In many parts of the Indian subcontinent distinctively embroidered textiles are even today part of the trousseau of the groom as well as the bride and play an important role in their married life. Among the Hindus in most of north and central India, the wedding veil is worn with ceremony at least once in the year on the day of Karva Chauth (between Dussehra and Divali) when the wife observes a fast for the husband’s long life.
This striking cotton shawl would have been a wedding garment for a bride from the farming or semi-nomadic communities of the Tharparkar desert area in Sindh. The bridal shawls/veils of this region are usually cotton or silk embroidered in chain stitch and herringbone stitch, in pink or red floss silk, to depict flowers or flower buds accentuated by leaves and stems in light or dark green floss silk.
The flowers are heavily stylized versions of those found locally and are distributed informally around an elaborate central medallion, with half medallions along the longer edges, quarter medallions at the corners, and smaller medallions flanking the central one. Upon wearing the shawl, a half-medallion would adorn the top of the head of the wearer, and the central medallion would lie on her back.
There are two other similar shawls in the Sir Ratan Tata Collection.