of stitches and motifs from generation to generation yet each piece is unique.   Each piece was painstakingly embroidered by a prospective bride for her dowry or a mother or wife for her family or her home and each piece reflects not only tribal traditions but also the individual artistic interpretation and abilities of the embroiderer.

Detail-Rabari-dowry-sack

Detail from Nagina in the Maud collection, originally part of a Rabari saddle bag, Kutch, Gujarat

Exotic patterns from the nomadic Rabari camel breeders, cattle herders and shepherds.  Bold, vibrant, designs in pink, orange, blue and green thread featuring abstract motifs, like the stylised parrots in hot pink in the centre.

Detail-small-Rabari-bag

Detail from a Rajput chakla (a square wall hanging), Saurashtra, Gujarat

A subtle geometric style from the Rajputs a ruling cast of farmers and herders.  Their work is characterised by square and diamond patterns, open chain stitch and shisha or abla (pieces of mirrored glass).  I love the mix of colours in this piece which will be available in our store soon.

Jat3

Detail from the bodice of a Jat choli (traditional backless blouse), Kutch, Gujarat

Abstract florals and geometric patterns are characteristic of Jat embroidery, known for its intricacy and density.  The embroidery is set out in a grid like structure with rows of round or pear shaped shisha or abla (mirrored glass work) and the pattern will typically cover the fabric.

Ganesh-chakla-Kanbir

Detail from a Kanbi chakla (wall hanging), Saurashtra, Gujarat

Figurative embroidery from the Kanbi, a farming caste.  The Kanbi is known for its wall hangings depicting images of Ganesh, the elephant- headed God, the remover of obstacles to happiness.  This piece will be available in the Maud collection soon.

We would love to hear what you think about these different styles.

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