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  • Embroidery In India


Sujani Embroidery of Bihar

When one thinks of Bihar, a few of the myriad things that may come to their mind would be the amazing biodiversity, temples, the city of Patna, its culture, and rich history but do you know about another masterpiece given to us by this state is the beautiful Sujani Embroidery.

The original primary resolution of the Sujani Embroidery is portrayed through its very name. The word Sujani is derived from “Su” which means simplifying and “Jani “which refers to birth. The quilts made, ornamented with gorgeous designs, were used to wrap a new-born baby. The reason behind this was that, due to the infant mortality rates of the time, it was considered to be unholy to dress a child in newly bought attire. These quilts were quite vibrant especially since the motifs were made using coloured threads, especially in a darker shade. Every colour used had a purpose and depicted something, like red symbolized blood and yellow for the sun.

These motifs depict various pictures for men and women, dressed in traditional attire and scenes from joyous events, such as festivals and celebrations. Other common depictions include those of deities, animals, birds such as peacocks, plants, and flowers as well as the Sun, Moon, and other powerful forces such as characters from mythology. This embroidery used to embellish quilts can now be seen on various apparel of Indian ethnic wear and remains a favourite among designers for its unique charm. Apart from that, with the commercialization of the embroidery designs, it was then even added onto pillow covers, curtains, bread spreads, and many more.

The Sujani is not merely a traditional craft. It is also a way to convey social and political messages. A typical Sujani embroidered quilt, conveys two different messages – from a drunken man physically abusing his wife, to women compelled to observe the purdah, and practices of dowry being given on one hand. Alternately, the other half includes motifs and scenes like a woman as the speaker or host of a public gathering, a female judge, or a scene depicting a woman selling goods and earning a living for herself. UNESCO Seal of Excellence 2019, which is also called the Seal Award, was given to Sujani art for its marvellous contribution towards Indian rich history and heritage . We must treasure and promote such great embroidery which is recognized by UNESCO

Ngotekherh Embroidery of Mizoram

Mizoram is enriched with flora and fauna. The wildlife existing in the state will never fail to amaze wildlife photographers. But not only this fascinates the tourist but its dazzling embroidery known as Ngotekherh also enthral them. Ngotekherh is an ancient customary puan worn by the mizo community. Originally this shawl had a plain white base with two narrow black stripes running along the edges. the white and black stripes along the perimeter of the cloth are known as kherh. The weavers indulge in delicate hand – sewing of the cloth on a loin loom The Ngotekherh has gone through several changes and improvements to keep pace with with the fashion trends of the modern mizo lifestyle.

Creation: Metallic threads were used on silk and velvet. However, it is not available on various cloth materials. Zardosi uses gold, silver and copper wires for the embroidered clothes with precious stones and pearls making them luxury items.

The weavers have to maintain proper precision and detailed measurement to ensure a uniform design on puan . Usually made with a combination of black and white yarns, the recent designs have experimented with a combination of red and and white. These stripes run vertically along the length of the puan often aapearing as if dividing the shawls into parts. Such subtle innovation has caught the attention of the market outside the community and have given the weavers a huge platform for recognition their crafts

Embroidery of Nagaland

Apart from the honesty and their way towards their livelihood nagas are versatile artisans and they leave an impression of ethnicity on most of their objects of everyday usage. The sheer impulse of the Nagas to decorate even their deadly weapons is evident from their daos and spears. Their bamboo drinking pots are embossed beautifully with various cultural motifs. The wood carving on massive doorways and the village gates as well as on log drums are still on display.

The Nagas set great value on their costume worn on ceremonies or festive occasions, though some pieces were for everyday use. That of his wife and daughter. The insignia were highly desirable because of the achievements necessary to gain the right to wear them. The design and colour, which varies not only between tribes but also sometimes between different villages, records the wearers position in society. The designs vary from a formal arrangement of lines to elaborate patterns of diamonds and lozenge shape. Simple straight lines, stripes, squares and bands, varying in width, colour and arrangement are the most traditional design and motifs. Naga women are great experts in the choice and combination of colours. Each tribe has its own patterns with simple, clean lines, stripes, squares and bands being the most traditional design motifs.

The main flat stitches with their traditional names are:

Taipchi: Running stitch worked on the right side of the fabric. It is occasionally done within parallel rows to fill petals and leaves in a motif, called ghaspatti. Sometimes taipchi is used to make the bel buti all over the fabric. This is the simplest chikan stitch and often serves as a basis for further embellishment. It resembles jamdani and is considered the cheapest and the quickest stitch.

