The magical mirrors of Kutch has created a long lasting impression on the ethnic fashion of our country. The exuberant embroidery is not just an artwork but our country’s pride. The captivating craftsmanship and their legendary skills has been one such valuable treasure that it needs to be preserved for eternity. One such distinguishing craft from the western part of India is the Kutch work or Kachchhi embroidery. It is identified by its involvement of bright colors, mirrors and beads and intricate and elaborate embroidery that accentuates the textile.
The roots of kachchi work can be traced to the community of shoemakers or mochi, who used to work on heritage textiles for the elite class and decorative artefacts. Some say, this splendid embroidery was brought about by Kathi cattle breeders, a group of wanderers associated with Karna of the Mahabharat. With the passing time, their handwork evolved into delicate needle work and gave rise to Kutch embroidery.
This embroidery derives its name from the region it originated- Kutch of Gujrat. Based on cotton or silk, Kutch work embroidery is done with silk or woolen thread using intricate stitches to highlight the detailed designs. Motifs and patterns are inspired from romantic, architectural and human form Persian and Mughal influence can also be seen. The hues of embroidery threads are mainly green, indigo, deep red, black, yellow and ivory. The embroidery is further highlighted with mirrors, shells and beads, which are embroidered creatively in between or around the patterns. Mirrors or ‘kaach’ are an integral part of this embroidery, making the fabrics glamorous. The legendary artisans say, mirrors portray the most important element of a dry state –water. Some say, it wards off the evil eye. It is also possible that the mirror work has Islamic influence.
In Kutch, it is believed that a girl should be apt in her embroidery skills, thus they are taught needle work since a young age. Thus, every embroidered textile is unique as they are handcrafted. Needlework is done mainly by herding and farming communities, such as the Rabaris, Ahir and Soda Rajputs, who traditionally produce these embroidered textiles for their personal use.
Embroidery is an integral part of a Rabari woman’s life which can be seen in various important attires such as the choli, shawls and skirts. Mirrors are used in multiple shapes and sizes and motifs inspired from flora and fauna like scorpions, peacocks and parrots. Chain and accent stiches with bright threads form the basis of this embroidery. The Mutwa Muslim community hail from the Banni region of Kutch. Their embroidery is extremely intricate and their designs are mainly done by fine stitches in abstract motifs.
The vibrant and metallic thread on silk and satin makes it more graceful.The designs of Ahirembroidery derives its motifs from the environment around them and constitutes of the chain stitch for outlines and herringbone stitch which is used to fill the motifs.Mochi or Ari embroidery was crafted for home furnishings and wall hangings used in the heritage courts of our country from the early seventeenth until the nineteenth century.The typical trait of the embroidery was the chain stitch using coloured yarn on a white fabric stretched on a wooden frame.
Kutch embroidery has evolved a lot with the passing generations of artisans. Even though this craft has gained popularity world wide, it still faces the wrath of machine made embroideries which are fast paced. While the craft was originally visualised on garments, the artisans had to match the steps of current market trends, thus accessories and decorative items are crafted from it nowadays. The mirror work can be found across a variegated range of artefacts such as bags, jackets, footwear, wall hangings and even fashionable jewellery. With the increasing awareness on preservation of crafts, hope this magical mirror work too stays intact at the heart of Kutch.