Lambani Hand embroidery work
The Lambanis, commonly known as the Banjaras in North India, are the custodians of Sandur Lambani embroidery. Travelling across land and time, Lambani (Lambada or Banjara) tribe came to Karnataka from Rajasthan with the Mughal army in the 16th century and have managed to retain its splendour.
Sandur Lambani embroidery is an embroidery type practised in the Sandur town of Karnataka. Colourful patches of clothes are joined by different stitches and embellished with mirrors and seashells to make bags, wallets, cushion covers, sarees and home décor accessories. Around 30 different types of stitches and ten types of motif designs are used in Lambani embroidery. A few exquisite stitches are Valeya, Bakhiya, Ado Dora, Teen Sui Maaki, Suryakanti Maaki, Bakhiya Gol Bhuriya, Kalyani, Relo, Gadri Valeya, Jod Potte, Angli Yele, and Sandhya Jowellya.
According to an interesting belief, Lambanis traditionally wore dresses embellished with mirrors to scare away wild animals in the jungles.
Lambani craft starts from acquiring the suitable cotton cloth or khadi from Erode in Tamil Nadu. The base cloth used is either khadi or power loom fabric and is dyed locally, working in harmony with the local small scale industry. The colours for dying the fabric may be both chemical or organic. After this, the cloth is cut according to the design and ironed to make it smooth. These fabric patches are stitched according to the design, and markings are made for mirrors, seashells and embroidery. The embellishments are finally sewed into the fabric using 14 different stitching techniques to give a fantastic range of colourful accessories. Thirteen colours are primarily used in Lambani embroidery, out of which; red and blue are most common.
Lambani embroidery was given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2010, owing to the unique process behind creating a piece. The embroidery has featured in the London Fashion Week in 2016 and won a host of awards such as Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts Products in South Asia, 2004 & 2012 by UNESCO-CCI.
About 300 craftswomen of the Lambani tribe located in and around Sandur in the Bellary district have benefitted from the GI registration of the Lambani embroidery. They can utilise this tag as a unique selling proposition in various marketing and advertising activities across the globe. With this, no other organisation or individual can sell the embroidery products under this name without registering them as authorised users.
Lambani embroidery has now reached worldwide with the export of bed sheets and cushion covers in subtle colours. Still, the heavily embroidered bags in vivid colours remain a favourite among tourists.