* Kasuti hand embroidery.

Kasuti is a traditional form of folk embroidery practised in the state of Karnataka. The history of kasuti dates back to the 10th century of the Chalukya period. The word kasuti derives from 'kai' meaning hand, and 'suti' meaning cotton. It was one of the 64 arts recognised in Karnataka.

Kasuti embroidery, which is women dominated work, involves embroidering intricate patterns that the rural womenfolk of north Karnataka find in their everyday objects, nature and culture.

Earlier, the yarn of the saree was counted and then accordingly embroidered, and the threads required was drawn from the saree itself.

Over the years, this domestic art form, due to lack of skill and strain on the eyesight of the craftsperson, resulted in patterns being traced first on the fabric and then embroidered on it. Readily available threads are bought and used in single or double strands depending on the demand of the design, colour, or base fabric.

There are more than 700 documented designs, for example, Gandle Kamala, Gopi Kamala, Chittu Kamala, Gundala Gopura, Jinki, Gandolagida, Tulasi, Kalee, Navilu, Shiva-linga, Neuge Godambi, Aani, Vankipatti, Kalasha, Gubbi, Chitte, Thearu, Kayapatti etc.

There are no knots in kasuti embroidery, which ensures both sides of the fabric look alike. The colours used for embroidery has always remained vibrant. The four varieties of stitches used are;

Gavanthi - A double running stitch or Holbein stitch for vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. The lines or motives gets completed on the return journey by filling the blank portions of the running stitch.
Murgi - Appears like the steps of a ladder as the stitches are zig-zag in nature, also a variation of Holbein stitch.
Negi - A running or darning stitch that gives an effect of the woven pattern. The word 'negi' means 'to weave' in the local language Kannada.
Menthi - A simple cross-stitch, resembling fenugreek seeds, to fill in the patterns or motifs. This stitch is not reversible.

In one of the rarest examples, the bride is supposed to have a black saree (several times dipped natural indigo, turning into almost black) embroidered with kasuti, also known as Chandrakali saree. Kasuti is not merely an embellishment but a principle aspect of Shaivite philosophy. A kasuti embroidered blouse is considered auspicious to an expectant mother.

Today, the act of embroidery need not be seen as a surface decoration but as a sustained means of work and financial freedom to many rural women artisans, who are our guardians of this heritage craft.

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