A Kashmiri kaleidoscope called kashidakari

kashmiri kashida embroidery

Pretty intricate and intricately pretty- this simple permutation and combination of two adjectives that adheres to its characteristic in design almost sums up what the famous Kashida embroidery stemming from the heaven of Kashmir intertwines in its play of the threads resplendent with the rich radiance of both craftsmanship and aesthetics. Extremely elegant in its profusion of the motifs that derive essentially from many a natural elements of exquisite beauty is kashidakari that which is one amongst the oldest embroidery forms prevalent in India. Known for being quite a vision in its splash of color worked about by the use of thick, rich hued threads, this traditional art form is also a cultural legacy of the state of Kashmir even though it finds expression in a couple of other Indian regions as well. Fine and intrinsic in its essence, kashida embroidery weaves out its web of beauty through the medium of beads and threads, presenting therefore stunning specimens of beauty that dazzles with the allure of a charisma so innate to the natural world. Everything from flowers and birds to vines and trees to blossoms and leaves finds impeccable expression through this mode of artistry that instantly brings to life every surface it spawns expansively across as a really remarkable foliage of nature in full bloom.

Standout therefore in its striking presence, whether it be the very decipherable motifs or the medley of vibrant tones through which it manifests its beauty is this style of embroidery that had been traditionally decorating the premises of warm fabrics of a certain hue- off white or cream backgrounds further elevating the shine of its colorful vibrancy to an extent that made them apt to such descriptions as being skilful renditions of beauty. Decorating prominently the heavy facades of the silks and the wools and the cottons has been kashidakari, even as its beauty came to dominate also a range of home decor items from rugs to cushion covers to bedspreads to lampshades to wall hangings and floor coverings as well as accessories like bags, with crystals, pashmina and leather threads eking out intricate patterns complete in every aspect of detail to produce a stunning show of extravagance residing in every exploration of natural beauty so expressive across every inch of landscape that makes up the beautiful valley of Kashmir the paradise on earth it has forever been celebrated to be.

Naturally then, with such meticulous attention to detail, the art of the kashida is one that relies excessively on the deftness of the artisans’ hands, and stems therefore of an expertise acquired over years and years of experience gained while fiddling with the nuances of its embroidery style, making the craft so ingrained a heritage exploration of the land from which it originated that places it firmly as one of the leading cottage industries in Kashmir. Believed to have been invented by the folks of Srinagar, kashida embroidery flourished during the Mughal rule in the country when it came to enjoy heavy royal patronage, spurred of course by its appearance that rests still in a glamour and intrigue of very visible regal leanings. Favoured by the elite of the region who took a likening to the shawls heavily adorned by this work of the craft, kashida embroidered fabrics soon came to gain commonplace prominence, even when persisting indeed in its very rich feel. That look of royalty continues to flow through the rich scheme of colors that every kashidakari work necessarily manifests as, in very assertive ethnic and traditional connotations of it, so much so that has managed to retain its appeal even in the modern age and time.

Characterised by intrinsic needlework, from where in fact the term kashida takes root, and worked out with a type of chain stitch in the single stitch style is this grand depiction of the exemplary hand skill of the artisans who go about pouring their creativity and hearts out in these specimens of utmost flair by harbouring all through a close connect with nature. Indeed then in all their vibrancy and flourish, the kashidakari is one of the most distinctive styles of embroidery to have come out of India. Though also attributed to the Persians who in some way might have brought in such rather attractive manifestations of needlework into the Indian expanse or at least influenced its development, the embroidery prospered in mainland India for centuries, passed down from generation to generation along the course of which it wasn’t merely the craft that trickled down into the Kashmiri existence and underwent subtle changes in interpretation but also the motifs and patterns and the stitches that came to encompass wider changes into its expression, making it therefore more dynamic a canvas through which a diverse world of nature found prominence.

kashida embroidery
Source: iTokri

Beyond this dwelling of nature across numerous kashidakari shawls that which were the traditional items adorned by this exquisite medium of beauty, the embroidery also came to reside in rather interesting motifs integral still to the Kashmiri expression of its culture, heritage and legacy. Examples include the teapot motif that which is derived from the kahwa kettle or the antique Kashmiri teapot called the samovar. Also intriguing is the fact that unlike other forms of traditional embroidery typically considered the domain of the womenfolk, the artisans of kashida embroidery are largely the males of the region, in accordance with a tradition related to the propagation of the Muslim way of life. Another unique aspect of kashidakari relates to the functionality of its various products, that enables both sided use owing to the skillful eking out of the stitches along their trail.

Gorgeous and grandiose in expression and demanding acute precision and intricacy in execution is this gem of Kashmiri craftmanship that has been in existence since at least the 11th century. With a unique blend of color achieved by projecting specific hues of strands against as determinate a background of muted tones, a stunning three dimensional effect was produced that came to demarcate this particular form of embroidery among the myriad many that characterise the richly exclusive needling legacy resident in every region of India in their own unique way. But despite being an identity mostly emergent from the land of Kashmir, kashidakari finds also its own distinctive standing within the ambits of Bihari tradition.

Called bharua kashida, the Bihari legacy of this form of embroidery is a woman’s domain that imbibes rather abstract and stylized, geometric motifs unlike the authentic Kashmiri version. Bihar’s legacy of the kashida though is not as pronounced in its assertion as the one that entails the famous shawls of Kashmir, though the appeal of its beauty has meant also its effective crossover to other items of everyday use. Today a phenomenal statement making choice in the world of fashion, the kashida embroidery exemplifies further its beauty across a range of explorations integral to it. Deserving special mention would be the papier mache style of this embroidery where dresses adorned with the exquisite intricacy of its satin effect create a visual effect that somewhat resembles the appearance of stained glass. But even without such conjurings of the ‘special effect’, kashida embroidery and the finished output it yields is one of the most excellent assertion of artistic aptitude as well as of a cohesive integrity whereby the perception of the senses converge to produce a fusion of style and substance rendered in as stunning manifestations of them as possible, making therefore kashidakari a truly enigmatic fore of the crafts to be enthralled by.