Knowing 'kasooti'

Handicraft

Knowing 'kasooti'

The treasure trove of Indian handicraft industry is loaded with jewels that never cease to surprise one with its beauty and exclusivity.

All across the country, skilled artisans come up with beautiful embroideries, paintings, and items fashioned out of cane, wood, metal and stone. In the long list of wonders done with needle and thread, kasooti is distinguished because of its distinct pattern of stitches. The word kasooti is said to be the combination of ‘kai’, meaning hand, and ‘suti, meaning cotton. This embroidery traces its origin to north Karnataka, and it is believed that this craft may have been first practiced in 7th century AD.

Its popularity spread during the reign of the Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Rashtrakutas, Pallavas and the Vijayanagar rulers, and finally reached south Karnataka. It is conjectured that the Lambani nomads who migrated from Rajasthan may have been the carriers and pioneers who introduced the basics of this embroidery to the local craftsmen.

Outside the limits of Karnataka, this art has been one of the widely practiced traditional crafts of the womenfolk dwelling in parts of Maharashtra. Usually done on sarees in vibrant hues, it is mostly used for enhancing the richness of a Kanchivaram or Ilkal saree. Elaborately done on pallus and borders, hand embroidery makes use of multiple types of stitches like running, cross, diagonal and zig zag; local names for these stitches are ganti, murgi, neyge and menthe.

The names are derived according to the look of a particular stitch as menthe is used for cross-stitch that appears similar to a fenugreek seed. The commonly used traditional patterns could be geometric and some frequent designs are gopura, chariot, palanquin, lamps, peacocks and conch shells. Some of the motifs may resemble rangoli designs, which are often not marked or drawn. It is amazing to note that this beautiful embroidery is done directly on fabrics. The intricate work involves counting stitches for specific motifs, which are either made with cotton or silk threads.

It is said artisans often make use of the tricky technique of placing a piece of malmal or some gauzy material beneath the design, for sturdiness, which is later shredded and removed, without causing any damage to the embroidery.

The most unique fact about the embroidery is, it is reversible. Hence, both the sides can be used as there are no loose ends or knots and the finishing is equally neat and attractive on both sides of the cloth. One of the most popular forms of kasooti is a Chandrakali saree, which is regarded as an essential part of the bridal trousseau.

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