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
© K. L. Kamat
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
A Lambani Embroidering
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.