All That Glitters Is Gold
Amidst all the glitter, glamour and glitz of yesteryear the shimmer and shine of Gota stands out! Gota has captured in its weave the fantasy of the times. It is believed that gota originated in India and was made popular during the Mughal era. Lucknow is a major centre of gota in the world. In Lucknow, the gota work was introduced more than two centuries ago and is used along with ‘kinari work’ or edging, which is the fringed or tasseled border decoration. Essentially, gota is a band of gold or silver ribbon that varies with width, woven in a satin weave. A metal yarn that is made of beaten gold or silver forms the weft and silk or cotton is used in the warp. Gota came to be the ubiquitous accessory of every royal garment. Gota embroidery work is similar to applique, where woven gold cloth or metal is placed onto other fabric, preferably silk or satin, to create different surface textures. It is basically a form of fabric ornamentation. Gota lacing is extremely popular and odhni and turban edges of Rajasthan are often worked with it. Originally real gold and silver metals were used to embroider but were eventually replaced by copper coated with silver, as the genuine way of making it was very expensive. Due to the unavailability and the high cost of gold, it is no longer used in the weft. It has been substituted with synthetic fibers that are easy to maintain and are cost effective. Now a days there are even more inexpensive options available. The copper has been replaced by polyester film, which is further metalized and coated to suit requirements. This is known as Plastic Gota and is highly durable as it has a good resistance to moisture and does not tarnish as opposed to metal-based Gota. There is continuous research going on for more durable, easy care fibers that could be dyed in attractive colours. If success were achieved then Gota would surely go global! For instance the ‘dabka’ rolls cost Rs. 500/ kilo, while copper Gota costs up to Rs. 1000/ per kilo. The process of making gota is tedious and involves proficiency. At first the desired pattern is traced on the fabric. The pattern is then made on ‘kalabattu’ or ’tilla’ using daily sewing needle. A handmade gota nearly takes 6 hours to complete and is then stitched to a suitable coloured cloth in order to give a complete look. The designs on gota are inspired by the Awadhi form of art, which includes flowers, decorative motifs, jali work, animals and birds like peacock, parrots, elephants, etc. The beauty and richness of gota is one of a kind. Lucknow’s handmade gota is among the finest form of craft in the country. Its magnificence and richness attracts number of designers from across the country! There are a number of types in Gota such as Sikhiya gota, Bel, Katwar, Bakdi, Lais, Chaumasa, Panchmasa, Athmasa, Lappa, Thappa, Gokhru, Lehru Gota, Nakshi, Bijbel, Bijiya, Chiru, and Kiran each having its own type and pattern.
After the Gota ribbon arrives in rolls from the shops it is flattened out. Then a broad Cello tape is stuck all over the wrong side of the surface i.e. the non- shiny side of the ribbon. The Gota is cut into fine shapes of birds, animals, and human figures, attached to the cloth encased in wires of silver and gold, while the space around is covered by coloured silk. The overall effect is one of enameling quite similar to the kundan ñ meena jewellery, a highly refined craft of Rajasthan. The Gota ribbon is put on an iron tool called pitan ñ kutan and with the help of an iron nail-like tool the Gota is hammered out into desired shapes. The design has meanwhile been drawn onto the butter or tracing paper by an exert artist hired specially for this purpose. This design is then traced on to the final fabric with the help of a paste of kerosene and lime. Then, the tiny Gota pieces are stuck on the pre designed areas. The adhesive used is BONFIX. After the pieces have been pasted the edges are embroidered to the fabric. The threads used to embroider the edges are sometimes plain, braided or twisted. Sequins, beads, stones, crystals are added for a glamorous look. ‘Takaayi’ is the process of stitching Gota on the fabric. Gota is woven on power looms and consists of cotton (warp) and a metal (weft). ‘Gotapatti’ is actually the cutting and folding of these tapes into basic rhomboid units, referred to as patti or leaves, and combining them to create elaborate motifs that include peacocks, paisleys, flowers, geometric patterns and elephants. Pieces of Gota are first stuck with fabric-glue and then appliquÈd using running, back, hem or couching stitch. For a simpler effect, Gota strips may also be stitched in a simple line. A wide variety of threads like cotton, silk, metal etc. are used to create outlines of these shapes, adding a dash of color and enhancing their beauty.
Design & motifs:
Now, there is a greater concentration of an admixture of Gota along with other embroidery accessories. These are beads, sequins, stones, colored threads twisted or braided. There are newer designs, mostly floral that are in vogue. These designs have the Gota cut out into finer shapes and motifs unlike the older motifs where Gota stuck out at angles. The Gota is now cut such that there are no such angles and delicate flowers, leaves, creepers can be made. Generally, large floral patterns are made out of Gota strips folded into petals are the central motif. There are some traditional motifs such as peacocks, paisleys that are still popular, though these are found mostly amongst the products that are made for the mass market. The Gota strips are so arranged along the borders that when the dupatta is draped over the head the Gota border would come over the head. The tie and dye red and yellow odhanis that the women in rural Rajasthan draped with bright large Gota floral motifs have become a rarity though! Gota is presently widely practiced on bandhni, lehariya, mothra, block printed fabrics. These fabrics could end up as dupattas, scarves, lehanga ñ choli sets, salwar kameezes and the essential sari. The fabrics used are range from chiffon, georgette, silk, cotton, tissue, crepe, tissue, Kota doriya and other synthetic fabrics.
Gota was carried on as a domestic craft in poor households and women were involved in it but now men too are involved in all the processes of the Gota work. Most of the Karigars come from Muslim families. Sometimes even young boys are taken in as apprentices so that they can be experts, like the senior Karigars, by the time they grow up. The shop owners explain the designs to the ‘Karigars’. Since they are trained in this craft through generations and are extremely dexterous they have no problem in getting their word across. And, they are ensured of getting exactly as is expected out of them, if not better! The suggestions of the Karigars regarding designs and the type of work to be done are respected. Since the Karigars are experts the shop owners do not find any sense in dictating them. Payment to the Karigars is done on the basis of the intricacy of the work done and the amount of time each has spent on a particular piece of article. The best Karigar is reserved for decorating the dupatta.
Lala Ram Charan Lal Gota Waley is one of the oldest gota shops in Lucknow, established in 1885 and has some exquisite forms of gota. While talking to Mr. Anil Kumar, we learnt about the intricacy of this craft, he also shows us the original gota of gold & silver. It is believed that Lucknow is the main centre for the traditional handmade gota embroidery, which is facing a slow decay due to competition with the machine made gota.
Writer is a student, an aspiring painter & calligrapher
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 13, Dated 05 April 2015)