Celebrating Pongal in style: ‘Aari’ embroidery takes centre stage among Indian women

15 Jan 2024 07:37pm
Letchumy showing the embroidered accessories she made. Photo by Bernama
Letchumy showing the embroidered accessories she made. Photo by Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR - As the Pongal harvest festival approaches, Indian women will not only be seen busy purchasing vibrantly designed clay pots, milk, and sugarcane but also adorning handmade 'Aari' work embroidery on garments or specific product areas, enhancing their aesthetic appeal.

Letchumy Arumugam, 50, owner of Sara Bombay Tailoring, shared that owing to the festive season, she has received numerous orders for Aari embroidery, with prices ranging from RM100 to RM2,800.

"Aari work predominantly involves thread and needle craftsmanship, complemented by the use of stones and other embellishments to add opulence to the embroidery. This handcrafted Aari work aims to create intricate designs, either covering the entire garment or specific sections, enhancing its overall appeal.

"The labour-intensive nature of Aari work means it takes a minimum of eight to 10 hours to complete the embroidery for a single blouse. Therefore, the pricing is justified due to the meticulous workmanship," she told Bernama.

The term "Aari" originates from 'aar,' denoting the needle employed for this craft. Aari work involves stretching fabric on a frame and meticulously stitching with a long needle that concludes with a hook.

Aari embroidery, tracing its roots to the Mughal era, requires tightly stretching fabric over a wooden frame. A pen-like needle, reminiscent of a crochet needle, is utilised for the intricate Aari work.

With eight years of experience in the garment industry, Letchumy noted a surge in demand for this designed embroidery, especially among young ladies, who wish to showcase it on the third day of the Pongal celebration known as Kanni Pongal. This day is traditionally observed by unmarried women who pray for a prosperous life and an ideal life partner.

Addressing the trend of online orders, Letchumy, with branches in Rawang, Selayang, and Batu Caves, revealed that orders were pouring in through platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram.

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S. Bavani, 28, a customer, described the designated embroidery as unique and stunning. "The price is reflective of the impeccable workmanship. I have ordered three saree blouses featuring a design of milk pouring from a clay pot. It's my first time choosing this design," she said.

The Tamil community is gearing up to celebrate Ponggal on Monday, falling in the 10th month of the Tamil calendar known as Thai. This festival holds significant importance, especially for the farming community.

The four-day festivities kick off with 'Bhogi,' a day dedicated to introspection symbolised by burning old and unused household items. This is followed by Thai Ponggal, where a sweet rice dish (Pongal) is prepared in a traditional clay pot as an offering to the Sun God, expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest.

On the third day, 'Mattu Ponggal,' cattle are worshipped, believed to contribute to a successful harvest. The concluding day, 'Kanni Ponggal,' witnesses unmarried women making Pongal while praying for good husbands. - BERNAMA