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Embroidery of Orissa

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Embroidery in Orissa (Odisha) is used primarily in articles relating to religious observances. The embroidery work has evolved around temples—in Orissa around the famous temple of Jagannath at Puri and in Tamil Nadu in Thanjavur, the city noted for its temples and religious rituals. Articles required for use in temples or religious processions such as umbrellas, canopies, hangings for walls and tubular structures (rather like long lamp shades), made to hang on either side of the deity like colorful pillars, are all made in bold designs in brilliant colors.

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In Orissa small pieces of cloth are cut into different patterns and sewn on to a plain background. Birds, fishes, peacocks, elephants, etc. are all made in this way and attached with fine stitches to the base material. Wings, eyes and other details are outlined in chain embroidery stitch. Spikes or projections are made by pulling one chain stitch upwards and fixing it in place with a long stitch. Bands of material in different colors divide the space. In an umbrella, the central motifs both above and below will be lotus flowers. The petals are in turn enclosed within a circle of material from which more petals unfold. Space is left between each band and the embroidery design encircled by it to allow the background material to show and to avoid a cluttered look. The bands may be plain or have small triangles cut at one end to produce a spiked edge. Sometimes each triangle is cut out separately and is individually attached to one edge of the band.

In Orissa, flowers are cut out from a piece of material but are also made by taking a long piece of material, shaping it like a flower and then attaching it with fine stitches of embroidery. Sometimes a coloured material is superimposed over the white one. The coloured flower is smaller than the white one and is arranged in such a way that white shows through a tiny hole in the centre and all around the circumference creating an impression of a double coloured flower. This gives the pattern depth and creates a three dimensional effect. Bright colors are used alternately with white thus avoiding gaudiness and allowing necessary spaces for the eye to rest upon.

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