Sujani - A Symbol of Empowerment

This historical art form, exclusively made by women from the state of Bihar, dates back to the beginning of the eighteenth century. It is said that mothers used to lovingly stitch Sujani quilts to cover their newborn babies immediately after birth. 

The word Sujani is a compound word of ‘su’ meaning "easy and facilitating" and ‘jani’ meaning "birth". It is usually made from discarded pieces of clothes like old, worn-out saris and dhotis, and stitched together adopting a simple running stitch. 

The motifs often spoke of birth and motherhood and symbolised two things - an ode to "Chitiriya Ma, the Lady of the Tatters," who speaks of unifying unwanted elements to create something beautiful. Two, to provide the newborn with a wrap so soft, it reminded the child of a hug from its mother.

They represented the sun, earth and water, indicative of life-giving forces, fertility symbols, sacred animals, and mythical creatures to protect against evil forces, and attract blessings from the gods. The use of different shades of threads symbolised life's forces such as red, symbolic of blood and yellow symbolic of the sun.

Sujani is a long, labour-intensive process. It begins with the tracing of the motif on Salita, a superior type of cotton. Thereafter, a fine running stitch is embroidered on the background and the motifs are filled in with threads of different colours. 

Today, it has also become a way for the women to express the difficulties that plague their everyday life. The motifs represent issues such as female foeticide, dowry harassment, domestic violence, and other socio-economic issues, which has resulted in a sense of empowerment for these women. With the GI classification by the government, the craft has got an added impetus and encouragement.

While it is still underrated in the contemporary market, Sujani remains one of the most recognisable craft forms in India.

Picture Credits: biharheritage.blogspot