Rabari Embroidery (India)

Embroidered Rabari man's shirt, India Embroidered Rabari man's shirt, India Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. IS.145-2007

The Rabari (Rebari) are a nomadic group living mainly in the semi-desert Kutch parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan, Northwest India. Traditionally, the men followed their cattle, camels and sheep, while the Rabari women lived in permanent villages. Rabari women are famous for their embroidery skills, which are passed from mother to daughter, with the latter often spending several years embroidering clothes for their dowry.

There are several slightly different styles of Rabari embroidery, which come from the various Rabari communities living in the Kutch and Rajasthan regions. At the beginning of the twentieth century, for example, Rabari embroidery was known for its use of delicate stitch work. In the early twenty-first century, this type of Rabari work was revived by the Kala Raksha Trust.

In general, however, by the end of the twentieth century, Rabari embroidery is characterised by its use of mirrors (shisha) surrounded by colourful embroidery. Many of the large and bold designs are inspired by Rabari mythology and their desert habitation. The basic pattern is normally worked on a dark ground, with the individual motifs being outlined with chain stitch and then filled in with buttonhole stitch and herringbone stitch, all in brightly coloured threads. In addition, back stitch (bakhiya) is used to decorate the seams of women’s blouses and on men’s jackets (kediyun).

As noted above, a feature of Rabari embroidery is the extensive use of mirrors (shisha) in many different shapes and sizes, with the most common forms being lozenges, round, rectangular, square and triangular shapes, although sometimes tear drop forms are also used.

See also: Rabari beadwork

Source: FRATER, Judy, Threads of Identity: Embroidery and Adornment of the Nomadic Rabaris, Ahmedabad: Mapin, 1995

Digital sources:


Last modified on Tuesday, 14 March 2017 20:18