In the 21st century, fashionable attire has overwhelmingly become a strong field of export. Our preferences lead to a harmonic lifestyle and also determine who we are. These days, there are numerous brands like Khaadi, Maria B, Gul Ahmed, etc that offer exquisite designs of clothing that most women are obsessed with buying. Fashion trends change every year and they also shape the ideas of clothing brands and boutiques.
In addition, Pakistan is also home to many handicrafts in traditional clothing. Each province in Pakistan holds different cultural significance in their handicrafts but among all, Balochi embroidery deserves special mention. These Balochi embroideries have striking features on dresses. The hand-made embroidery covers the ends of sleeves, with embroidered pieces on the front of the dress with an upsized triangular embroidered pocket down the hem. They seem to be complex designs sewed so meticulously and by such creative minds without the use of any charts.
From the lens of history, Balochi embroidery is considered one of the ancient handicrafts that have been passed from one generation to another. The art in it contains unfaded colours, small mirrors and intricate use of colourful threads. These embroideries are believed to be originated from the Mehrgarh civilization dated back to 700 BC. Mehrgarh is a large Neolithic site located on the Bolan Pass on the Kacchi Plain in Balochistan. It is also said to be the earliest Neolithic site on the Northwest Indian subcontinent. It is believed that when Mehrgarh civilization was discovered in Balochistan through excavation, the same motifs were seen on the pottery and the Balochi Embroidery Diagrams were seen on the pots as well.
Balochi embroidery has distinct differences in design and varieties, indicating the relevance attached to the particular tribe, and even the yarns or fabric used in the traditional Balochi embroidery vary from place to place. These handmade designs are amazingly exclusive. Many are designed with colourful fabrics, and usually, they are stitched with geometric patterns that give a vibrant and unique charm to these designs.
There are two major concepts in Balochi embroidery Dodh And Bedhodh, and there is a third concept Kantok in which both Dodh and Bedhodh concepts are used. Even their needleworks have different common terms as such chilako (sewn on Pandool, Astonk), Zeh (sewn on Pashk, shalwar), Gool Patt (embroidery sewn on daman), Pandol e dap (front side of the pocket), Jalaar (sewn by six different colors), Sarzi (embroidery that is sewn on every edge of the clothes), Pashk e Posht (embroidery on the backside of the cloth), Rehl (embroidery on the sides of the sleeves), Dammon (two horizontal lines that are sewn on the bottom of the shirt), Roochki (more than one person embroidery).
In Balochistan, many local females are dependent on these handicrafts for livelihood and economic support. The majority of Baloch women practice embroidery almost every day to polish their skills. For these women, it is also quite time-consuming and requires hard work hence it takes up to 3 to 9 months and dresses vary depending upon its designs and their prices ranging from 2000 to 85000 rupees. These embroideries are made mostly in the towns including Chaghai, Jhal Magsi, Makran, Dera Bugti, Jhal, Sibi, Kohlu, Mastung, Kalat. These designs now have global recognition as well, there are high demands especially in the Gulf countries because of their artistic and graceful designs.
No doubt, this handicraft is in demand, not just within Baloch nations but among other nations too. We must encourage these women who are contributing to their household economies. They should be supported by provincial and Federal governments with spending money in those potential areas. This would uplift the lives of the local people living in rural areas and would be a very efficient and lucrative industry. Vocational training institutes or handicraft organizations should be established so that they can learn new schemes of designs and colours.
There is a saying “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul”. These distinct types of traditional crafts and arts unite social history and preserve our cultures and identity. They must be elevated and valued. Balochi embroidery is a unique art and like all the other arts it has a language that depicts a message of grace, vibrance and hospitality.