Colorful and vibrant, the handicrafts of Rajasthan are a vivid mirror of the state’s rich cultural heritage. One such handicraft is Jaisalmer’s mirror embroidery. Renowned the world over for its striking style and beauty and said to be originally from Persia, this craft is seeped deeply into the Rajasthani cultural heritage.
According to folk-lore, mirror embroidery originated in 13th century Persia and came to India with the Mughals. Originally, the embroiders used pieces of mica which was later replaced by glass mirrors, as it is highly brittle and cannot withstand much wear and tear. The mirror pieces, usually round in shape, are embroidered into the cloth sheets which are then cut into pieces of the required shape and size.
The Rajasthani embroiders add versatility by incorporating mirror embroidery to other styles such as tie-and-dye and appliqué. The end result is an exquisite garment much in demand both within the country and abroad. The cut and placing of embroidery and mirrors in a kanjri (a backless upper garment), is not only popular in the local markets of Rajasthan, but also forms a bulk of the export to European countries.
Besides Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Sikar are also famous for mirror embroidery. However, the craft is not used just for the garments. The Rajasthani artisans utilize mirror embroidery to make both items of daily usage as well as collectibles and souvenirs. Even the camel saddles are often richly embroidered with this technique.
The style is one of the most popular in the country, appearing on anything from back-less blouses and bed spreads to wall hangings, shoes, lampshades and upholstery.
Even traditionally, the style is not limited to Rajasthan. The neighbouring state of Gujarat also lays claim to the mirror embroidery. However, the two styles are similar and unique at the same time. The most striking example of Rajasthani mirror work is the Pattu work of Jaisalmer.
Quilting or sewing pieces of fabric together to form a larger piece of cloth is one of unique offering of Rajasthan. Designed with lot of details, these quilts are soft and feathery to touch. The mirrors of various shapes enhance the design and pattern of these quilts. The stitching is so strong that a single quilt can hold thousands of such sparkling mirrors. The elaborate embroidery and amazing use of mirrors convert a boring quilt into a prized possession. Mirror crafted quilts can make an amazing gift item that boasts of tradition and exclusivity.
Other notable Rajasthani textile works are:
- Hand-block prints