A forgotten artform
One of the fading art forms is the art of Parsi Embroidery. Parsi embroidery is suggested to have originated from Bronze Age Persia. The Parsi community is believed to be great followers of Prophet Zarathustra; the community started migrating from Iran to India and settled along the western coast of Gujarat. By the early 19th century, Parsi traders were active participants in the trading activities in China and Hong Kong. They returned with several beautiful Chinese artefacts and the most desired amongst them were embroidered textiles. Since the art of Chinese embroidery was valued, the traders bought embroidered silks for their families that were stitched together to create saris.
‘Gara’, the Gujarati word for a sari, began to be associated with the Chinese embroidered sari and this form of embroidery has since been referred to as Gara embroidery.
Back then Chinese craftsmen travelled with big trunks of embroidery across the seas to Persian lands and sold them to Parsi women. Some of the Parsi women were also taught the craft by these craftsmen, and the women later skillfully merged the new style with their own. Community accounts recall how Chinese men carried bundles of embroidered silk cloth on their bicycles would often leave these materials on the verandas of Parsi homes, while they sold their silk wear during the rounds. When they returned in the afternoon, Parsi women, also free from their household chores would sit on the verandas, observing them working on their small embroidery frames, thus learning their special embroidery stitches including their use of curved needles. With this newly acquired skill, Parsi women created their own Garas. The creations by Parsi women exhibited their preference for certain motifs such as the rooster and fish, which have significance in Zoroastrian tradition as against dragons and snakes popular in Chinese tradition.