Toda Embroidery

The Todas are supposed to be remnants of the Greeks who came to India with Alexander the Great and penetrated as far South as the Nilgiris where they settled down. Their women sport a fantastic hairdo. The hair on top of the head is combed smoothly and is then shaped into corkscrew curls which hang down to the shoulders. S0 smooth and precise are these curls that it seems impossible to believe that they are not the result of the labours of an experienced hairdresser.

The men wear long shawls draped like the ancient Greeks. These are specially woven. They are plain with red and black bands at the ends placed at a distance of about six inches. The Toda embroidery in India is done between the stripes, counting the weft, with stitches clustering together to produce the effect of a weave. The Toda embroidery designs are geometrical in pattern. Since the Todas worship the buffalo, the buffalo horn design is most important. Others are derived from the flowers of the area and from articles like boxes. One design has been named after an ancient priest and another after a girl who fell from a precipice and lost her life.

The colors red, black, green, yellow, orange and white are used in various permutations and combinations in the Toda embroidery works. A clever effect of light and shade is produced by using alternating bands of colour tapering from dark to lighter to light on the top half and then tapering again from light to lighter to dark along the bottom half along a whole row of identical motifs.

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