Collector's Item: Fine circa mid-late 20th century Ahir tribal OHNDI (shawl) consisting of MASHRU (striped silk/cotton textile) with SHISHA mirror work and embroidered 17cm bands on each end. This garment is known locally as a KARAMULAH and is worn on festive and ceremonial occasions by Hindu AHIR women of Kutch, Gujarat. Mashru was originally produced for wealthy Muslims who in some communities are not allowed to wear silk so this unique fabric is woven using a silk warp and cotton weft to produce a textile with a beautiful weight that has a soft, silky sheen on the outside (away from the skin) and a coarser cotton back worn against the skin. Nowadays Mashru is produced mainly by Hindu villagers in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. I purchased this AHIR KARAMULAH OHDNI from a third generation textile collector in Bhuj, Gujarat in February 2012. 243cm x 115cm Some frayed edges, a few light stains, some small worn areas, some small holes and a 50 cent piece sized hole that has been darned in black thread.
OHNDI is made with two narrow mashru widths in the bold black and orange/brown stripes with bright green selvedges and a very narrow gold stripe between each wider striped. It has been hand woven on a back strap loom and the two pieces hand sewn together in the middle using buttonhole stitch in red thread. Both ends are heavily and beautifully embroidered in the 'Kutchi' style using chain stitch and shisha mirror work in flower, tree of life and parrot designs. The embroidery practiced by the pastoral Ahir community is highly inspired by the flora and fauna that surrounds them every day. The Ahir herding, Rabari shepherd and Kanbi farming castes are the main practitioners of what can be loosely termed the 'Kutchi' style of embroidery, characterized by predominant chain and open-chain stitching and the profuse use of mirrors in the case of the Ahir and Rabari women. Ref: 'Traditional Indian Textiles' 1991, Gillow J & Barnard N, Thames & Hudson, London. Also, 'Textiles A World Tour : discovering traditional fabrics and patterns' 2012, Legrand C, Thames & Hudson, London