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                                                                                                   PHOTO  FEATURE

Todas  Embroidery

    By  Jacob Abraham

The National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) is mandated to communicate science & technology (S&T) to masses, stimulate scientific and technological temper and coordinate & orchestrate such efforts throughout the country

                     Toda tribe , also known as Dodha tribe , is one of the ancient  communities of Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu. They are pastoral people and to a certain extent ,nomadic. Most of the Dodhas ,possess large herd of  buffaloes  and selling milk products is the main source of living. Much of their  ceremonial  life is centered around the dairies and barns  of the buffalo they traditionally herd. The tribe members  have their own language  which is of Dravidian origin  without any script.

 

                        The origin of Toda tribe is linked to Sumerians ,Israelites and Babylonian people by anthropologists .According to anthropological studies  they could be an offshoot of a group of primitive  group who migrated  from the tract of Central Asia  probably through Baluchistan between 3000 to 4000 years ago.

 

                        Clothes With Toda Embroidery:-The Todas wear a cloak or shawl called pootkhully .This is the most important and most attractive  component of  Toda dress. This rectangular wrapper is traditionally worn by  both men and women of Toda community. Pootkhully is woven by another   tribal community called ,the Kotas  and it is embroidered by Toda women. Though this is worn by both men and women, men wear it in Roman style  in a different manner from women.

 

                         The modern version is long narrow strips of cloth ,about 4.5  meters  by 70 cm. It is folded in half across the width and sewn along one double selvedge to make a cloak of double thickness of about 2.2 meters long 1.35 meters wide.  A little  additional stitching  makes  pocket The broad stripes on the fabric are in red or black and embroidery is done in bold designs between and along these stripes. The shawl has red and black bands at an interval of six inches. The Toda embroidery is done between the gap in red and black. However instead of black  sometimes dark blue thread is used. The threads so used are in wool. The Pootkhully  is made from coarsely woven cotton cloth  with easily countable threads which will make it easy for the Toda women to emboss  the embroidery on the  fabric. These garments are customarily   worn at festive gathering and at funerals.

 

                          The art work, practiced exclusively by women   and , is so fine that it is often mistaken as a weave  in a first look. Girls learn this art from their mothers at a very young age .It is an intricate form of needle weaving .The embroidery is reversible, so one can use both sides. Apart from cloths  ,now a days  Toda embroidery is used for adorning a range of products like pouches, spectacle cases ,luncheon sets  table  cloths ,table mats ,and similar accessories ,bedspreads and veils  which brings them a steady income. There are very few ladies doing this embroidery at present and hence  this is facing  the threat of extinction.

 

                             Designs of Toda Embroidery:-The designs of the Toda embroidery are mostly symbolic, geometric in shape  and are  ranging from floral motifs to animal and human figures.

 

                             The Toda word for an embroidery motif is  Pukhoor and there  are more than 15 traditional designs. The majority of these  are inspired by nature  such as peacock feathers , snakes, flowers. the sun ,the moon, and the stars .The  temples,  houses   lamps are also a potent source of inspiration. The most important motif is that of the buffalo horn as the Todas   venerate the buffalo. There are other motifs named after wild flowers and a strange motif is named after a girl who slipped and fell off a big rock. Traditional patterns are used to embellish the cloak   to wrap a dead body The pattern/design /motif is embroidered by counting warp and weft of the fabric resulting in geometric patterns, gives the impression   of a woven, rather than embroidered pattern

 

                             The main and the only stitch used in this embroidery is darning stitch ,done from the back of the fabric .A long darning needle is used to weave short distances ,the fabric is turned around and the needle weaves back. At each turn ,a loop is left forming a thick line as  border  .Patterns are embroidered by counting the threads of the woven material and the precision  of this depends on absolute accuracy of thread counting. 

  

                                What is unusual   ,however is that the embroidery is done  in wool on a cotton background. The   reason is that   red and black colors  in cotton yarn  may fade  in course of time.

 

                 

                      

Uniqueness in Toda Embroidery:-

1)    Inspiration is taken from nature, elements of nature and from daily life.

2)    Embroidery is hand made  only by Toda women

3)    The main and only stitch used in this embroidery is darning stitch, done from the back of the fabric.

4)    The thread is looped generously on the rough obverse side (the right side) which is the display side ,while the reverse appears far neater.

5)    Use of motifs like animals, flowers, insects, birds, architectural designs, etc.

6)    Patterns are repetitive.

7)    No design/ pattern is traced or done as outlines.

8)     Motifs are embroidered by counting the warp and weft threads of the fabric.

                                                               ----------------------------------------

                               (Jacob Abraham, is   Deputy Director ,PIB, Chennai)

 

Description: C:\Users\director\Desktop\dd\toda hut.jpg

 

 A HUT OF TODA

 

Description: C:\Users\director\Desktop\dd\embrodery.jpg

 

 A Shawl with  Toda Embroidery

 

Description: C:\Users\director\Desktop\dd\embroidery 2.jpg

 

A Shawl with  Toda Embroidery

 

 

 
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