\nTHE DOWRY\nA young girl leaves her home to join another family of which she knows very little. She has spent her childhood and early youth sheltered within the large compound of her maternal home with limited exposure to the outside world. And now she must leave her mother and the family that raised her.\u00a0 What will provide her with comfort in that alien house that she must now call home? Until she forms the bonds of love in her new home what will remind her that she is loved and cherished?\u00a0 The Dowry chest \u2013 containing things that she surrounds herself with during the early days in her new home \u2013 her clothes, her jewels and other legacy gifts.\nFor some this dowry might comprise of things \u2018bought\u2019 from the market. But for those that are fortunate, the dowry contains pieces that were made by her mother and grandmother before her own eyes through her childhood. Pieces that are embedded with memories of many afternoons in which the women of the family gathered together to create her wedding canopy.\u00a0 For the fortunate, the dowry consists of the magnificent Bagh Phulkari Chadar!\nTHE SOCIAL PARADIGM\nPre-partition India. Pre 20th century.\u00a0 Punjab with its fertile lands and fields filled with golden crops.\u00a0 \nWhen a daughter is born, her grandmother begins working on a new Phulkari Bagh textile. And by the time the daughter is ready to be married the Bagh chadar is complete.\nOver the years, while the daughter is being prepared for the most important event in her life i.e. her wedding one loving instruction at a time,\u00a0the bridal canopy is also being prepared, one perfect stitch at a time. And on her wedding day, the bride walks to the wedding altar at the center of a convoy of brothers, who hold the Bagh textile above her head as a canopy\u00a0 of love and shelter.\nA traditional wedding song sung by the women of the family as she walks with her brothers:\nMaa de haathan di ae phulkari nishaani eh |\u00a0 This Phulkari is a sign of your mother\u2019s hands\nIsse Naseebaawaala ne Ronde Hansde Payii eh |\u00a0 Fortunate are those who wear it through times of smiles & tears\nIn those days, joint families were the norm and children grew up amidst parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Gender roles were very clearly defined and from the pre-teen years onwards, girls were brought up primarily by the women and trained in matters within the household while boys remained in the company of men and were trained in all matters beyond the walls of the home.\u00a0\u00a0 The family bonds between the young girl and all the elder women, her mother, her grandmother and aunts, were very strong.\u00a0 The song states that even though the loving arms of her mother must be left behind as she moves to her new home, the dowry shawl created by these very arms will continue to provide her with love and comfort during the happy and sad times in her new life.\nTHE BAGH TEXTILE\nThe Bagh is a specific type of Phulkari work. Phulkari literally means \u2018flower work\u2019 that is embroidered onto cloth in the style prevalent in that region. Phulkaris\u00a0 contain embroidered floral, geometric and angular motifs, scattered throughout the rough hand-woven khaddar base cloth.\u00a0 When the embroidery blankets the base cloth completely in a way such that the background cannot be seen at all or is seen only minimally, the shawl is given a special name : a \u2018Bagh\u2019\u00a0 (meaning : garden). In a Phulkari, the embroidery is sparse and the base cloth is always visible but in a Bagh it is not. Baghs are finer pieces and rarer works of art.\nAn example of Bagh in which the base cloth is not visible at all:\nA golden Bagh.\n\n\nThe precision with which the elders embroidered the Bagh phulkaris is remarkable and might even put modern day machines to shame. Maybe this quest for perfection stemmed from the mother\u2019s intense desire for a perfect life for daughter. Maybe she made this dowry textile perfect so that it may accurately reflect her flawless maternal love. In order to create such perfect devotion to any object, cause or person,\u00a0 one is required to pour out and empty oneself, one\u2019s heart and one\u2019s soul into its creation, with the exclusion of all else. And the proof of the devotion is the perfection that results.\nTHE MATERIALS\nStrips of cloth that were narrow, as they had been woven on small hand looms were used\u00a0 after hand-stitching together a combination of 2, 3, 4, or 5 strips to form a broad base. The base cloth is then dyed in\u00a0shades of rust or maroon, with the exception of the Thirma pieces that used un-dyed white\u00a0cloth.