Many communities migrated to Kutch over the centuries. With them, they brought various skills and craft cultures of their native places like Central Asia, Perisa, Turkey, Pakistan, Sindh. This is true especially for the hand embroiderers of present day Kutch. The various communities that practice embroidery in Kutch include Ahirs, Meghwaad Maaru, Mochi, Rabaari, Sodha etc. Diverse communities with their varied styles had the principles of embroidery in common. The interplay of stitches, motifs, borders, mirrors and styles form the basis for the various Kutchi embroideries.

There are two ways to embroider fabrics within the Kutchi communities. One is by first hand drawing the design on the base cloth and then embroidering. While, the other method is to directly develop the embroidered composition by counting the threads of the base cloth.

Each distinct style of embroidery is passed down from mothers to daughters. This craft began out of need as a means of perosnal expression and subsequently became an identity marker. Its requirement of minimal tools; a needle and few colored threads made it accessible throughout the different communities of Kutch. 

The drought from 1966-68 led the artisans to practice embroidery commercially and earn a living, though the humility and core values associated with the craft remain intact. In these communities, embroidery is seen beyond its decorative purpose. It is valued for its visual language, its demonstartion of qualities like patience, neatness, intelligence and even a sense of humour. 

Ahir Embroidery

Ahir community believes that their ancestors lived with Lord Krishna thousands of years ago. On their route to Dwarka with Lord Krishna, they settled midway in Tharparkar, Sindh. This community migrated to Kutch around 700 to 800 years ago. This settlement resulted in formation of different groups within the same community: Praanthadiya Ahir, Machhoya Ahir and Boricha Ahir. Women of this community created elaborate embroideries for personal use, their animals and their home. The women of Meghwaad Gurjar community also practiced this craft and are said to be the most technically proficient Ahir embroiderers. The embroidery is passed down from mothers to daughters and its distinct features are bold colors, dense embroidery, ample use of mirrors and an abundance of floral motifs. The stitches used are sankli (chain stitch), bavaria (criss cross stitch), vanno (herringbone stitch), the popatiyo and dana.


Rabaaris are nomadic pastrolists and their happiness is dependent on the health of their animals like sheep and camels. Various subgroups in the Rabaari community include Vaagadiya Rabaari, Bhopa Rabaari, Dwarkawaada Rabaari, Dhebariya Rabaari, Choradiya Rabaari, Maarwaada Rabaari, Kaachi Rabaari. Men, women, children as well as their animals of these communities are adorned with embroideries. Saankdi (chain) stitch is the most commonly used stitch. Most common motifs are of birds, animals, and flowers. Others include motifs like mahiyaari (milkmaid), aambo (tree of life), ardho chandar (half-moon). Prominent colors are yellow and white.

Characteristics of this embroidery include use of dense stitches such that major base fabric is concealed; plethora of mirrors of different shapes and sizes, maximum area of mirrors is exposed when they are tightly embroidered to the base fabric and the use of vibrant trims and accessories.

The garment embroidered for men and the covering for animals donot use mirrors. Animal coverings feature applique and embroidery with embellished shells and beads. While clothing for men feature fine embroidery (bakhiyawaaru bharat) in vibrant colors with intricate tassels in white.

Around 1990s, the Dhebariya Rabaaris banned their women to embroider for personal use. This was because of the amount of time it took for a girl to embroider her aanu (trousseau), without which she would not go to her husband’s house. Sometimes, it took years and the girls joined their husbands after 30 or 5 years of age. Another reason was it being expensive. However, women in this community are allowed to practice embroidery to earn money and help in improving the financial stability of their households.

Pakko and Neran Embroidery

The Jadeja community had no embroidery tradition of their own. It was through the intermarriage between Sodha and Jadeja community, that both these communities share the same embroidery style. When a Sodha woman married into a Jadega household, she taught the embroidery of her community to the Jadeja women. Embroidery styles practiced by these communities include: Pakko, Neran and Huramjee.

The distinguishing features of Pakko embroidery are dense ‘pakka ni aank’ (chain) stitches, highlighting using ‘khann’ stitch (single chain stitch), embroidery
concealing the base cloth, culvilinear character of motifs and no puckering. Motifs of flora, birds, animals and geometry are common under this style of embroidery.

Neran embroidery arose out of Pakko embroidery. Earlier, it was a component and today forms a full fledged embroidery style. This embroidery is done by clubbing square or diamond shaped units together. Each unit is called Neran which means human eye in Sindhi. Characteristics of this embroidery include small mirrors used prudently, consistent size of neran throughout the embroidered piece, combination of dark and light colors to create drama.

Soof and Khaarak Embroidery

During the war of 1971, the community of Meghwaad Maaru had a role to play in the victory of Indian Army’s occupation of Pakistani land. After the war, Indian authorities decided to return the land back to Pakistan. Due to this, the community decided to relocate to India. After multiple temporary settlements, a camp was set up for them in Jura. Heaving maegre means to earn money, community’s traditional embroidery was taken up by the women as an economic activity.

Soof and Kharek are the two styles of embroideries practiced by this community. Both these embroideries are developed directly by using the technique of counting threads of the base cloth. This requires simultaneous conceptualisation of the design and embroidery on the fabric.

The fabric used for Soof should be woven in basket weave with same count for warp and weft for ease in counting threads.  The embroidery is practiced from the reverse side of the fabric. Features of soof embroidery include completely hidden fabric underneath the embroidered area; maximum area of mirrors is exposed by use of tight stitches and complex geometric compositions. Motifs used traditionally are peacocks, leaves and florals. Later, via experimentation, sparrow, camel, elephant, scorpion and dhingli (milkmaid) were added to the repertoire of motifs.

Today, soof is done on a wide range of products. Earlier, its application was limited to vanjani (broad belt) and bokani (long scarf). These accessories were embroidered by the bride to be worn by the groom on their wedding day.

‘Khaarek’ means date fruit in Kutchi language. Khaarak embroidery is practiced on the right side of the fabric where the grid is outlined with a dark color, filled with different colors and the composition is finished with stitching mirrors. Features of this embroidery comprise of dense stitches, same size sqaures within a motif, use of atleast three colors in one motif, maximum area of mirrors exposed by use of tight stitches and completely hidden fabric underneath the embroidered area. Geometric forms, birds, animals and figurative motifs are created.

AAri Embroidery

Not specific to any community, aari embroidery was practiced by male artisans for royalty. Mughals were the first patrons of this craft, followed by Britishers and Europeans along with maharajas and princes.

The Mochi community in Kutch and Banaskantha practice it as a means to earn livelihood. Done by women, this embroidery is not their personal craft. Men from this community create footwear called mojadi whose uppers have Aari embroidery on it.

Use of fine stitches to creation of curvilinear shapes in gradation of colors leads to a painting like effect of the embroidery. Features of aari embroidery include use of only one stitch: flat and long saankdi stitch, colorful composition and different shades of the same color in a single motif. An awl is used to do this embroidery on fabric stretched over a wooden frame. Unlike other embroideries, this embroidery can be used to create realistic portraitures of living beings effectively. Motifs used comprise of tree of life, florals, peacocks, parrots and a variety of trellis details.