CHAPTER I . EMBROIDERY
A part of the desert women lives and a mark of one's skills & status.
THE SINDH SIPAHI
The Sindh Sipahi are sub-divided into various tribes, which have a common origin with the Sindhi Rajput tribes of Pakistan.
The community is now mainly settled agriculturist, although many are still herdsmen. Many of their villages are situated in the Thar Desert (the natural boundary between India and Pakistan), and are affected by environmental changes.
Originally, migrants from Pakistan, these Hindustani folks settled in villages lining the Indian border. Cattle rearers and agriculturists by occupation, later, with the support of Indian government they were allocated agricultural land.
A WOMAN'S CRAFT
While men go to the field, women are occupied in household activities, managing children and assisting in agriculture. They learnt it at an early age, since the average age of marriage is 18, sometimes even earlier... They live in nuclear families - an average house has 7-8 members including 3-4 children.
During the months of March-April and October-November, which bring the harvest and their festivals, a woman's day begins at 4am and ends at 10pm and nonetheless, they find time to embroider.
A TRADITION, AN EXPRESSION
Hand embroidering has ever since been a part of these desert dwellers as an everyday wearable and the mark of one’s skills, for instance, during marriages. Every gift to the groom is hand embroidered, even the most unimaginable object like money, bidi (a thin cigarette or mini-cigar filled with tobacco flake and commonly wrapped in leaf tied with a string at one end), mouth freshener packets, etc, are put along to decorate the embroidered patch!
They practice many types of embroidery. To them, embroidering has been an expression, a reason to sit together, memories handed over by a mother to her daughter and a matter of pride. The people are culturally rooted.
Old practices are still being followed, except those that have lost relevance due to globalization.
MUKKA: A STATUS' INSIGNIA
Mukke ka kaam, one of their embroidery techniques, uses extensively the gold and silver threads to make the fabrics even more attractive.
Mukke is the local name for "metallic gold" or "silver thread" that is wound around a core of cotton fabric. This style is mostly done in the Thar belt of Rajasthan (India), especially among the Sindhi Musalman and Meghval communities.
The Mukka metallic embroidery tradition is intimately bound up with Sindhi Muslim traditions of marriage and dowry. Each bride is required to bring with her seven or eight embroidered dresses, a range of accouterments, plus several quilts.
The artisans of Rajasthan sketch the design of Mukke ka kaam on the cloth and use a black thread to fill in the outline. A mirror is attached in the centre of the motif, with the Mukka couched around it. Mukka work in Rajasthan is combined with other styles of embroidery, which are used to fill in the background cloth.
The final outcome is a usually very rich and colourful bit of embroidery with geometric designs. Zigzag patterns, stars, and triangles are especially popular designs.
Mukke ka kaam is most often seen on kanchlis, wall hangings and purses.
Mukka is a proud insignia of the status as a Muslim woman in Jaiselmer region (Rajasthan; India). It's a sign of religious identity which women above childbearing age are required to display.