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The Royal Embroidery Style of Dabka

Dabka embroidery is a technique that is used to create intricate patterns with a coiled wire which resembles a spring. This delicate tightly coiled spring of fine metal wire is what is known as dabka. Since the wire is used in the embellishment, it lends its name to the technique as well. Dabka embroidery is said to have originated in Rajasthan and surrounding areas which now belong to Pakistan. The embroidery is done on the fabric once the printing on the fabric is complete. The dabka is tightly coiled, in a way that it is hollow inside. To make the embellishment, craftsmen cut it into the required size and stitch it onto the fabric.

Dabka embroidery is very detail oriented and requires a tremendous amount of skill to execute the precise designs. A cotton thread is first stitched on the printed or stencilled design. Once this is complete, the metal coil is stitched onto the fabric by passing a needle from the middle.The embroidery is usually done on chiffon or silk with zari threads and once complete, the embellishment has a 3D appearance.

 

Dabka Embroidery - Sample Design of the coiled thread

Dabka motifs are mostly nature inspired - paisley, flowers, leaves and birds are common patterns that are made on the fabric with dabka. Some exceptionally skilled craftsmen can also make braids with the thread, giving the embellishment an interesting texture. Despite being lavish, when it comes to variety, the kind of motifs that are made with dabka are limited. While traditional dabka makes use of gold wires, nowadays, metal wires in hues of gold and silver are being used. Their jewelled tones add a spectacular shine, lending the fabric an opulence that is unparalleled.

Dabka Embroidery - Choli with threadwork

Since dabka is ornate and heavy, its use is limited to highlights in an outfit like the collar, yoke and borders of sarees and lehengas. All over dabka embroidery is a rare feature, which perhaps ended with the royalty in India. Of late, dabka embroidery is extensively seen in statement blouses, cholis and even in accessories like clutches and mojris which can totally elevate your traditional look.

Dabka Embroidery - Craftsmen at work

As with many other crafts in India, dabka is also on the verge of decline due to the dwindling number of artisans who are well-versed with the craft. Dabka work on a single outfit is a process that involves more than a couple of craftsmen, who painstakingly make intricate designs with nothing more than a simple needle over many days.

The meticulous effort that goes into the elaborate design makes dabka work a thing of beauty. As a result, dabka work is expensive and finds few takers unless the offering is unique. However, with designers like Gaurav Gupta showing interest in the technique and making it a part of their bridal and party wear offering, the demand for the craft and the remuneration of the craftsmen are both slowly increasing.

Image credit: desiroyale, Instagram