Amidst all the glitter and glamour of Rajasthan’s historical heritage, gota patti, a type of appliqué-embroidery, is uniquely prestigious. Gota has captured in its weave the fantasy of the times. Also called ‘Lappe ka kaam’ or work of appliqué, it came to be the ever-present accessory of every royal garment. Travelling from the markets of Surat, Gujarat to Ajmer, Rajasthan where they were originally manufactured, Jaipur is now the city of where gota patti work is done. Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 men work on gota, in the town of Naila.
Jaipur immediately conjures up images of Maharajas and Mahals. Gota patti would adorn the royalty of Jaipur. The woven gold cloth is placed onto silk or satin to create different surface textures, often complemented by ‘kinari’ or edging border decoration. Coloured silk would be engulfed in shapes of wildlife and nature on gold cloth encased in wires of silver and gold. The overall effect was one of enamelling similar to meenakari jewellery.
The technique travelled to remote areas of Rajasthan. Women adorned tie and dyed dupattas with trims of gotta. The strips were arranged in a way that when the dupatta was draped over the head, the border would fall to become visible.
Originally, real gold and silver was used to decorate clothes of silk. Due to its unavailability and high cost, today synthetic fibres are used in its place. It is metalized and coated with gold or silver according to its design. The production of placing gota patti work onto fabric begins with ‘chapaayi’. This is the process of printing the pattern of the desired design onto the base fabric. The base fabrics range from tie-dyed gorgette silk, pastel chiffons and crepe as commonly used materials. ‘Khaat’ or a wooden frame is set up to which the fabric is tied using thick cords. Then, tracing paper with perforated pattern is placed on top and rubbed with chalk powder to print the outline of the design on to the fabric.
The gota comes in rolls of ribbon which is then cut out into shapes of flowers, leaves and birds. More recently, adhesive is used to paste the cut out gota onto the fabric before sewing whereas previously, the gota was sewn straight on with a running stitch. This change in process helps production to flow much faster. After the Gota work has been complete, patti or the trim is incorporated in the tapestry. Patti pertains to the leaf shapes that are generally used for the embroidery. This process is called ‘takaayi’, cutting and folding tapes of patti into basic rhomboid units form elaborate motifs of geometric patterns. A wide variety of threads like cotton, silk, metal etc. are used to create outlines of these shapes, adding a dash of colour and enhancing their beauty.
The final stage, ‘silaayi,’ is the tailoring of the fabric into a finished garment. Details of ‘latkan’ or dangling charms, buttons and borders enhance the garment. Although it may seem that the intricate embellishments would make the outfit very heavy to wear, the contrary is true, in some part because of the base fabrics. Chiffon, georgette and satin are the standard fabrics used and prevent the clothing from becoming burdensome to wear.
In more recent years, there is a greater concentration of using gota along with other embroidery techniques. There are newer designs, mostly floral that are in vogue. The gota are cut out into finer shapes and the designs include a lot more detail of beading, sequins and semi- precious stones. The gota patti lends its glorious and surreal designs to colourful lehenga cholis, kurtas, sarees and dupattas. Gota patti embroidery has been popular since the Mughal period and has also been used as a common form of embellishment for bed spreads, bags and household upholstery. However, the traditional tie-dye red and yellow dupattas that once adorned the women in rural Rajasthan, draped with bright gota floral motifs have become a rarity.
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