The Kathipo style of embroidery derives its name from the practitioners of this embroidery, the Kathis of Saurashtra. Their style formed one of the most prominent and oldest among embroidery traditions in Saurashtra.[i] An array of household articles such as torans (door hangings) and chaklas (festive wall hangings, large or small, generally in square format) were embroidered using heer or hir (floss silk threads) predominantly depicting geometric and figurative patterns. However, the Kathis stopped the practice of embroidery during the start of the last century.[ii] During this time, the Kathi landlords started employing members from the Mahajan merchant communities. This change played an instrumental role in the future of Kathi style, with Mahajans canonizing various Kathi motifs leading to a consolidated style.[iii] A prominent motif, kaliphul (an eight pointed star) quite often occupied the central position. The style of embroidery was also adopted by other groups, especially the Gohilvadi Rabaris.
The Mahajans preferred a machine made cloth as a base, over which they embroidered using heer or hir (floss silk) mainly in red or violet shades (almost monochromatic with few sprinkles of yellow, white and green). Most of the embroidery consisted of long herringbone stitch (khajuri-no tanko), with fairly regular geometric format comprising chess board and geometric patterns. The stitches were executed in both horizontal and vertical direction which gave a pleasing illusion of double shades (similar to phulkaris of Punjab). A typical Mahajan output will have a crenellated border (kangra) surmounted by a peacock foot-print (mor–pagala), followed by bands of lozenges and mirrors. The central portion consists of chequered borders (daria or adadia, also known as dana bhat) with the final field divided into four (chokhand) or nine quadrants (nava–khanda).[iv]
[i] J. M. Nanavati, M. P. Vora and M. A. Dhaky. The Embroidery and Beadwork of Kutch and Saurashtra. (Gujarat: Department of Archaeology, 1966), 17-19.
[ii] Judy Frater. Threads of Identity: Embroidery and Adornment of the Nomadic Rabaris. (Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., 1995), 94.
[iii] J.M. Nanavati, 21.
[iv] Ibid., 22.
[v] Rosemary Crill. Indian Embroidery. (New Delhi: Prakash Book Depot, 1999), 95.
[vi] John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard. Indian Textiles. (New Delhi: Om Books International, 2008), 73.