The Indian state of Rajasthan used to be home to numerous princely states before Independence. These princely states then merged together to form Rajasthan, meaning the land of rajas or kings. The rulers of the land were connoisseurs of art and their appreciation for anything beautiful is evident in the form of majestic palace architectures and the attires and jewellery displayed by the local folks.
Rajasthanis do not shy away from the use of audacious colours on fabrics, which are decorated with exotic crafts and embroidery. The state is well known for its decorative quilts, bags, canopies, fabric artwork for walls and outfits. The colourful artefacts and attires have added vibrancy to this desert land.
The traditional dress of Rajasthani women is a three piece outfit comprising of a lehenga skirt called ghaghra, a choli or kurti (blouse or top) and the odhni (stole). The Persian and Mughal arts contributed to the imaginations of the local artists to create attractive Rajasthani lehengas.
The ancient royals of Rajasthan were fond of dressing up lavishly. They used rich fabrics like brocade, tanchoi and satin from Gujarat, Varanasi and Kashmir for their attires. The ancient records of Rajasthani queens and princesses show them in elaborate lehengas using gold and silver zari and other precious and semi precious additions. This regal Rajasthani attire is now being adopted by Indian women across the globe for celebrations like weddings and festivals.
What makes a lehenga Rajasthani, are the regional techniques and embroideries used since ages. The Rajasthani lehenga can also use cut panels from different fabrics to create the vast flare. The modern day Rajasthani lehengas use fabrics like cotton, khadi, silk, velvet, georgette, crepe, net, satin and chiffon with a variety of fine stitches and embroidery. The embroidery designs can be floral, geometrical or mythological. The following are the famous types of Rajasthani lehengas using some unique techniques specific to Rajasthan.
The Leheriya, Bandhej and Mothra prints are the common patterns used for a Rajasthani lehengas. All these prints are created through tie and dye techniques used extensively in Rajasthan.
The Leheriya has beautiful wave patterns on the fabric through the tie and dye art and so the technique gets its name from the Rajasthani term ‘Leher’ which means wave.
The Mothra pattern has an additional diagonal wave over Leheriya through the same dyeing process.
In Rajasthan the Bandhej work takes different colours unlike the use of white dye for Bandhani from Kutch of Gujarat. Just like Bandhani, the Bandhej involves tying knots to create patterns and hence gets its name due to the tying process.
The following is an image of Rajasthani lehengas with Leheriya, Bandhej and Mothra prints.
Thread work is an integral part of creating decoration on lehenga. Needle and thread work is used for both Danke ka kaam (using metal pieces) and Mukke ka kaam, which are metal embroideries using silver and gold threads. They create very luxurious looks on the lehenga. Use of Pakko Bharat which is filling patterns with colourful thread work can also be seen on Rajasthani lehengas. Shisha and zardosi also exhibit use of creative thread work.
In the Bikaner region of Rajasthan the artists also use a form of double running stitch on fabrics that gives the illusion of tie and dye Bandhej art.
Ralli work is a form of patchwork used to decorate Rajasthani lehengas. In a lehenga using ralli work, small piece of fabrics in different shapes and colours are stitched together to form interesting patterns. These patterns may be highlighted with mirror –work.
This Rajasthani lehenga uses gota patti for embellishments. The well known fashion designer Anita Dongre uses gota patti extensively to create her exotic lehengas, taking inspiration from Rajasthan.
Gota is a type of embroidery created by stitching pieces of golden or silver fabrics on the base fabric. So it can be called as a type of appliqué work combined with stitch work using golden or silver threads. The hems of many Rajasthani lehengas display wider applications of gota ribbons or gota patti. The gota patti lehenga gives a rich regal look, so it is popular as bridal wear.
Mirror work forms an intrinsic part of Rajasthani lehengas. The mirrors were believed to reflect evil and bad omens away and even today mirror work is a big part of traditional attires from Rajasthan.
In this type of embroidery tiny pieces of mirrors are added as embellishments to the lehenga and they are attached using thread embroidery, which encases the mirror. The Rajasthani mirror work has spread to different states and the modern designers also heavily borrow this technique to create exquisite attires.
Although kalamkari did not originate in Rajasthan, this art of creating hand painted decoration on fabrics flourished in this haven of art. Kalamkari uses motifs from mythological legends and is a pictorial representation of religious or local folklore.
Rajasthani lehengas with kalamkari work look exquisite and the art elevates the look of the lehengas, irrespective of the silhouettes. The following kalidar lehenga by Yosshita and Neha displays kalamkari in the form of peacock and Goddess Durga motifs.
This is a type of Rajasthani lehenga worn by the banjara or tribal women of Rajasthan and it is a heavily embellished multicoloured skirt. Nowadays the local women display these skirts while performing their folk dances for tourists visiting the state. Modern women also use these lehengas as dance costumes, especially during Navratri.
These lehengas generally use every form of art on fabrics like patch work, mirror work, bandhej, threadwork and emphatic embellishments like cowrie shells are also used on it. The vibrant lehengas generally have an immense flare which looks very dramatic when the colours blend while the dancers twirl.
Some Rajasthan inspired lehengas using zardosi and gota embroidery on our website:
The effervescent lehengas display Rajasthan’s passion for art and colours. Emulating the state from which it originated, the Rajasthani lehenga is an epitome of royal heritage and legacy of the land. The lehenga has become a favourite wedding attire for Indian women today. The gorgeous Rajasthani lehengas will transform any bride into royalty.
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