A Tale in a Textile \u2026 notes from one of my lectures.\n\u00a0The Geographical Origin\n\nThe brown represents the state of Gujarat \u2013 the one that M.K. Gandhi hailed from and the newly elected Prime Minister Modi hails from.\nThe upper jaw of this region is largely a salt-desert that came about through the surfacing of the sea bed over earthquakes over the centuries. Temperatures go up to 48 degrees celsius in summer. A place that demands cool airy dressing that overcomes the heat of the desert.\nKutch is the residence of several gypsy tribes that have connections to Afghani and other gypsy tribes. Let us have a look at their costume traditions.\nThe Creators & the Wearers\nA few pictures of the women of the Rabari Tribe in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India:\n Note the costume of these women.\nMany of these families spend half their year as pastoral nomads and the other half settled in village homes. Below we visit a nomadic family. (pics from my visit in 2007).\n\n\nHere we are at a wedding \u2013 where the women have gathered and are singing wedding songs. Once again notice their costume.\n\n\nThe one common costume element that stands out \u2013 is the BLACK VEIL.\nThey always wear a Black head cover. It is roughly 3-4 meters long and about 1.5-2 meters wide. In summers it is cotton but winters it is wool and all year round, it is a long black headdress that is a must-wear.\nAs this tribe is a Hindu tribe the choice of black is unusual.\nSo we dig deeper to understand how this came to be the color of the veil used uniformly by the entire group.\nBut before we get to the cultural story, let us examine the art and the craft briefly.\nThe Ludhi is a specific example of the black veil \u2013 the one that is used by brides. Naturally it is a highly decorated veil as it is worn at her wedding.\nThe Textile Art\n\n\nThe Craft\nIt is made using hand spun goat wool:\n\nThe cloth is woven on a narrow hand loom and then tied & dyed to form patterns with simple dots.\n\nTwo pieces of the the wool cloth are sewn together with a number of\u00a0 elaborately embroidered florets along the vertical spine of the cloth.\n\nA closer lookBesides the excessive embroidery, mirrors are the other embellishment of this textile.\nThis is a Vagadia Rabari Ludhi \u2013 there\u00a0 are other types such as Debariya etc \u2013 which connote the village. (Vagad is a village cluster). The difference between these styles is more a matter of artistic preference that got replicated rather than an ideological difference. But more about that in another note in the future.\n\nThe black color has aroused my curiosity and I ask a village elder to explain the roots of this textile tradition and he tells me over leisurely plates\u00a0 of chai (as is gujarati custom, the tea must be poured from the cup to the plate for cooling and then drunk from the plate \u2013 that also results in economic efficiency).\nThe Story\n\u201cOnce upon a time\u201d a few centuries ago, the Rabari tribe with their herd, roamed the lands ruled by a particular King.\nThe Rabaris and the Royals always shared a good relationship and the tribe was asked to assist in political matters of the state. Highly trustworthy and reliable they acted as secret message carriers and offered convoys to escort royal women when they travel to visit their maternal homes. They were also called upon to fight in battles and have many stories of valour\nIn India there is the concept of forging a relationship by \u2018declaration\u2019 that is followed by simple ceremonies. So by mutual agreement it is possible for me to \u201cdeclare\u201d someone as my\u00a0 \u2018Rakhi\u2019 brother.\nIn that manner, the tribal lord\u2019s wife, declared the the King as her brother and a bond was formed and recognised by both the tribe as well as the royalty.\nAt some point there was a battle and the king lost his life. Mourning was declared in the state.\nNow mourning usually lasts a few days and ends when a ceremony is conducted in which offerings are made to the spirits and the community.\nIn this story, The Tribal Lord\u2019s wife was SO deeply grieved and she declared more stringent terms of mourning:\nShe declared that mourning for the tribe would continue until an offering of a feast was held, in which 1 mulo of salt would be used in the cooking. Now 1 mulo (old measure) = 100 mann (new measure) and\u00a0 1 mann = 20 kg therefore 1 mulo = 2000 kg.\nEstimate that!\n2000 kg of salt \u2026. How much food that would be \u2026 how many people would that feed!\nSince such a feast is beyond the eating / preparation capabilities of the tribe, the end of the mourning period never came and the tribe continued to wear the black.\nNaturally since this happened centuries ago, normal life has since resumed but the dress tradition continues even today. This is a legend and an interesting one.\nIn the olden days when the only entertainment was to sit around in the evenings and talk, these stories were passed around and they survived across the generations. Today, there is so much attention-seeking media even in the lives of rural folk, that the transmission of such folk legends is being crowded out.\nI have heard this first hand from a prominent Rabari Tribal Patriarch.\nThe discovery of this tale in this textile what I found most attractive about Ludhi veils!\nYou never know what you might find woven into these beautiful threads!\njm\nNov 2014\n\u00a0\nThe post The Sultry Black Ludhi of the Rabari Tribe appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.