Painting with needle

Ashdeen Lilaowala's Gara Saree Photo: Ashdeen Lilaowala 

Gara is vintage !

Gara, also known as Parsi Gara, is an absolute reflection of history of not only Parsis community but of India, in a way. It encompasses Chinese, European, Zoroastrian and Hindu craftsmanship but with it's own distinctive style. Gara is one of  the Indian embroidery, that has visible global look and feel with uncanny vintage charm and grace that's - it's own in all sense. It is truly 'painting with needle'. Renowned rightly for finesses , class, style  and absolute perfect execution Parsi Gara embroidery is a wonder.

Traditionally adorning sarees on pallu ,border or on whole, Gara embroidery is priceless due to high skill level. This embroidery is combination of Chinese influence in terms of material and technique, Chinese ,Hindu and Zoroastrian motifs with European colour and style sensibilities. These are largely attributed to huge trade influences on the Parsi community.

Gara as in Ashdeen Lolaowala's creation 

Parsi Gara embroidery is characterized for its close stitches, french knots and fine 'dream like' finish. Motifs usually include peacock, ambi, lotus along with cranes, roosters, peonies, paisley and day to day life scenes. There is  symbolic connotations and significance of motifs and appropriate motifs are made as per the occasion of intended wear. Richness of work makes this embroidery tedious, taxing and expensive. A sari takes easily 9 to 10 months to complete. Gara saris are the most prized legacy of any Parsi family (often said to be worth more than all family wardrobe put together).

 parsi gara
Gara Sari details from

This art reached its peak around 18th &19th Century and later saw slow decline with introduction of chiffon and other materials, which were not suitable for Gara embroidery. Reduced interest in handcrafted arts, customised embroidery and wearing sarees along with dwindling numbers of Parsis contributed to the decline in demand.

Gara Saree 

Parsi Gara has been revived lately , by efforts of designers like Rayomand ManeckshawAshdeen Lilaowala and institutions like Ratan Tata Industrial Institute, UNESCO Parzor Project. Now days, Gara embroidery makes it presence on dupattas, jackets, bags, potlis and Kurtis (much to shock of purists). With preferences towards  'value added ' surface ornamentation particularly those worked on with embroidery, writes Shilpa Shah in book 'Peonies & Pagoda' - has helped in revival of interest and demand for Parsi Gara in recent years.

Gara on bags Photo : Pinterest 

Adaptability to various textiles and usage, is maybe required for survival of the craft. Off course, machinery has started taking the charm away from Gara. Change in fabric and design narrative is visible, making Gara evolve with times. While traditionally done on silk now it is on crepe or georgette with silk thread. The need of hour is to retain this priceless art form and make it viable for today and for future,without restoring to machinery. A fine balance which is difficult to achieve but is not impossible.

Gara is and will remain absolute classic  - and classics never go out of style!

Happy reading and stay stylish!

Information courtesy :,
Image courtesy:  Ashdeen Lolaowala on pinterest / Google search /

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