Monday, January 11, 2010
Zari and Zardozi
Having read about Agra’s textile arts known as zari (elaborate gold thread embroidery) and bead embroidery (known as zardozi), I asked to visit a place where this craft was being demonstrated. Literally meaning “sewing with gold,” zardozi was a prospering craft during Akbar’s time but gradually declined. Older saris of Chennai used this same technique with gold-covered thread, making such saris very valuable. During Akbar’s time, costumes, walls of tents, wall hangings, and coverings for horses and elephants all employed this technique. Intricate patterns were traced in gold and silver, studded with pearls and precious stones. These were sewn on silk, velvet, and brocade. Today zardozi threads consist of copper wire with a golden sheen or use gold-colored silk thread. In the shop (mainly for sale), a young man (this craft is done predominantly by Muslim men) was using colored silk thread to embroider silk thread flower designs for evening purses. Displayed on the wall were several masterpieces created by a man who is credited to reviving the craft in Agra. One was a floral design created with colored silk threads, outlined with the gold thread, and studded with precious and semi-precious stones and gems. Another comprised of several birds, while a third was of a hunting scene. Unlike most designs of today, these pieces get their dimensionality not by adding thick cotton threads or stuffing, but by painstakingly layering on silk threads, one over the other until the desired height and shape is achieved.