Pechni: Taipchi is sometime used as a base for working other variations and pechni is one of them. Here the taipchi is covered by entwining the thread over it in a regular manner to provide the effect of something like a lever spring and is always done on the right side on the cloth.

Pashni: Taipchi is worked to outline a motif and then covered with minute vertical satin stitches over about two threads and is used for fine finish on the inside of badla.

As you probably know by now, Embroidery is “Art That You Can Wear”. You have numerous choices that come from the range of the fabric chosen, the kind of stitch made to that fabric, motifs used, and colors of threads used in those motifs. From the texture to the design, the color to the fabric, each element in every embroidery tells a story.So we should respect and conserve our rich heritage so that it can be carried on to the forthcoming generation and they can get inspired and proud of their versatile culture .

Khneng Embroidery of Nagaland

The distinctive Eri silk fabric comes from the Ri-Bhoi district and Khneng embroidery, traditionally done on Eri silk, is an art form unique to Mustoh and the Shella region, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya.

Though Khneng embroidery is in danger of disappearing due to the lack of demand and the consequent lack of knowledge and skills transfer, Eri silk is slowly coming into the mainstream - thanks to the efforts of some local fashion designers from the North East, who have taken it upon themselves to contemporize the use of the fabric for a broader market.

Eri Silk

It is the combination of the traditional loom and the handspun yarn is what gives Eri fabric its distinctive aesthetic. The qualities of Eri are a combination of the visual appearance of handspun cotton or wool, with a muted sheen of silk, and it has unique thermal properties of being cool in summers and warm in winters.

Khneng Embroidery

Eri-culture and weaving are also important activities for generating supplementary income and providing a much-needed opportunity for women to contribute further to the family. Unlike other parts of India, where much of the spinning and weaving is in the hands of men, in Meghalaya it is the exclusivity of women and her family.

The genesis of the word ‘Khneng’ (local Khasi word) basically means ‘border’. The inspiration for the embroidery comes from a local insect in the surrounding called ‘ktiar’, which resembles a centipede. A single line of a thick band is stitched on one side of the ‘jaiñpïen’ (a wrap-around) vertically. On a shawl, a line of a thicker and thinner band of Khneng embroidery is stitched horizontally. Two lines of embroidery are always stitched together on the shawl.

The art of Khneng embroidery can be traced back to around 200 years ago. Though the history is not clear as to how it came to life, but the word of mouth from the locals suggest that the embroidery is stitched on the Eri fabric (silk locally known as jain ryndia) to decorate the border of the traditional garments. The fabric which is regularly used as the base cloth for the Khneng is the Eri silk. The Eri fabrics are not locally woven in the village but are bought from another district in Meghalaya, mainly from Ri-Bhoi District which is approximately 134 km from Mustoh village. The techniques that are used in the art of Khneng embroidery are needles and threads with basic running stitches and with an attentive application of the mind, eyes, and hands. One of the most important elements in working with embroidery is the thread count. The thread count gives evenly distributed motifs on the fabric. The women start stitching the motifs from the middle part of the Khneng and work their way from there count by count and part by part.

Traditionally, black wool is used on the checked Eri fabric because it balances the thickness of the fabric and the spaces of the checks. According to the artisans, fabric weaved with thicker yarn is easier to stitch than a finer weaved fabric because it causes less stress to the eyes when counting the weaves/threads. They have also explored different threads on different fabrics; Eri threads on Eri shawls, Eri threads on cotton shawls, cotton thread on Eri shawls, thinner wool in Eri and cotton shawls. However, the artisans expressed that cotton threads are more suitable to use on Eri fabric, both coarse and fine quality. Artisans have a difficult time to stitch on a finer quality Eri fabric because their eyes get confused when counting the threads, so, they tend to distribute the spaces between the motifs by eyeballing them.

A step towards betterment of Artisans

The skills revival project of Khneng Embroidery began formally in January 2015, after research and discussions with Special Purpose Vehicle Society and NESFAS in December 2014. The visit of NESFAS craft preservation consultants confirmed that there was an urgent need to initiate the program, and a proposal was drawn up for the implementation of the work.

The aim of the revival project is to facilitate the transfer of skills through workshops for new trainees, to research the history of Mustoh and launch an awareness campaign to address the lack of demand. In 2014, there were only 3 women who were trained and actively using the special Khneng embroidery technique. The aim of the training programme was to increase the number of women practicing the craft. The initial batch was of 9 trainees, with intention of conducting further training in later months.

