The Gara Sorority

The store located at 12, MG Road, oozes antiquity. Well-worn furniture, slightly faded white walls and airy premises, coupled with the products stocked inside, transport the visitor to a bygone era. From among T-shirts, straw hats and knick-knacks, the bold colours of the traditional Parsi gara stand out at the Poona Zoroastrian Seva Mandal store.

Gara is a vintage Parsi thread-work tradition that dates back to the 1800s. Its origin can be traced to when Parsis, who traded with Oriental countries, acquired Oriental silk that was embroidered with peonies and pagodas made by the Chinese for their women. According to the Zoroastrian Heritage website, the word gara stems from the Gujarati word for a sari. "But it has now come to mean a particular Indian Zoroastrian (Parsi or Irani) style sari," goes the definition.

"The embroidery is generally made on a georgette or crepe sari," says a staff member at the store. The gara saris stocked at the Poona Zoroastrian Seva Mandal store are intricate and have been machine-embroidered. Priced at Rs 6,000 and above, the store stocks gara-embroidered kurtis as well.

Be it a Parsi wedding or navjote (initiation) ceremony of the old Zoroastrian community in Pune, the gara is an important part of the community. Ratush Wadia, a Pune-based patron of the gara, throws light on the history of the embroidery. "If you look closely, many of the original Chinese motifs are still used," she says, adding, "Earlier, the mulmul fabric was favoured. But somehow the trend has changed over the years."

Now, from cozy layers of mulmul, the gara is making its way in to fashion boutiques. Earlier favoured by upper-class Zoroastrian ladies for special occasions, the gara is being used on designer bodices, handloom saris, skirt hems and structured jackets, thanks to noted designers such as Aneeth Arora, Nupur Kanoi, Anupama Dayal, Sabyasachi Mukerjee and Anamika Khanna.

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