Thought behind the thought:
Recently I was offered mithai by someone who was blessed with a baby daughter. As per Indian traditions, mithai is offered to friends and family on happy occasions. As I picked up a piece to relish it, I noticed the presence of the magnificent edible silver leaf adorning the mithai. Gold and silver are omnipresent in the Indian culture. These precious metals have been included in our food, clothing, jewellery, paintings, furniture and just about every aspect of our lifestyle. Indian culture is all about celebrating art, culture and in general the vivacity of life. Gold and silver find themselves woven into every festival, every celebration and everyday life of us Indians.
About the Art:
The rich and royal history of India talks about kings and queens and exuberance. It tells us stories of how India was a land of wealth and culture. We have scores of museums in India and across the world that showcase this heritage in the form of artefacts, relics and objects of historic value. The wonderful traditional art of weaving, gilding, architecture, painting and wood work portray the finer aesthetic abilities of the artisan of the yore.
Zari is one such traditional art form that’s truly remarkable. Jari or Zari is a thread traditionally made of fine gold or silver, used in traditional Indian garments like sarees, kurtas, topis’, and dupattas and most exquisitely used as brocade in saris.
City of Surat , Gujarat is the world’s largest producer of all types of Zari and Zari embellishments like threads, Cantile, laces, ribbons, borders, trims, fringes, edges, cordonettes, cords, etc. The art of Zari work has always been an inherited family business or craft that was transferred from father to son for several centuries now. Women and men from different communities are artisans that painstakingly craft items out of Zari through weaving, embroidery, crocheting, braiding, etc.
The manufacture of Zari thread involves winding or wrapping a flattened metallic strip made from pure gold, silver or metal polyester film on a core yarn. Usually the core yarn used is pure silk, art silk, viscous, cotton, nylon, polyester, P.P., mono/multi filament, wire, etc. Zari available today is of three kinds. Real Zari is made of pure gold or silver, Imitation Zari is made from silver electroplated thin copper wire. The last and the most economic one is Metallic Zari made of slitted polyester metallised film. In ancient times only Real Zari threads were produced. After the invention of electroplating process, Imitation Zari came into existence to cut the cost of precious metals. Copper is the most malleable and ductile metal after Gold and Silver hence silver electroplated copper wire replaced pure silver. Today colours and chemicals are used to create or impart a golden hue to make it appear like real Gold. The precious metals & copper too became dearer due to huge demand in various modern industries. Prices of Copper are steep as well and hence the cheap alternative of metallic Zari is rapidly replacing traditional metals like Gold, Silver and Copper.
The Jari work business like most other traditional crafts are hard hit by rising costs, changing fashion trends, demands from consumers and lack of skilled craftsmen. There is little money for the artisan and thousands are exchanged by dealers. This is causing major problems to this industry. Procuring good raw material is also becoming increasingly difficult.
This intricate and delicate art form needs patience, practice and a keen eye. Tremendous hours of backbreaking work result in the creation of exquisite designs. There are now several projects and NGO’s trying to salvage this industry from its riddling issues.