Parsi Gara embroidery

parsi_ghara.jpg

I consider this the prize of my sari collection. It’s an antique silk Parsi Gara sari made in China, probably around the end of the 19th or early 20th century. On their travels to China, Parsi tradesmen from Gujarat fell in love with traditional Chinese embroidery and began to have saris embroidered there. They brought them back and sold them to wealthy Parsi women. This trade stopped after the Chinese revolution, and there have been no true Parsi Gara saris made since about 1950. There are very few whole saris left, and most of those are family heirlooms. The majority have been cut up and the borders preserved, while the silk body of the sari disintegrated.

This sari is one of the older ones, and has a wide border around the entire sari. This makes the sari extremely heavy, and later saris were made without the border along the edge that is tucked in to wear. Traditional designs included scenes from Chinese life, pagodas, figures, birds, flowers, trees. The embroidery is so fine that it’s hard to tell the difference between the right and wrong sides:

ghara_front_back.jpg

It’s also almost three dimensional in appearance because of the different angles of the stitches:

ghara_border.jpg

Because these saris took so long to embroider, they were extremely expensive and craftsmen in Surat began to copy them. The border below is an example (this type of French knot work was not done in China). The stitches are tiny (for scale, the border is less than 2″ wide).

knotwork_bird.jpg

knotwork_paisley.jpg

This one is also probably Indian-made:

black_satinstitch.jpg

Gorgeous! Fortunately in the last ten years or so, this type of embroidery has been given a new lease on life. One of these days I’ll have a new one too!

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29 Comments to “Parsi Gara embroidery”

  1. loved the embroidery where can i get one and what will it cost ?

  2. Antique gharas are very hard to find…unless you marry into a Parsi family :-) Or luck into one, like I did…

    New ones are very pretty although I haven’t seen one where the embroidery is as fine on both sides as this one. They are quite expensive though, depending on the amount of embroidery, etc.

  3. where can i get one

  4. Beautiful and fascinating to learn about, too.

    I bought a silk kurta recently that has work on it that is of this kind but much more workaday, not elegant. But I am pretty sure it’s Parsi style embroidery. It was about usd 100 or 90 I think (I was on vacation!) and I got it at Govinda in Los Angeles, a gigantic shop run by the Hare Krishna’s that has a great selection of kurtas and the like.

    (Not a place to look for a sari or a suit, if they have any the selection is small. It’s clothes from India that you can wear comfortably outside of India.)

  5. Sometimes I just sit with this sari draped around me (it’s too heavy to wear, but makes a great blanket) and revel in how silky soft and gorgeous it is :-)

    It is pretty common to find the parsi-style embroidery on kurtas and saris again, although I don’t think the work is nearly as fine (at least I haven’t seen anything that comes close). But it’s still pretty, and I would love to see the kurta you have, Darshana! If I ever go to LA again I will look for Govinda! I love shopping for clothes in India itself.

  6. DEFINITELY GORGEOUS! I love all kinds of embroidery and bought bags, clothes, scarves with exquisite embroidery on them, some bought during my vacations in China, Thai, Malay, Europe and India is definitely a great place to shop for these exotic pieces …..

  7. Great pictures of pattern. I love it.
    I am also involved in Saree business in Surat. And we also make variety of pattern.
    Really great pictures and article also.

    Thanks.

    Anjelina

  8. i am very much intrested in parsi gara embroidery… So please give me a contact in delhi…so dat i can go for it……

  9. We, Advityam Fashions are well-established manufacturers of Hand Embroidery work specialized in elite French knot, Petit Point, Fancy Work (Parsi Work), Shadow Work (Well-known as Convent Embroidery). The uniqueness of our products stands in the single thread work which is very fine and unhurried and the combinations of colours used in the designs

  10. hai can anyone give me the address where i can get the parsi emb and good shadow work done preferebly in new delhi as i live there

  11. where can i learn parsi gara embroidery in mumbai?

  12. Anyone looking for ancient antique Parsi Garas, I have the original stuff left to me by my grandmother. These are ancient, and originals made in China.

    If youd like to see pics and are serious, pls email me: saturn_20032001@yahoo.ca

    Thanks !

    • I just saw the articles and pictures. awesome! SS, Iam very interested in original gara s. Please send me the pictures and details. thanks!

  13. i would really like to buy one saree as iam going to be the mother ofthe groom i would like to know if any stores located in mumbai

  14. would reallu love to buy a parsee gara saree – pl tell me where i can get it in hyderabad

  15. Hi memsaab…your original antique Parsi Gara-embroidered Chinese silk sari is simply GORGEOUS…I really love it…by the way, could you let me know if there are any shops in the US that specialise in such antique saris?

  16. Hi:

    A friend of mine happened to send me the link to this website who knows that I have a collection of these famous much sort after ‘garas’ (as well as smaller pieces of puresilk textiles that can be used for other purposes, Eg tops, etc.) these very Special attires that the parsee communnity women call heirlooms-
    If interested please check my webiste for more details and send me an email.

    casamain@gmail.com

  17. Please note that my website may have some web flaws, ( that, I will soon be attending to) but the rest is fine and should not pose a problem when viewing the actual contents.Thanks

  18. Dear Memsaab, we’re a small women’s publishing house, wanting to use your lovely gara sari pic for a cover of ours. It’s not clear from the website if there are copyright issues, please can you let us know if we may use this with due acknowledgment of course and we’d be happy to send you copies of the book as well. many thanks, couldn’t find another way of getting in touch so used this comment route.

  19. Dear Memsaab,we are well established manufracturers of hand embroidery like shadow work with elegant petit point borders,cute french knot (well known as convent work).We are having our own workshop from last 25yrs in Cochin (Kerela).

  20. Very beautiful awesome beyond imagination

  21. I have 2 for sale! Located in CA. Let me know if interested!

  22. Hi,
    I saw many posts regarding Gara saree and where to buy one. These days there are many designers who make Gara and you can even get it customised to fit your budget. To know more about the designers, their address and to view their collection, you can visit the page:

    http://lolainlov.blogspot.de/p/art-revivers.html

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