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Kritika Maurya Jul 01 2013

What can you tell me about the Kasuti Embroidery from Karnataka?

Debangana Sen Jul 01 2013
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Kasuti, stemming from the words kai meaning hand, and suti meaning cotton, is the traditional embroidery of Karnataka. Exquisitely carved sculptures embellishing temples in the land, are believed to have inspired kasuti as women embroidered religious motifs – like temple gateways, vehicles of deities, lamp pillars, plant holders of holy basil, chariots and palanquins – on cloth. Apart from sacred motifs, birds, animals, fruits, trees and flowers are also worked into fine embroideries.

involves creating a repertoire of motifs with delicate stitches and detailing. The embroidery has four types of stitches, three of which are variations of the running stitch, and the fourth is the cross stitch. Traditionally, the technique, motifs and nuances of Kasuti were passed down by older women to young girls. This embroidery is done mainly on handloom Irkal sarees.

The motifs here range from architectural designs to a cradle and from an elephant to a squirrel. The main motifs are found to be larger near the pallav as they move downwards in a saree the motifs get smaller and smaller. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal stitches are used. The motifs have to be completed as the stitching line comes back to fill in the blank spaces. Kasuti basically involves working around the weave. Motifs are not traced on the cloth, but worked by memory and by counting of threads of the fabric to obtain even and neat stitches. As Kasuti is usually done on dark backgrounds with red, orange, purple, green, blue and yellow threads, the effect is always striking.

Young girls especially enjoy embroidering the Chandrakala saree, a black or blue-black silk saree with an end panel filled with motifs, that is the pride of a bride’s trousseau. Mirrors worked into the embroidery add to its charm. The word Chandrakala translates as ‘phases of the moon.’

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