Kasuti, The GI-Tagged Geometric Embroidery From Karnataka

Kasuti, The GI-Tagged Geometric Embroidery From Karnataka
Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Priya

When in Karnataka next, pick a Kasuti embroidered sari, tote, tee, or two, along with the staple of bidriware, and sandalwood items

OT Staff
December 26 , 2022
04 Min Read

From the sixth-largest state of India, Karnataka comes the intricate embroidery of the Geographical Indicator tagged Kasuti. It is the embodiment of the traditions, and customs, of the people, especially the women, of the state. The Kannada words for hand or Kai, cotton thread or Suti, come together to mean the embroidery called Kasuti. While the state’s sandalwood bidriware products have always been in the news, the delicate-looking but painstakingly created Kasuti embroidery has been waiting for its time in the limelight.

Depiction Of Perception


The ancient art form of embroidery dates back to the Chalukya period and later the Mysore dynasty and is spread over many districts of Bijapur, Dharwar, Belgaum, Miraj, Sangli, and Jamkhandi. Karnataka has always been the hub of handlooms, arts and crafts, and especially that which involved silks. Kasuti was born of the discarded threads of silk weaving. Such is the importance of Kasuti embroidery in the social and cultural milieu that Kasuti-embroidered saris are a part of the bridal trousseau, especially the Chandrakali, or the black silk sari with Kasuti embroidery. The embroidery is a storehouse of designs created by women as they see the world. Therefore, the designs range from flowers such as the lotus, birds such as parrots and peacocks, animals such as the swan, squirrel, bull, elephant, and deer, and architecture, to gopurams and chariots. The women even add the rangoli patterns typical to Karnataka to their motifs.

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Handmade Perfection

More than 5,000 stitches go into creating a pattern using a needle, threads, and a variety of materials for the base, such as cotton, silk, etc. These can be in the form of saris, blouse pieces, tablecloths, napkins, et al., and interestingly, the embroidery appears the same on both sides of the cloth. There are no knots to be seen! The cloth is fixed onto a frame or an embroidery hoop, and atop the cloth is fixed a cotton mosquito net, for uniformity of design. Once the design is done, the net is carefully cut away.

There are four stitches used in Kasuti: gavanti, murgi, negi, and menthi. The gavanti, is the most common stitch, and is a double-running stitch used to create vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. The murgi is a zigzag stitch, and the negi, is an ordinary running stitch, going right to left. It is used for designs which are spread out, and resembles a weave. Since it is done in long and short lines, it appears dissimilar on opposite sides of the cloth. While the first three are for creating the pattern, the last one, the menthi, is like the cross-stitch and is for filling in the motif.

Another unique element of Kasuti, apart from the zero-knots, is that the designs are not traced onto the cloth. The pattern is created as the craftswoman embroiders or is made from memory. They count the number of threads to make intricate designs in popular colours such as red, orange, yellow, and purple. Apart from clothing and home décor, you will see Kasuti on bags and purses, tee shirts, caps, etc. The contemporary form of Kasuti has helped keep the craft and, thereby, the craftsperson with the times and created some sort of economic viability. However, a great deal remains to be done to pull the craft out of relative obscurity.

For more information, you can log on to Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited’s website at www.

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