A very intricately handcrafted form of art, which is a gift for the textile industry. Why?! Because sometimes, it needs 5000 stitches on a single saree worked by hand. A truly dedicated handicraft industry. Practiced in the southern state of Karnataka, a State in India rich in spices and culture, no wonder Kasuti sarees are so rich in weaving. It is a form of counted thread embroidery.

Kasuti embroidery


The name Kasuti is derived from the words “kai” meaning “hand” and “Suti” meaning “cotton” indicating an activity that is done using cotton material which are hand crafted by skilled weavers. The history of Kasuti dates back to the Chalukya period. The Kasuti embroidery features folk designs influenced by rangoli patterns of Karnataka, mirror work embroidery and gold and silver thread embroidery were mostly used for special occasions like weddings. It is also attributed to the Lambani tribe that originally came from Rajasthan and then settled in Karnataka who raised the level of this craft to great heights.

Rangoli pattern Kasuti saree

Kasuti Embroidery

Kasuti uses just one stitch, running stitch. It has some unique characteristics- geometrical patterns, two threads colours and use of single strand. Motifs are similar to other styles and include chariots, temples, gopura, palanquin, lamps, peacocks and flowers but they are altered so that the patterns are geometrical. If you understand the underlying concept, the embroidery is very simple and you can cover large areas in a short period of time. Kasuti work is quite popular on silk sarees and kurtas. In Karnataka Sarees embroidered with Kasuti were expected to be a part of the bridal trousseau of which one saree made of black silk with Kasuti embroidery called “Chandrakali” saree was of premier importance. As with any embroidery works, the designs are first drawn with charcoal or pencil and later proper needles and threads are selected. The work is luxurious because it involves counting of each thread embroidered on the cloth. To make the patterns are looking alike the design is stitched without using knots. There are variety of stitches involved to create the desired patterns. Some of them are,

1. Gavanti – A double running stitch used for marking Geometric lines like horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines.

2. Muragi – It is a zig – zag stitch.

3. Nevgi – It is a running stitch.

4. Menthe – resembling the Fenugreek seeds, it is a cross stitch.

Nevgi stitch Kasuti saree

Menthe stitch Kasuti work

Murgi stitich Kasuti Saree

Gavanti stitch Kasuti Saree

Special Features

# The bigger and the main motifs are larger and close to the pallu and the size diminishes as the saree moves downwards.

# The stitches are not of single pattern, they are of horizontal, vertical and diagonal stitches along the fabric.

# Once the motifs are completed they cannot be continued. The empty space will be filled with stitching line.

# The effort of the weavers are minboggling!! As the weaving is not done by tracing, the embroidery is done by memory of the design with counting the threads . Despite of this risky technique, the result of the stitches are extremely even and neat.

#Background of the Kasuti sarees are mostly dark themed and the embroidery work are always bright coloured thread work. Thread colours such as Red, Orange, Purple, Green, Blueand Yellow create a brilliant contrast to the dark mostly black or deep red base of the sare. But the final effect of the saree is always Sensational !

#Chandrakala; the black or navy blue saree made with silk fabric is the phenomenal addition to every brides trousseau. And it is a must addition in a bridal trousseau of every Karnataka Brides. The Chandrakala saree has special features , were it is said that earlier times and even in some parts of Karnataka now the chandrakala bridal sarees are woven with the bride’s hand by herself with catchy motifs, added panels and exquisite mirror works adding charm to the Kasuti bridal saree.

Textile Designer Vinaya Narkar looking to bring back the Chandrakala Bridal Saree

Chandrakala bridal Kasuti Saree

Current Scenario

There was a time when despite the encouragement of the Government and some NGOs to popularize this art, for this fine tradition to continue, there were only few buyers or customers demanding kasuti sarees because if the growing fashion industry. However in recent times there has been a revival or turnaround where the interest in this ethnic artistry is slowly taking root and the Kasuti is getting the desired name through more and more followers keen on learning this art through institutions started by the government attracting tourists and citizens.

As with any traditional art being protected legally from unjust exploitation in the use of the name for commercial purposes from spurious or comparatively inferior goods in the market, the Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation has thought fit to get the Geographical Indication label or Intellectual Property rights for the restricted and reserved use of Kasuti only for this type of traditional embroidery.

Today the Kasuti embroidery proudly adorns the grand Mysore Silk Saree too.

Workers, working under Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation
Design of Kasuti of Karnataka – by Indira Joshi 1963



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