Banjara Embroidery - Tales of a Tribe
If you’ve lived in India and have listened to a fair bit of non-mainstream Hindi music, you would definitely know the word, Banjara. Rajasthani folk songs such as Divana, Bichura and Panihari illustrate the everyday life of the Banjara community through music, poetry and dance. But have you ever wondered about who the Banjaras are, where they come from or how they live?
The Banjaras are a unique nomadic tribe that have wandered across India in search of trade. While there is little historical evidence about their origins, existing research shows that they were inhabitants of Rajasthan but have traversed afar and settled in various states such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal. Owing to their diverse experiences, the tribe is known to be immensely courageous and enduring. These values often get translated into their handiwork.
Banjara art is alluring and encompasses various art forms such as dance, music, embroidery, tattooing and painting. However, it is the embroidery which is one of the most outstanding and remarkable parts of their identity. Banjaras express their cultural congruence through their bold and spirited designs. The embroidery is a combination of colorful threads, mirror work, stitching patterns appliqué or patch work. Another distinguishing aspect of Banjara embroidery is the variation in stitching. Stitches such as Kilan, Vele, Bakkya, Maki and Suryakanti are used, these running stitches are capable of creating a variety of patterns on the cloth. Different colored threads are interwoven between these stitches to make a horizontal pattern. Additionally, criss cross patterns, chain stitch and overlaid quilting stitch are also used.
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The Lambadas, as the Banjaras are known in Andhra Pradesh have a distinctive design of their own. Mirror work is a prominent style seen on their multi-hued, vibrantly coloured attires. The Banjara or Lambani women are usually seen in bright coloured garments that are sewn together with contrasting thread, in addition to embellishments such as beads, cowry shells and coins.
For many years now, Banjara embroidery products have been made available to the mass market leading to an upsurge in demand for a larger range of artistic pieces like bags, belts, purses, bedsheets, cushion covers and many more utility objects. Devoid of the touch of contemporary fashion, Banjara embroidery continues to fascinate buyers in national and international markets.