2018

Discover the Ancient Homes of the Nomadic Craft of Lambani

Dastkari Haat Samiti

A look at the world in which the Lambani embroidery flourished

In the dry, rocky region of Hosapete, in the Ballari District in Karnataka, lie the ruins of the famed Vijayanagara Empire that rose in 14th Century CE and held sway for 200 years in. The ruins collectively form the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi. And tucked away in a village nearby called Sandur, reside the Lambanis. Unique in their colourful embroidered dresses strewn with mirrors, coins and shells, their elaborate hair styles and their cultural identity stand out from amongst the general population.
Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Remnants of the great Vijayanagara empire
Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Rock climbing at Hampi brings into sharp focus the landscape and history of the region. The sculptured quality of the rocks is also a photographer’s delight.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The carved gopura (ornate tower at the entrance of Hindu temples in Dravidian architecture) of the Krishna temple.

The Krishna temple was erected in 1515 by Krishnadevaraya, an emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire who reigned from 1509–1529, to commemorate his victory over the Gajapati rulers of Orissa.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Krishna temple complex consists of a twenty five bay open mandapa (columned hall), an enclosed nine bay mandapa with side porches, and a towered sanctuary surrounded by an unlit passageway.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Stone carvings from the Krishna temple, known for its exquisite and elegant architectural designs.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Stone carving of a beautiful maiden clutching a creeper, on the doorway jamb of the Krishna temple's gopura passageway.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Though somewhat hastily finished, judging from the poor quality of the carving, the Krishna temple is a monument that is typical of 16th century architecture.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Minor shrines are positioned near the outer corners of the Krishna temple, with a double-sanctuaried goddess temple to the north.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The main road which continues winding through the outer enclosure of the Krishna temple complex passes by a footpath which leads to the monolithic Narasimha.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The colossal statue which is 6.7 metres high, portrays the man-lion form of Vishnu, seated in yogic posture beneath a multi-headed naga, topped by a monster mask. Walls with doorway jambs, vestiges of a giant square chamber that was never finished, surround the monolith.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Garuda carving on a temple in Hampi.

Lambani Embroidery: Community Temple, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kumaraswamy Temple, a major cultural reference in Sandur, is a Hindu temple built between the 8th-10th century.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
The Lambanis of Sandur
Hampi and its ruins attract tourists from all over the world. Many would not guess that a unique tribal community lives nearby and creates extraordinary embroidery.
Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Village life in Sandur is the same as anywhere else in rural India. Tending to animals and threshing wheat is for working hours.

Embroidery in individual homes happens in the shade, in the quiet of the afternoon.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Lambani women who prefer to wear their traditional attire all the time feel no discomfort in working, carrying children or travelling across the world, wearing all that ornamentation.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

In most parts of India, women are more industrious and work at something or the other even in their leisure hours, while menfolk sit around relaxing and engaging in conversation.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

It is quite natural for Lambani women to occupy their leisure hours either embroidering alone, in twosomes or in groups if they are working on a large order for a client.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Symbols of a modern world, in the form of a motor cycle, mix easily with an age-old traditional world of the lambanis.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Girls of the Lambani community are taught to embroider from an early age. They may not follow traditional dress codes, but they are steeped in the skills and colours of their tribe.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A group of women of all ages work together to keep each other company, even if they are all not working on the same client’s order. At times, they keep old samples with them to follow colour ways or stitches. As usual, the man is only an observer!

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

An elderly Lambani woman embroiders a more intricate piece while a young girl has been given a simpler design to follow.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

It has larger mirrors and does not need very complicated stitches.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

All Lambani women dress in full finery irrespective of their age. Their heavy silver ornaments, flashing mirrors stitched on to the garments, flared skirts with heavily embroidered borders are a part of what makes them show their identity.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

They are proud inheritors of a colourful nomadic tradition when women wore all their finery while they travelled over mountains and deserts with their livestock and belongings.

Lambani Embroidery: Homes around Hampi, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Not only is Lambani embroidery intricate. They have silver jewellery, full of chains and beads, that dangle from different parts of their hair and clothes.

There are elaborate ornaments for the upper and lower arm, ankles, nose and ears. At times, they lodge a small lemon within the chains dangling from a cluster of braided hair on either side of their face, for auspicious reasons.

Lambani Embroidery: Embroidery as a commmunity practice, 2018, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about the Lambanis and their colourful embroidery traditions here:

- Lambani’s coloured homes and embroideries
- The vivacity of Lambani embroidery art
- Creating rhythms with needle and thread

Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra
Ground Facilitator: Ankit Kumar Singh
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Curation: Aradhana Nagpal

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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