The journey then continued with follow up programmes for sustaining the art. At the moment, female artisans are increasing in the art of Khneng embroidery. In fact, NESFAS’s visit to Mustoh village in 2018 has helped and assisted these women in strengthening their skills and passion towards the art by forming a group. NESFAS in collaboration with the artisans, formed a group named “Mei Ramew Khneng Embroidery Society, Mustoh”. Within this group, they aim to revive the dying art and enhance skill level and market sensitization. This group have also work to contemporize products with Khneng embroidery and try to increase the number of artisans within their society to sustain this traditional embroidery technique.In its endeavour to increase its production, the group members have shared that getting seasonal orders from very few clients, find it difficult for them to transfer knowledge from the elder Khneng artisans to the younger generation who do not want to venture into something that does not look too promising.

NESFAS aims to enhance local livelihood activities, such as this and the prime aim of the organization as of now is to provide the artisans with a platform to showcase and market their products. NESFAS aims to work towards refining the art and amplify the skills of the local youth who are interested in Khneng embroidery

Making of Kantha Embroidery in Odisha

Embroidery is a detailed craft of adding decorative accents by putting needle to thread. Kantha is traditional embroidery craft that began 500 centuries ago in West Bengal and Odisha by means of reusing and recycling dhotis, sarees and other pieces of clothing Bengalis were reluctant to throw away.

The term Kantha means ‘patched cloth’, and it refers to the continued narrative of making something unique out garments that would otherwise have been discarded, as well as the craft and stitch itself: a straight running stitch in Bengali embroidery.

It was a craft specific to rural women: taking cloth scraps or garments that might otherwise have been discarded and sewing them as a blanket for the winter. Its purpose was far from decorative, it would be more accurate to say that Kantha was created for the most practical purpose: to keep warm.

The reason for using dhotis and saris was twofold: to reuse clothing that they were reluctant to throw away, and create useful household items from fine quality muslin and cotton. Traditionally, the women would stack saris and dhotis on each other and hand-stitch a simple running stitch along the edges. From cushions, quilts (Nakshi Kantha), to even bedspreads. Elaborate Kantha was also practiced later on, where yarn salvaged from used and loved clothing were used to embroidery motifs across the fabric. Most often running stitches of flower, animal, and bird motifs would be stitched all over, leaving a wrinkled effect. Some were so elaborate that they would often be gifted for occasions and loved ones. As needle meets sari, Kantha stitching comes to life. Every embroidery is a form of personal expression, a story woven in and passed on to another.

Over time, Kantha became a generational skill, a craft passed on from small family businesses embedded in a community whose identity and culture revolve around a particular technique and its processes.

"Kantha saris" are traditionally worn by women in Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. In these days, embroidery is stitched, popularly known as 'kantha stitched", on sari, kurta (or panjabi) and churidar and many other garments and gaining popularity due to their aesthetic value and handmade characteristics


Kantha is a form of embroidery often practised by rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha.

The embroidered cloth has many uses including shawls, covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In some cases, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals, birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slightly wrinkled, wavy effect. Modern Kantha-stitch craft industry involves a very complex multi-staged production model

Kantha Embroidery of West Bengal

Kantha embroidery is an indigenous household craft that is also considered a form of art, due to the uniqueness of individual creations, its ability to convey a story and its use as a form of personal and artistic expression. What sets this form of needlework embroidery apart from others is the wide use of the running stitch, also known as kantha. Yarn used for running stitches is often taken from old sarees or dhotis, and covers almost the entire piece of fabric onto which motifs and designs are embroidered. The repetitive use of the running stitch contributes to Kantha’s signature wrinkled and wavy effect on the fabric.

Kantha embroidery began as a means of recycling old or unused cloths and garments, such as sarees and dhotis, in order to create items for household use, such as quilts and plate covers. One of the oldest and most popular forms of Indian embroidery, Kantha is predominantly practised amongst rural women in the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha (Orissa). Kanthas were produced in Hugli, Patna, Satagon, Jessore, Faridpur, Khulna and other parts of East and West Bengal.

Techniques used in Kantha embroidery are passed down from mother to daughter and are popular dowry traditions. In fact, rural housewives from West Bengal practiced the craft of Kantha embroidery throughout history, allowing the household craft to flourish into a well-known trend in Indian clothes and home furnishings.

Much like other age-old Indian arts and crafts, motifs found in Kantha communicate the identities of its wearers in terms of caste, village and status. Motifs in early Kantha embroidery were drawn from primitive art, such as illustrations of the sun. With time, Hindu Kantha embroiderers created religious motifs, such as of Gods, peacocks, tigers and lotuses, and auspicious colourful motifs that represent the lotus flower. Geometric designs were, and still are, commonly found in motifs created by Muslim Kantha embroiderers.

