Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Muslim Craftsman: Traditional Gold & Silver Zari, Zardozi and Gota Embroidery

Traditionally made for Mughal and Rajput nobility, zari is gold, and zardozi embroidery is the glitteringly ornate, heavily encrusted gold thread work practised in Jaipur and a few other cities of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Either real silver thread, gold-plated thread or an imitation which has a copper base gilded with gold or silver colour, is used for zari. Plain wire is called badla, and when wound round a thread, it is called kasav. Smaller spangles are called sitara, and tiny dots made of badla are called mukaish.

Zardozi is a more elaborate version of zari which involves the use of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, gota and kinari. The fabric on which the work has to be done is first mounted on a wooden frame called adda, which bears a close resemblance to the Indian charpai or bed. The chhapai or tracing of the design to be embroidered is then transferred on the fabric with neel or chalk powder. Then the embroidery starts. The Zardozi craftsmen or zardoze (pronounced Zar - doe - zay)  sit cross-legged around the Adda – the wooden framework with the tools of their trade. These include curved hooks, needles, salmaa pieces which are stiff gold wires twisted like springs and cut to the required length, sitaaras or metal stars, round sequins, glass beads, dabkaa  – a combination of gold and silk thread and kasab – silver or gold-plated silver thread.  

We can broadly categories the zari handwork in four categories (a) Dapka (b) Salma or nakshi (c) Aarri work (d) Badla work.

The art of this embroidery is mostly passed on from father to son where certain skills are taught with utmost secrecy. 

Zari work was mainly done in Madras and Zardozi in Hyderabad until a few decades ago. Today, Lucknow is home to this finest work of gold and silver embroidery.

Akin to applique, gota work involves placing woven gold cloth onto other fabric to create different surface textures. This art is predominantly practised by Muslim craftsmen. Gota is woven on looms in Rajasthan and consists of a warp of cotton yarn and a weft of metal yarn. Small pieces of gota were cut and patched over the textile with the help of thread and needle to create designs in applique. In Jaipuri dialect, this is known as chatapati work. Gota has maintained its popularity even today among the women, the only difference being that the hand-operated loom on which it was formerly made is now power-driven.

Gota is available in different width. With it different types of items are made like Champa, Beejia, Phool, Patti, Gohkroo etc. 

It is usually practised by the Muslim craftsman. 

Gota work is a form of fabric ornamentation that was probably originated in Rajasthan. It is also known as gota-kinari work and lappe-ka-kaam. These `Gota` and `Kinari` are golden and silver coloured pieces and laces those are sewn on the cloth. The Muslim craftsman generally prepares these. 

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