Threads of Gold- The Charm of India Zari work

26 May 2016

Zari. The word zari quickly brightens our eyes and brings glee to our faces, at least for those of us who are true ethnic wear lovers. Today we talk about the lovely Indian zari work to add the quintessential shimmer and sparkle in our wardrobes, and in turn in our lives. Let us relish telling you all about the gleaming thread work of dreams.

The Gleaming Thread

Zari thread is used widely in weaving but more selectively in embroidery. For intricate patterns gijai or a thin, stiff wire is used.  Sitara, a small star-shaped metal piece is used for floral designs. This type of embroidery is called Salma-Sitara. The thicker kalabattu is a braided gold thread used for borders while the thinner variety is used at the end of the drawstring of purses or batwas, and in tassels, necklaces, and strings. Tikora is a gold thread spirally twisted for complicated designs. The dull zari thread is called kora and the shinier one is called chikna. The equipment that is used for embroidery is a rectangular wooden-frame called karchob and a wooden leg called thapa used for sewing laces.

Making of Zari

Real zari- a fine silver or gold thread is drawn from silver or gold alloys, which is flattened by passing it under through equal pressure rotating rollers. The flattened silver threads are wound on the base yarn that is usually made of silk. These spools with silk and silver threads are further flattened for electroplating. The threads are then plated with gold by the process of electroplating. The lustre of the gilded threads is further increased by passing them through a brightener. This improves aesthetics. These threads are then wound on a reel.

Imitation zari is made when copper wires are drawn from copper alloys. It then undergoes a similar process, except in this case, they are electroplated with silver and then wound around the base yarn, and reeled. This type of zari is less expensive than pure zari, as silver electroplated copper is more economical.

Metallic zari is a modernized version of zari and it replaces traditional metals like gold, silver and copper. It is resistant, durable and light in weight. It is non-tarnishing and maintains its lustre for a considerable period of time.

Zari in its various forms

Zardozi:This is a heavy and more elaborate embroidery work which uses varieties of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, and gota. It is used to embellish wedding outfits, heavy coats and other products. The material on which this kind of embroidery is done is usually heavy silk, velvet and satin.

Kamdani: This is a lighter needlework which is done on lighter materials like scarves, veils, and caps using flattened wire. Ordinary thread is used and the wire is pressed down with the stitching producing a satin-stitch effect. The effect produced is glittering and is called hazara butti (thousand lights).

Mina Work: It resembles enamel work and makes use of gold threads.

Kataoki Bel: This is a border pattern made of stiff canvas and the whole surface is filled with sequin edging. A variation of this border technique is lace made on net and filled with zari stitches and spangles.

Mukaish: This is one of the oldest styles and is done with silver wire or badla. The wire itself serves as a needle, piercing the material to complete the stitches. A variety of designs are produced in this manner. It is also known as the Fardi ka kaam in Lucknow. In Gujarat and Maharashtra it is called Badla.

In both Kamdani and Fardi ka kaam, flattened wire is used. In Kamdani the wire is worked into motifs whereas in Mukaish tiny dot patterns are made. In kamdani the wire is attached to a small length of thread which is pulled by a needle. In Mukaish the wire itself is used as a needle. Below is an example of the Mukaish work.

Tilla or Marori Work: This is the kind of embroidery where gold thread is stitched on to the surface with a needle.

Gota Work: The woven gold border is cut into various shapes to create a variety of textures in the patterns. In Jaipur the border of the material or saree is cut into shapes of birds, animals, and human figures, attached to the cloth, and covered with wires of silver and gold; it is surrounded by coloured silks. The work resembles enamelling.

Traditionally Gota ribbons were woven with a wrap of flattened gold and silver wire and a weft of silk/cotton thread and used as functional and decorative trims for a variety of garments and textiles.

Kinari Work: A small variation is kinari work where the embellishments are done only at the edges in the form of tassels

The Zari Destinations

There is a sizeable domestic market for zari threads and other metallic items. The principal Indian markets for zari products are Chennai, Mysore, Bangalore, Salem, Madurai, Kanchipuram, and Kumbakonam in the south.

Jaipur, Delhi, Amritsar and Varanasi in the north and north western India.

Kolkata in the east; and Mumbai and Nagpur in the west.

However, Gujarat is the world's largest producer of zari, and the Surat market is a treat to every zari explorer.

Traditional Trivia

Zari has a historical as well as religious significance to its credit. During the Vedic ages, zari was associated with the grand attired of Gods, kings and literary figures. The Ramayan, Mahabharat and Rig Veda have made references to Zari craft.

Zari signified opulence and wealth during the Mughal era. The Surat port being a link to the Haj pilgrims and Indians was a major factor for introducing this craft in India.

Zari handicrafts produced in Persia were imported to India and likewise many immigrant craftsmen set up their trade in the country as well.

The zari trade has survived all the centuries so brilliant craftsmanship traditional zari traders, who love their craft and have smoothly adapted to the changing times, by switching from old fashioned techniques to new ones.


By Team Red Polka


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