\n\nWhite Base cloth of Thrima Baghs\n\nThe thread used for the\u00a0embroidery was all-natural silk floss. Fine all-natural twisted silk thread that is available today is already hard to work with compared to cotton or synthetic thread, so it is hard to fathom the challenges involved in working with untwisted silk floss!\nThese threads that are no longer available were dyed in various bright colors, possibly with insect dyes and were imported from other places along the Silk route from Afghanistan, Kashmir and perhaps also China.\nTHE TECHNIQUE\nIn a Bagh, the satin stitch is worked from the wrong side of the cloth in a way such that the thread is hardly visibly on the back and the base cloth is hardly visible on the front.\n\nPatterns are created by counting wefts & warps of the base cloth and creating stitches in straight lines.\n\nCounting thread\n\nMotifs are created primarily by the varying the starting and ending points of adjoining stitches.\nIn addition, colors of the thread may be varied to create\u00a0 the motif.\n\nIn the case of single color Baghs, the orientation of the straight lines is also varied to create a variation of gloss.\u00a0 This results from a variation in the amount and nature of the light reflected by the differently oriented threads.\n\n\nThe base cloth may be exposed to add color and to create artistic patterns between the motifs\n\n\n\nTHE NAZAR BUTTI\nMany Baghs have one single motif that appears to be jarringly out-of-place or appears to be a mistake or the result of an error in planning the layout. A motif in a color that is beyond the color palette of the piece or a motif that has been left blank without embroidery or an error in the proportions of a single motif may be seen.\nIt leads one to wonder how it is possible for the woman whose precision and rigor is unquestionably superior as evidenced in the rest of the Bagh, could suddenly slip and make such a glaring error.\nThe curious discrepancy leads us to investigate the culture and that reveals the following endearing reason for this slip: The errors or flaws that we see in Baghs have been created intentionally and deliberately. There is even a word for this in the Punjabi vocabulary: \u2018Nazarbutti\u2019. It is the \u2018butti\u2019 or motif that is intended to absorb all the \u2018nazar\u2019 or the evil-eye and protect the wearer from it. (This is to be seen within the larger context of \u2018nazar\u2019 which is prevalent in the senior Indian psychology even today for which countless remedies have been devised that may also be seen as folk art by outsiders).\n\u00a0\n\n Nazar butti \u2013 Pink thread\n\n\nNazar butti \u2013 multiple colors\n\n\nMissing triangle on top left corner\n\n\nGeometric disproportion in upper right quarter\n\n\nMissing rows bottom left\n\nAfter a few weeks of looking at Baghs I find myself drawn towards the Nazar Butti. The creativity seems to be concentrated in this one little rebellious motif and a hundred years after their intended use, it is this motif that is attracting my \u2018balaiyyan\u2019 (a word that is somewhat the opposite of \u2018nazar\u2019 . Will deal with this enigmatic subject in another article).\nIt is to be noted that Baghs from Sikh families do not contain the Nazar butti as they do not practice rituals that involve superstition.\nMany of the Baghs have a selvedge like guard border that protects the textile from edge wear. In very few Baghs that are quite likely older, we also see the guard border repeated on the back.\u00a0 This is the only stitch seen on the back of the cloth.\n\nGuard border along the selvedge\n\n\nGuard border on the back.\n\nThe magnificent dowry canopy takes the crown in \u2018precision\u2019 a cold characteristic that is usually associated with machinery. But this association is not true of Bagh artworks \u2013 in which the warmth of a mother\u2019s love shines through. And while the base cloth is rendered invisible, the souls of the mothers is clearly visible!\nA salute to all the mothers from rural Punjab who made these wonderful works of timeless art!\nToday we are left with but a few antiques as the art handmade Bagh has become extinct and is now being revived artificially.\njm\njuly 2013\nThese and other Thirmas and Baghs are on display on wovensouls.com \u2013 Punjab Gallery.\n\nIF YOU HAVE A THIRMA (or Bagh) THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SELL, PLEASE CONTACT ME. I AM CURRENTLY BUYING.\n\nThe post Dowry of A Mother\u2019s Love \u2013 The Bagh Textile of Punjab appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.