Banjara Embroidery from Bellary

The nomadic tribes or the Banjaras were wandering groups. They did not limit themselves with the boundaries and binds of the urban life. This spirit of roaming from places to places reflected a sense of liberty. They are also described as hardworking, ingenious, powerful, self-assured and honorable. It was this limitlessness and freedom that is reflected through the Banjara embroidery designs. The traditional craft has been handed from generation to generation and Banjara communities strive to preserve the artwork that they have inherited from their forefathers. Despite their gradual absorption into the mainstream of life, the Banjaras still continue to keep in touch with their age-old customs, traditions and beliefs. An off-shoot of Banjara needlework is the fantastic range of artistic pieces like bags, belts, purses, skirts, blouses, bed spreads, sofa backs, cushion covers and many more utility objects that meet the changing tastes and requirements of present day connoisseurs.

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Lambani or Banjara embroidery is a combination of colorful threads, design patters, mirror work, stitching patterns appliqué or patch work. Embroidery is done on thirteen different colors of base fabric among which dark blue or red are commonly used. Base fabric used is basically hand loomed but now they also use readymade available fabric. The cloth is made of cotton khadi dyed with chemical or vegetable dyes made from Rathanjot, Kattha, Chawal Kudi, Pomegranate peel, etc. There are 14 types of stitches used in Banjara embroidery. They are Kilan, Vele, Bakkya, Maki, Suryakanti Maki, Kans, Tera Dora, Kaudi, Relo, Gadri, Bhuriya, Pote, Jollya, Nakra. It also includes running stitches which appear like small dashes that creates a variety of patterns on the cloth. It is stitched with parallel lines and a thread of different color is interwoven between the stitches to create a horizontal pattern. Other than that criss cross pattern, chain stitch and overlaid quilting stitch are also made.  Different types stitch patterns are used while embroidering to give the design a unique look. Combination of vibrant color threads makes the design more striking. The center of the designs is embellished with mirror works. The mirror is placed on the fabric and the thread is embroidered over it to hold the mirror in the thread which prevents it from falling off. Traditionally Lambani embroidery was made of wool, cotton, silk, gold or silver threads which added richness to the work.

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Lambani also known as Banjara or Banjara Lambanis are a class of nomadic people who migrated from the Indian states Rajasthan and North Gujarat and spread all over India before the arrival of Mughals. They used to travel from places to place in carts with all the things they owned. They are called as Gypsies of India. In the 17th century, Banjaras assisted the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to export goods to South. That was the first time they moved to the south where the roads and railways made transportation of goods easier for them. Later some of the families decided to settle down in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with other states of India such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Karnataka they settled in the Northern part of Karnataka.  Bijapur a district of Karnataka is a city of historic monuments. This city has most population of Lambanis in Karnataka. Most of the families are into agriculture and others are into labor work in the cities of town. With the change in time Lambanis have tried to adjust with society. They don’t own their own farms so they work in other farms and earn their wages. Young generations feel uncomfortable to work in the heavy traditional dress thus they have adapted to casual dress, which is resulting in a detachment from their traditions and culture.

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Present day Lambanis/Banjaras are known for their artwork. Lambani women show their embroidery skills on different types of article and presents them in different melas or exhibitions or try to sell them through NGOs. Most of the designers or NGOs hire the Lambani women for employment and spread their art. Lambani embroidery consists of the intricate thread work making geometrical patterns with countless of stitching skills.

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