Much more than practical wealth, the myriad styles of folk embroideries of Kutch present a textured map of regions and ethnic groups. Styles express cultural connections and illustrate the indigenous division Kutch into four subregions: Garada in the west, Banni and Pachham in the north, the heart of Kutch, and Vaagad, the east. Garada and Banni-Pachham regional styles: paako and khaarek, muko, haramji, nen and khambiri, demonstrate cultural connections to Sindh. Zardozi and aari embroideries of the heart of Kutch established an aesthetic that deeply influenced folk styles of the region. The bold chain stitch and mirror work of Vaagad connect this region to neighbouring Banaskantha and Saurashtra. Ethnic styles of Rabaris, Mutavas and Jats express the more isolated lifestyles of these communities.
Ashwariya Rai is wearing an embroidered blouse on a movie set. It's extremely fine stitching, bold rhythmic patterns and glittering mirrors are unmistakably the Kutchi “mirror work” that has long fascinated tourist, merchant, textile connoisseur and designer. Three Rabaris zoom in on the sleeve. They know better. “It is Dhebaria work,” they pronounce, seeing in the blouse the woman who made it.
Most of the world-renowned embroideries of Kutch were stitched by village women, for themselves and their families. The colourful sparkling garments and household decorations, bags, animal trappings and even games -- portable decoration suited to mobile life-- have traditionally been used to create festivity on auspicious occasions, to honour deities who granted boons, or...
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