We're proud to announce the return of the India 9 Collection from the artisans of the Rabari tribe in and around Bhuj, India... It's our most stunning and intricate Raja Thread collection to date! The technique used in the construction of these masterpieces is ‘applique embroidery’. One applique artwork the size of our Raja Thread takes a Rabari woman approximately 8-10 days to complete depending on the level of detail she decides to put into the piece. This limited edition collection consists of only 120 pieces that were created by 12 Rabari women over the period of three months, and once they're gone, they're gone! We are incredibly proud of this project and couldn’t be happier to share it with you!
The word "Rabari" means "pathbreaker".
According to their myth of existence, they were created by Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, who wiped the dust and sweat from Shiva as he was meditating and fashioned the very first camel from the dust she collected from his body. Once Shiva had breathed life into this camel, it kept running away, so Parvati fashioned a man, and the first Rabari was given life so he could mind the camel. Keeping animals has thus always been a pious occupation and Rabaris see themselves primarily as custodians of animals during their mortal existence, rather than their owners. This belief system is the reason why animals are so widely seen in Rabari embroidery motifs, along with other imagery from daily life.
The Rabari tribe call the Great Raan of Kaatch home, a desert region in the state of Gujarat, nestled close to the Pakistani border. The Rabari are a traditionally nomadic people, divided up into three sub-groups: the Dhebaria, the Vaghadia, and the Kaachi. Herders by trade, the Rabari always had plentiful amounts of wool, and weaving and dying became a part of their tradition—beautiful, vibrant textiles, quilts and bags have become a hallmark of their society.
It is estimated that the Rabaris originally migrated to India via Afghanistan through Baluchistan, although this has been disputed by some experts, who propose a stronger relationship with the Rajputs of Rajasthan. Rabari's have 133 sub casts, the majority of which are Hindus who worship Mata Devi, the great mother goddess of India. Unsurprisingly, the Rabari's social structure is matriarchal, with women conducting the majority of their business affairs, while men are in charge of the animal herds and animal products such as wool, milk and leather that form the only true Rabari assets.
Rabaris have a very rich cultural past and present. They are known for their "Rabari Bharat (Embroidery)",especially in Kutch. Embroidery is a vital, living, and evolving expression of the crafted textile tradition of the Rabaris. Rabari women diligently embroider on textiles as an expression of creativity, aesthetics and identity as far back as the tribe’s collective memory goes. Afternoons are time for embroidery in all Rabari villages, where women routinely embroider everyday apparel, bride's ghagro (skirt), kanchali (blouse) and ludi (veil), the groom's kediyan or shirt, children's cradle cloths as well as dowry bags and auspicious torans. Rabari embroidery is very vigorous, with many bold shapes. Designs are taken from mythology and from their desert surroundings.
Rabari women tattoo magical symbols onto their necks, breasts and arms. Their jewelry is modest in comparison to other tribal women. They wear small gold nose rings and silver and gold chains around their neck on where protective amulets are hung. Few simple glass bracelets adorn their arms. In contrast to woman, a Rabari man commonly appears in white dress, golden earrings and a big stick in his hand. They wear dhoti and on the top a short double breasted waistcoat (all white) laced over the chest and tied, long sleeves which are gathered up and folded at the arms. The head is covered with a turban.
The local tone remains very positive overall toward the support of the Rabari's handicraft. Rabari tribe elders have seen an increased outside awareness and demand for Rabari embroidered textiles, which is an economic indicator that there is a wider global audience in support of what they do, putting an increased priority on textile creation. At Ethnotek, we couldn't be more proud to be a part of a movement that helps sustain this level of demand... Every purchase counts and is a vote toward keeping their craft alive and thriving. Come cast your vote and buy a piece of Rabari culture today. It's art worth elevating!