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The resurgence of the poetic Parsi Gara

Last week was quite busy, in a social sort-of-way with pre-wedding functions and then the wedding over the weekend. Phew! While the bride and the bridegroom were the cynosure of all eyes, the bride’s mother stood out, an epitome of grace and elegance. Dressed in her Parsi gara sarees (which were nothing like the Parsi garas I had seen before) with a string of pearls, I couldn’t help but inquire (at the expense of being rude) about the source of the six-yard gorgeousness. With immense pride of her heritage, she said “apna dikra, Ashdeen! He’ll have one just for you”. Completely ignorant of the name, I turned to the google gods and what I found was beyond my imagination.

Ashdeen Lilaowala, a Delhi-based designer is known for giving a contemporary twist to this style of embroidery. In his words, “It’s important to take a skill forward and make it fashion”, and he has stayed true to his word. Most of his creations pick elements and motifs from the traditional Parsi gara and create a beautiful ensemble with that! He has worked extensively in documenting, and researching the Parsi crafts as the Project Head of the UNESCO Parzor Project. Read more about it here.  Here’s a look at some of his creations.

Reinterpreting the Parsi Gara – Beautifully crafted red-head cranes by Ashdeen via 

Twirling in a picturesque ensemble by Ashdeen via

Yet another delicately crafted Parsi Gara by Ashdeen via

Parsi Gara – Revivalists and designers

Some of the other prominent names who have worked painstakingly towards the revival of the Parsi Gara are the late Naju Daver, and now her daughter Farzeen Daver-Boomla,  Zenobia Daver,  Perveez Aggarwal and ace embroiderer Asif Sheikh.

In our country, where bollywood celebrities often set trends, actress Sridevi, Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan have been spotted in the gorgeous Parsi Gara creations of ace designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, triggering a new wave of curiosity in this beautiful and delicate embroidery. Some of the other designers who have used this form are Anamika Khanna, Pallavi Jaikishen and her daughter Bhairavi,  Anupamaa Dayal and I am sure that there are a few more, that I am not aware of.

Pallavi Jaikishen and her daughter Bhairavi have been usiong the Parsi Gara in their creations for a long time via

Sabyasachi collaborated with Christain Louboutin to create these beauties via

A gorgeous Angarkha by Nida Azwer using the Parsi Gara embroidery via

Tips for buying a Parsi Gara
  1.  Farzeen Davar Boomla advises, “While buying a gara, it’s important to know what colour suits you best; don’t always think of what’s ‘in’. Besides, depending on your height and body structure, different styles and types of work will suit you. Nobody wants to buy something that they will just keep in their wardrobe; it is important for you to enjoy wearing it over and over again”.
  2. While machine-made imitations are available, always invest in the hand embroidered piece.  A genuine hand embroidered Parsi Gara will be as beautiful and neat on both sides, always.
  3. Always look at the quality of stitches and notice that he machine embroidered ones would be ‘thicker’ and every motif would be identical.
  4. And finally, if it is selling for Rs.3,000, it possibly cannot be hand-embroidered per Lilaowala. A genuine piece ranges from Rs. 20,000 and go up to Rs.100,000 and even more.
Here’s where can you buy it from
  1. Naju Daver Creations, Mumbai
  2. Parzor Foundation, New Delhi
  3. My beautiful Embroideries by Parveez Aggarwal (9819589429)
  4. Ashdeen, New Delhi; Follow on facebook
  5. Renu Dadlani, New Delhi; Follow on facebook
  6. Rupa Ghose Dayal of Srot Collections, Gurgaon
  7. Dhun Chinoy of Khordad Creations, Ahmedabad (9227227257)

I read a lot, I learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed writing about this beautiful craft tradition. It has completely enamoured me by its charm and elegance and although I don’t own a Parsi Gara yet, it is something that has made it to my ‘wish-list’.

I can’t possibly end without sharing an excerpt from a beautifully worded article by Shoba Narayan that I came across while researching about the Parsi Gara. You can read the full article here.

” the beauty of the gara embroidery lies in the suggestion of movement. This isn’t a statically graceful paisley or a geometrically refined chikankari. To see the egret taking off from the folds of your sari; or to observe a heavy lotus flower bend gracefully towards your border is to imagine craftsmen bending over the garment you are wearing everyday for months on end, fastidiously embroidering these motifs so that not a thread is out of place.”

XO, Nupur

References: Craft Revival. org , Zenobia DavarLivemintParsikhabar, Shoba Narayan, Unesco Parzor, Bombay Parsi Punchayet

Cover picture credits: 1, 2, 3