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Kasooti – Traditional Embroidery

by K. L. Kamat
First Online: August 15, 1997
Last Updated: August 14, 2014

Kasooti (ku-soo-ti) is an embroidery art-form from India, primarily undertaken by women  After a day's hard domestic work, women devote themselves to Kasooti work. The item that is to be decorated is first marked with charcoal, pencil or carbon paper and then suitable colored thread and needles are selected. For extremely fine materials an embroidery ring is employed to help avoid wrinkles.

© K. L. Kamat
Kasooti - A Decorated Ratha
Embroidery Work on Silk

A great variety of stitches are employed in order to obtain the desired design. Frequently employed ones are Ele, Mente, Negi, Gavanthe, and Marige. Each thread in the cloth is counted and patterns are stitched in such way that the designs on both sides of the cloth look very much alike. It is the tradition to have a couple of embroidered saris among the bridal trousseau. The pallu (the throw of the sari, which covers the bosom and the head) is very elaborately embroidered. Motifs include geometrical designs, the Gopuram, the kalasha, planted Tulasis, cradles, and chariots. Animals such as elephants, cows, parrots and peacocks are also used. Sometimes, flowers and creepers are interwoven with the animals.

The Lambani (a.k.a. Banjara see The Gypsies of India) tribes have kept their style of Kasooti art alive. Their traditional costumes glitter with small pieces of cut mirrors, coins and costume jewelry. With the help of intricate methods of Kasooti, these are affixed to cloth, which is then made into brassieres, bags, pillows, wall-hangings and table mats. Such articles are in great demand in western countries.

© K. L. Kamat
Lambani Woman Embroidering
A Lambani  Embroidering

Author 
The author Dr. Krishnanand Kamat is a great admirer of Indian folk arts. He is saddened by the rapid loss of traditional art forms in India.

Kasooti is an eco-friendly and indigenous art-form that developed independently in different states in India. In Kashmir, Chainar leaves and creepers are stitched with colored threads. In Rajasthan, dark colored silver and gold threads (Zari see Zari Work) are used in making Kasooti on everyday clothes as well as for bridal dresses. Some people also opt for Kasooti on their shoes. In Gujarat, glass-work Kasooti is quite popular. In Uttar Pradesh, cloth is perforated and then embroidered with similar colored thread, in order to provide a sober look. Such Kasooti is known as Jamadami or Chikkan. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, very elaborate Kasooti is embroidered on a great variety of articles. Ilkal (a.k.a. Irkal) saris are well suited for Kasooti work.

In ancient times also, Indian embroidered textiles were very popular in western countries. Bed-sheets, cushions, shirts for men (cloaks and achkans), caps and shoes were exported on a large scale. During Vijayanagar times men used to wear elongated velvet Kulavis, and sculptors of the time have included such caps in their works. At the Lepakshi temple in Andhra Pradesh, the wall paintings depict numerous varieties of Kulavis.

See Also:

 

 

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