Young World

MIRRORING a fashion

Patch and mirror work: Colour and style. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

Patch and mirror work: Colour and style. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf  

Have you seen skirts and blouses that glint in the sun? Get to know more about the Rabaris and their craft.

For centuries now, mirrors have been made in a small village called Kapadvanj in Kheda district in Gujarat. Families settled here to make glass, as the river nearby provided them with raw material. The river sand was rich in soda ash, which when melted produced glass. Much later, the craftsmen used recycled glass rather than river sand, but follow the same process of glass making.

The craftsperson, gathers a large glob of glass from a huge container, and blows a bubble. Holes are punched into this bubble and a mixture of zinc, lead in large proportions, and tin are injected into the holes in a molten state.

As the sphere is rotated, the inside gets silvered. When it cools, the sphere is broken into large chunks and then taken to a town where merchants cut and trim the pieces into different sizes.

The back of these mirrors are scoured with a resin and strips of mirrors are cut into squares. Hundreds of women are employed to round off the square mirror pieces into various sizes. The women use files to smoothen the rough edges. These mirrors are used in embroidery. Tribals, like the Rabaris, in Kutch, the Banjara women of Andhra Pradesh and the Lambadis of Karnataka use them a lot. The tribals of the south work with larger mirrors and that are square in shape.

From the 17th century right through to the 19th, rooms in palaces were adorned with mirrors. They believed that mirrors averted the evil eye. As the mirror reflects and magnifies light, it is supposed to spread hope and energy through constant use.

Sparkling touch

The women of Kutch add tiny mirrors to their brightly coloured embroidery. The Rabaris, a tribal community from Kutch had houses called bhungas made of dung and clay with a thatched roof. Today, they live in chowkis. They specialise in mud work called sanjani which is a raised piece of decorative relief work embedded with mirrors.

The Mughul patrons of craft were unaware of the mirror adornment until Shah Jehan’s reign in the 17th century. Mughal sheeshmahals (crystal palaces) have shaped mirrors inlaid in white relief, and this work can be seen inside forts in Agra, Delhi, and Amber near Jaipur.

Samples of mirror work on fabric and garments can be seen in any Gurjari outlet in your city. Today even saris and blouses are adorned with mirror work.

In almost every culture and civilisation, mirrors have been associated with beauty, magic and illusion, and it is wonderful that this craft is still kept alive.

Information Courtesy: India Magazine 1993

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 10:36:35 AM |

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