The intricate art of hand embroidery from Kutch, Gujarat

Rabadi woman from the Kutch region, Gujarat

Rabadi women from the Kutch region, Gujarat © Kala Raksha

The intricate art of hand embroidery from Kutch, Gujarat

The region of Kutch, in the western state of Gujarat in India, is home to different tribes. Discover the beautiful art of Kutchi embroidery that has been practiced by women from this region for generations.

Kutch is a region renowned for its mirrored embroideries. Most of these were traditionally created by village women, for themselves and their families, to celebrate festivals, honor deities, or pray for wealth. While embroideries contributed to the substantial economic exchange required for dowry during the time of marriage and fulfilled other social obligations which required exchanging gifts, unlike most crafts, they were never commercial products.

Femme tisserande de la tribu Rabadi, pochon en coton brodé

Rabari woman from the Kutch region, Gujarat © Kala Raksha - Hand embroidered pouch © Sophie Denux

Rabadi woman from the Kutch region

© Kala Raksha

Embroidery also communicates self and status. Differences in style create and maintain distinctions that identify community, sub-community, and social status within a community. The "mirror work" of Kutch is really a myriad of styles, which present a richly textured map of regions and ethnic groups. Each style, a distinct combination of stitches, patterns and colors, and rules for using them, was shaped by historical, socio-economic and cultural factors. Traditional but never static, styles evolved over time, responding to prevailing trends.


Suf is a painstaking embroidery based on the triangle, called a "suf." Suf is counted on the warp and weft of the cloth in a surface satin stitch worked from the back. Motifs are never drawn. Each artisan imagines her design, then counts it out --in reverse! Skilled work thus requires an understanding of geometry and keen eyesight. A suf artisan displays virtuosity in detailing, filling symmetrical patterns with tiny triangles, and accent stitches.

Woman weaver, India

© Kala Raksha


Khaarek is a geometric style also counted and precise. In this style, the artisan works out the structure of geometric patterns with an outline of black squares, then fills in the spaces with bands of satin stitching that are worked along the warp and weft from the front. Khaarek embroidery fills the entire fabric. In older khaarek work, cross stitching was also used.


Paako, literally solid, is a tight square chain and double buttonhole stitch embroidery, often with black slanted satin stitch outlining. The motifs of paako, sketched in mud with needles, are primarily floral and generally arranged in symmetrical patterns.

Woman weaver, India

© Kala Raksha


Rabari embroidery is unique to the nomadic Rabaris. Essential to Rabari embroidery is the use of mirrors in a variety of shapes. Rabaris outline patterns in chain stitch, then decorate them with a regular sequence of mirrors and accent stitches, in a regular sequence of colors. Rabaris also use decorative back stitching, called bakhiya, to decorate the seams of women's blouses and men's kediya/ jackets. The style, like Rabaris, is ever evolving, and in abstract motifs Rabari women depict their changing world.

Indian woman weaver, embroidered cotton pouch

Hand embroidered cotton pouch © Sophie Denux - © Kala Raksha

Hand Embroidered Cotton Pouches

Hand embroidered cotton pouches © Sophie Denux


Garasia Jat work refers to the embroidery by Garasia Jats, Islamic pastoralists who originated outside of Kutch. Garasia women stitch an array of geometric patterns in counted work based on cross stitch studded with minute mirrors to completely fill the yokes of their churi, a long gown. This style, displaying comprehension of the structure of fabric, is unique in Kutch and Sindh.


The Mutavas are a small culturally unique group of Muslim herders who inhabit Banni, the desert grassland of northern Kutch. The exclusive Mutava style comprises minute renditions of local styles: paako, khaarek, haramji and Jat work, though these are known by different names. Specific patterns of each style, such as elongated hooked forms and fine back stitch outlining in paako, and an all-over grid in haramji, are also unique to Mutava work. Though technique varies, Mutava style is uniformly fine and geometric.

Patchwork and Appliqué

Patchwork and Appliqué Patchwork and appliqué traditions exist among most communities. For many embroidery styles, master craftwork depends on keen eyesight. By middle age, women can no longer see as well and they naturally turn their skills and repertoire of patterns to patchwork, a tradition that was originally devised to make use of old fabrics.

Indian women weavers

© Kala Raksha


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