Embroidery so fine that it looks like weaving, Toda embroidery flaunts its roots in Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu. Named after the people of Toda, this embroidery represents their culture, art, and craft.
Meet The Todas
The Todas are a small community who live on the isolated plateau of Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu. Their average population has hovered in the range of 700 to 900 during the last century. Their lifestyle and beliefs revolve around farming and nature, whereas their religion is based on buffaloes and their milk, and the dairies revered as temples.
The people believe that their God first created the buffalo and then the first Toda man. The first Toda woman was made from the right rib of the first Toda man. However, the Todas are most popular for their distinctive embroidery style.
Locally known as ‘pukhoor’, Toda embroidery is an artwork done exclusively by the women of Toda. They usually use roughly woven white cloth, black and red wool threads, and occasionally, blue wool threads. The artwork is popularly done on white shawls, and these shawls are called Poothkuli. This distinct style of the people of Toda sets them apart from the other surrounding tribes.
The motifs used in this form of embroidery are worked by counting threads. Often, women create these without tracing the patterns on the cloth or referring to a book. The motifs also reflect the culture and mythological beliefs of the people and hence, each piece of artwork is unique to the woman who creates it.
Unlike other forms of embroidery, this embroidery is done using thread and needle only, and also requires no frame to keep the cloth in place. Done in a way that the embroidery is reversible, the rough side of the embroidery is considered the “right” side up.
An important symbol of their belief system, the black, red, and white colours symbolize the Underworld, the immediate realm of Earth, and the Celestial respectively.
Occassions and events within the tribe witness the people wearing this artwork in various creative designs. This form of embroidery received the Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2012. The traditional embroidery is now shifting from shawls in Nilgiri to contemporary apparel and even accessories. The art form is slowly gaining popularity across Indian and spreading to other parts of the world.
At Tjori, we offer these traditional embroideries on modern silhouettes.