EMBROIDERIES OF INDIA / PARSI WORK / STITCHES
Stitches used in Parsi embroidery
- The main stitches used are crewel, satin stitch, stem stitch and French knot, all intricately intertwined with thin silk skeins. Sometimes, these sarees can be just in two shades — a dark base with ivory threadwork or a pastel base with multi-coloured threads which could go up to as many as 30 shades.
- No geometric design is ever used and most designs comprise stories and scenes of Chinese origin — pagodas, bridges, boatmen and shrines. The most popular, however, are enchanted forests with all manner of flowers and Oriental birds of paradise.
- That’s because this style of embroidery was brought to India by Parsi traders who journeyed to China in the 19th century. These motifs were used by the Chinese nobility for their ceremonial robes. The traders brought back many such robes, whose patterns were then replicated by local craftsmen in Surat.
- Initially, the craftsmen only made embroidered borders that would be stitched on to thick Chinese silk yardage (also brought back by those traders), which would be draped as saris by their womenfolk. Gradually, Surati craftsmen started experimenting with local silks such as gaaj, paaj and gaji. Patterns, too, saw huge experimentation and evolved from borders to all-over jaals.
- A traditional gara can come in several designs. Motifs found in typical Parsi embroidery either have religious or mythological symbolism attached, or are drawn from the flora and fauna around them.
- There are various kinds of flowers, all of which have some symbolic meaning, such as the lily for health, chrysanthemum for long life and the the 100 petal rose, which stands for spiritualism. One may also find the Indian ambi being used, but with a crane from the Chinese tradition inside it. Or, there could be the typically Chinese paisley with lotus petals at the base, combined with an Indian peacock or the Persian bird of paradise, the simurgh. Besides, there is also the karolia — a spider design that is actually a flower, and the chakla/chakli motif (male/female sparrow).
- The word gara (also ghara) is from the Gujarati word for saree. Traditional Parsi embroidery, is an amalgamation of Indian, Persian, European and Chinese influences, and is referred to as gara embroidery because at one point of time, it was only to be seen on garas.