Today, the districts of Burdwan, Hooghly, Murshidabad and North and South 24 Parganas remain the key locations in West Bengal where Kantha embroidery is still practised amongst millions of rural women in their homes. However, the art is particularly prominent in Bolpur-Shantiniketan or, simply, Bolpur, located in the Birbhum district. In Odisha (Orissa), Kantha embroidery can be found alongside the popular applique work of Puri and Pipli. Kantha embroidery is today often used in other garments such as dupattas and shirts, and in modern ranges of bedding and house furnishings. The traditional designs and techniques of Kantha embroidery gained greater global recognition when they were employed in renowned designer Tarun Tahiliani's summer/resort 2013 collection.

Origin and History

Group of Women with Kantha Embroidery

The size and thickness of Kantha varied according to its type. The layers of pieces are sewn together by simple darning stitch in white thread, drawn from the old sari borders. The design is first traced and the filling is done by coloured threads, taken from the coloured borders of saris.

The Needle work is done by original darning stitch along with satin and loop stitches. There are two modes of working. In the first style, the embroidery starts from the centre and ends by outlining the motif or vice versa. However, the embroidery gives rich textural effects by adding traditional colours like black, deep blue and red, which symbolise the nature, earth, sky and space respectively.

Colours used in Kantha

The original kantha is double faced where the design appeared identical on either sides of the quill. The great length of stitch is broken into tiny tackings which give almost a dotted appearance on either sides of the quilt like ‘Do rukha’. Sometimes the embroidery is so finely done that it is very difficult to identify the wrong side.

Most of the Bengali women wear white saris and thus the background of the quilt material is often white. In order to break the monotony of this, and overcome the dullness, a sort of open mesh of cut work effect is produced by drawing the threads, pulling the stitches or piercing the holes, specially in the comers. The main colours used are white, red, deep blue and black.

Bengal is also known for its appliqué art and is popular because of its very rarity. There are of two styles. The large and bold designs worked on wall hangings, canopies, bedspreads, tents, banners, flags where a lion or lotus motif is cut out in red material and appliquéd against white background. The other style is of small patterns worked on personal items and household textiles like pillow covers. This is done by cutting the coloured cloth into narrow strips and stitched as outlines of the design. Appliqué on quilts earned a large market in the foreign trade during sixteenth century.

Lotus is the most common and important motif widely used in Kantha. An all over pattern of lotus may have the petals of red alternating with black petals. Black thread is used to give either outline for the design or sometimes filled with the stitches of the same colour. A couple of tantric motifs like ‘ Vajra’, the thunder bolt, ‘swastik’ were used along with the spiral whirl, representing the eternal life cycle. Kalka is another important motif, a cone or mango shaped, embroidered in association with spiral whirls, broad band of circles, lotus or heart shaped foliages.

Types of Kanthas

There are different kinds of kanthas named according to its utility. According to Jasleen Dhamija, there are seven types of kanthas used as wrappers in winter, for books, valuables, mirrors, combs, wallets, pillows and bed spreads.


Arshilata is used as cover or wrap for mirror, comb and other such toilet articles. It is a narrow rectangular piece of eight inch wide and twelve inch length. It has a wide border and the central motif is taken from the scenes of Krishna Leela or Radha-Krishna raas. The lotus, trees, creepers, spirals, inverted triangles, zig-zag lines, scrolls are also some of the commonly used motifs.

Kantha: Fish Motif

of oldest style in Bayton is the Mandala which symbolises the unity of all manifestations of life. The core has Satadala Padma with two or three borders on the sides. The other motifs commonly seen are water pots, conch shells, kalkas, trees, foliages, flowers, birds, elephants, chariot, human figures etc. Sometimes the figure of lord Ganesha and Goddess Saraswati with their steeds are also observed. Special motifs on Bayton are worked with swan, as a book wrapper. In other words the designs often are elaborate and this colourful embroidery is made with yellow, green blue and red coloured threads. This kantha is often carried while travelling and also presented as gift to their kith and kins


Durjani (Durfani) is also known as Thalia. It is a square piece kantha, covers the wallet, has a central lotus motif with an elaborated border. The three corners of this piece are drawn together inward to make the tips to touch at the centre and are sewn together like an envelop. It will have another open flap to which a string, tussle or a decorated thread is either stitched or mechanically fixed, which can be wound and tied up when rolled. The other motifs used arc various types of foliages, snakes and other objects taken from the natural surroundings.

Lep Kantha

Lep kantha is relatively a thick quilted wrap padder by more number of sari layers, placed on top of each other, to provide warmth during winter season. Lep is also popular as ‘desired covering’. Simple geometrical designs are worked with running stitch using coloured threads. The entire Leep piece is been given a wavy rippled appearance by working simple embroideries.