The fading tradition

Kasuti embroidery (Karnataka craft) at Kilol at Nungambakkam. Photo: Paul Joshua  

Kasuti embroidery or Karnataki Kashida is invested with an ethereal delicacy with pretty motifs such as raths, gopurams and kolams. Geometric and precise, it is a combination of stitches and colours, which adds beauty to the kasuti work.

Stitches like ‘javanti’ (double-running stitch), ‘negi’ (darning stitch), ‘muragi,’ (zig-zag stitch) or ‘menthi’ (cross-stitch) come together to create an delicate silhouettes. Red, green and black were also the traditional colours of the hand-woven ilkal silk saris on which young women of north Karnataka did - and still do - kasuti embroidery for their wedding wear. In fact, till a few decades ago, for rural women of Bijapur, Belgaum and Hubli, kasuti embroidery was almost a way of life. But sadly the tradition is gradually disappearing.

Sujaya Mahesh, embroider and revivalist who runs a kasuti embroidery-training unit in Hubli, says that there are many women still working on this form of embroidery. “Almost every rural home has women trained in the skill. Each household has a sample of patterns and motifs handed down through generations,” she says.

“Subsequent generations keep adding to the sampler. In a sense, the women are designers as well.”

At her unit, the women learn and perfect the kasuti stitches and choose the motifs to be embroidered on saris, dupattas and made-ups.

According to Sujaya, “Since the motifs give the embroidery form its unique identity, we do not change them, except perhaps making it bigger by adding more squares. The embroidery is done by counting the stitches and no sketching is done.”

At the kasuti exhibition, a range of saris, embroidered by the women in Sujaya’s unit, is available in cotton, silk, mul, georgette and crepe. Cholis are also on display. The embroidery is exceptional, revealing both its delicacy and detailing and its dense weave-like effect. On view are off-white and pastel Chanderis with floral motifs embroidered all over, vibrant orange flowers covering dupattas and stitched kurtas, off-white tussars with black and red motifs, saris with birds and gopurams on their pallus, kurtas with single thread Ganeshas flanked by ‘kuthuvilakkus’ and a tiny ‘mooshika.’ A black Patola with black and white ikat patterning looks ravishing with large white and mustard kasuti motifs.

The exhibition is on view at “Saumya”, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, (opposite Barista). Contact 4303 3844.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 8:09:16 AM |

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