Persian Needle!

by Anu Biradar

Needles running in blacks, blues, and reds; Making a beautiful structure, entangled in threads!

Parsi embroidery is a unique part of India’s diverse textile heritage, often referred to as an amalgamation of cultures. This unique artistic tradition has its roots in Iran during the Bronze Age but with time it has drawn influences from European, Chinese, Persian, and Indian culture. Rapid urbanization and modernization have led to declining of many traditional Indian art forms and Parsi embroidery is one of them.

This lost art of embroidery has appeared again with sudden interest and now the most evident form of Parsi embroidery can be seen in Gara sarees. The embroidery on these sarees is an important part of the textile history of India. The embroidery uses various motifs to depict nature. To make a Gara sarees, an embroiderer takes around nine months, such is the intricacy and delicacy of this art. As a result of modernization, machine-embroideries came into action and hence the practicing of art vanished entirely.

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In ancient times women carefully guarded their embroidery and craft traditions across history. This bridal shawl found 150 years ago from Iran has embroidery motifs so intricate that a magnifying glass would be required to see them. Parsi Zoroastrian embroidery carries on this tradition; while over the centuries it has amalgamated with Chinese style and symbol, Indian stitches, and later European design.


This art of embroidery saw various up gradations due to its migration. For example: In the picture below its child’s ‘Jhabla’ or tunic you can see an inter-crossing mythical Iranian bird – the ‘Simurgh’ as the central motif. With the Simurgh, you can see a pair of peacocks from the Indian tradition along with Persian floral designs creating a vivid ‘Gul-e’Bulbul’.

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The China connection with Persia was an overland trade link, this would change into a sea trade link with the later Indian Parsis. Soon Chinese yardage had developed into the 'Parsi Gara Sari' - yardage bound in a frame by a'Kor' or border on four sides. In this Gara, made as part of the Parzor revival of traditional motifs and embroidery, we see a continuing as well as contemporization of tradition. Parsi women had adopted the sari when they migrated from Iran to Sanjan, but to keep it distinct, wore their pleats on the right and made the 'Pallav' reach almost to the feet standing out indistinctly patterned embroidered garments.

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In 2005 -2006 Parzor Foundation along with Textile Designer, Author, and Curator – Ashdeen Z. Lilaowala conducted a detailed research project on Zoroastrian Embroidery for the Ministry of Textiles. He traveled through Iran and researched the embroidery of Southern China. Parzor has documented several private Parsi embroidery collections in various cities of India and abroad. Today his brand ”Ashdeen” creates Designer Garas for textile enthusiasts across the world.

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