The breathtakingly beautiful gara is the traditional attire worn by the Parsi
bride and ladies. Gorgeous and in great demand, every lady who wears sarees,
will want a gara to be part of their trousseau.
In fact garas are now collector's items, the value of a gara increases with each
passing year. Visit our special member's only area to see more patterns.
Since initially only the rich Parsi women were in a position to buy a gara, the
colour of the fabric would either be rich violet, purple or red, as these three
colours are associated with royalty and aristocracy. A gara could be fully
embroidered or have a border with embroidery sprinkled all over or just
partially. The earliest garas were embroidered on all four borders, a custom
which gradually gave way to two, given the manner in which sarees are draped.
The Persian influence made it felt in the fruit, flower, and bird motifs
interspersed on a distinctly Chinese background. Each gara has its own story in
the form of pictures embroidered across the length of the saree with distinct
scenes of Chinese life, shrines, boatmen, river banks, soldiers and cranes. The
most common stitches found on a gara are that of the satin and French knot.
"A particular kind of stitch called crewel was found in the earlier garas. This
extremely intricate stitch was so minute that it caused blindness among the
craftsmen. The English rulers on learning about the effects of this kind of
embroidery made them stop producing the crewel stitch. The popular choice of
thread is off-white. Pastels were also favored to a large extent and this was
due to the European influence. Shading done by different colors of thread to
give it a painting like effect was a specialty too,".
Traditionally, the gara was worn over the head, exposing only one ear. This is
the reason why many old sets of Parsi jewelry have only one earring. Modern
versions of the traditional gara incorporate traditional motifs with Swarovski
crystal and touches of gold and silver interweaving. Perhaps due to the extreme
care required to maintain and preserve a gara, its popularity declined. Now with
the modifications brought about in the design and the reproduction of embroidery
similar to that of the Chinese, garas have regained their lost glory and are the
most sought after garments among the Parsi elite. These rare pieces of Parsi
legacy are now serious collector's items!
The gara’s history is as colourful as the garment is to behold. The gara was
probably introduced in India by Parsi traders in the 19th century who used to
travel to China to trade. Originally, it was an item that was normally a labour
of love created by the Chinese. Patronized by the Parsi and worn for weddings
and Navjote (a ceremony for young Parsi boys and girls in the Zoroastrian faith)
ceremonies it is treasured and worn by girls of all ages and is today considered
a rare fashion item worth possessing, informs Designer.
Any one’s love for the revival of the gara was kindled when she tried to salvage
a sari for a friend. At that time designer, an expert embroiderer, seriously
considered devoting her efforts to resuscitate the dying art.
Chinese garas were considered quite buky to wear as saris since they had
embroidered borders on all four sides. The most favoured colour was purple or
violet. Several years after the introduction of the gara in India, craftsmen in
Surat in Gujrat managed to duplicate the embroidery. But the Surat gara is
identified by its net and French knots which the Chinese ones did not have.
Besides violet, the colours popular were wine red, navy blue, white or off white
with white embroidery in twisted cotton thread. At times, gold threads were also
used. Unfortunately, colour fastness of fabric and threads was dubious thereby
spoiling the garment. At last designer has rectified it and changed the fabric
to synthetic silk, which is easier to maintain.
Because of the visual beauty of the rich and intricate work, always hand done,
it could take up to nine months to complete each gara. Decades ago a gara was a
must in a bride’s trousseau. Today a gara may cost a large sum starting with
Rs.2, 500 because of the lack of craftsmen. Since the embroidery is specialized
and intricate every few days, the craftsmen have to be given a simpler sari to
break the monotony of the hard work so that they can return refreshed to the
complicated motifs. A craftsman specializes in a particular motif-like flower,
tree, house and figure etc. so that there is uniformity in the workmanship, adds
Indian designers. Most of the craftsmen are from all over India specializing in
their particular motif. It is believed that if a Chinese craftsman embroidered
birds he would do so all his life. This concept is also carried on in India.
A gara is not an easy piece to purchase. In fact it is well-night impossible
because nobody makes such saris any more in China. During the Mao regime it was
a banned craft since they preferred manual labour to artistic talents. For the
last 50 years no garas have been produced in China and Parsis who owned a few
family heirlooms have either sold them or cut them up due to disintegration.
Although the motifs are hand embroidered, the finish is superb on the right side
as well as the wrong. Each gara has its own story in the form of pictures
embroidered across the length of the sari.
Surprisingly, the interest in the gara is not just restricted to the women but
even men are ardent admirers. One who had searched the whole of China for a gara
for his wife was very happy to know that he could buy one right here in Bombay!
Originally considered a Parsi family heirloom, today with the help of Indian
designer’s revival of the garment the gara has become the prized possession of
woman all over India. The original Chinese garas are considered priceless works
of craftsmanship but the biggest compliment paid to Indian designer’s efforts
was the comment after hours of careful examination that it must be an original