Among the myriad Indian things whose demand is growing by the day in international markets - Indian garments, Ayurvedic medicines, Yoga and Indian fashion accessories, for instance Indian embroidery also occupies a place of pride. Indian embroidered garments are all the rage now in the international markets, and on ramps the world over.
Embroidery styles in India are as diverse as the religions followed and the languages spoken in the country. Almost every region of India has a distinct style of embroidery, practiced since generations together. This article attempts to study some of the major embroidery styles from different parts of India.
'Kantha' is a traditional embroidery style of Bengal, involving simple, running stitches. Kantha work originated in Bengal for making quilts out of waste fabric. The word 'Kantha', in fact, means 'embroidered quilt' in Bengali. The Bengalis used to arrange pieces of fabric in layers and stitch them together into a quilt using a running stitch, which later began to be known as Kantha work. This quilt would be used either to sleep on or as a blanket to cover oneself. Bengali women used to make use of old silk and muslin sarees for making quilts in this manner, instead of throwing them away.
References in literature indicate that Kantha embroidery has been in vogue for over 5 centuries. Mention about Kantha work has been made in the work Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadas Kaviraj, which was written during this period. This is perhaps the oldest reference to Kantha work. It is also believed that Lord Buddha and his disciples used to patch rags together in a similar fashion, and make a quilt to cover themselves.
Both simple as well as elaborate motifs can be used in Kantha work. Usually, images of gods and goddesses, flowers, animals as well as geometric patterns are used as motifs in this kind of embroidery.
The Banjaras, a nomadic tribe largely settled in Rajasthan, practice a distinct style of embroidery. It is popularly known as 'Banjara embroidery'. Sometimes, in Banjara embroidery, pieces of animal bones, gold, silver, brass, mirrors and cowries are also used. Banjara embroidery is very colourful and vibrant.
Initially, Banjara embroidery was restricted to the traditional skirts worn by the women of the community. However, with the passage of time, it began to make an appearance on other clothing items, such as blouses and jackets. Nowadays, this kind of embroidery is found on a number of items, ranging from bags and belts to bed spreads and wall hangings.
'Banni embroidery' refers to a kind of embroidery done by people belonging to the Banni community in Kutch. It is also known as 'Heer Bharat'. It makes use of brightly coloured threads; yellow, red and orange are the most commonly used colours. Beads and mirrors are also widely used for added effect.
Usually, silk floss is used for the embroidery. Chain stitches and buttonhole stitches are commonly used in the Banni style of embroidery.