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Workshops in the sun

For the last six months, I've been working with the UNESCO Parzor Project, joining its attempts to preserve the demographically endangered Parsi Zoroastrian community and revive its unique craft traditions. This week, we organised a national exhibition, seminar and embroidery workshop in New Delhi.


Parsi embroidery imbibes not only Indian, but Persian, European and Chinese influences, due to the trade with China over the Silk Route. Now an almost forgotten art, it is expensive to purchase due to the painstaking precision and effort involved in creating this fine work. Stunningly embroidered garas (saris) remain family heirlooms, passed down from mothers to daughters for generations. This Spanish or Piano shawl (above) is covered with beautiful and colorful motifs, ranging from Din, the hundred-petal rose, to the beautiful Simurgh, the mythical equivalent of the phoenix.

The Workshop we conducted is the fifth of hopefully many across the country, aiming to train artisans and skilled workers in this art, but also to involve people to give them a renewed understanding of the value of this work and the high level of time and skill required in its making. It is rather unfortunate that today, embroidery is relegated to the domestic sphere of the woman instead of having a rightful place as a "high" art. Immensely tougher than painting, here threads of glorious colors are used to create fine shading and every texture imaginable, and we have become used to referring to it as "painting with a needle".


I tried my hand at it too - it's been years since I picked up a needle - and I wasn't half bad!



There were also demonstrations of the weaving of a Kusti or sacred girdle worn daily by every Zoroastrian from the time of the Navjote or initiation ceremony...



...And of the making of a Toran, beautiful door frame hangings made by Czech glass beads stitched together.




India International Center, New Delhi
March '11
Canon EOS 500D
All Rights Reserved: Kriti Bajaj/Parzor