Although Maharashtra, India’s most industrialized state, has long been the financial capital of the country, more than 60 percent of the people are actually employed in agriculture and related activities. Mumbai (Bombay) is the capital of Maharashtra and is also the main center of India’s Hindi film and television industry (known as Bollywood).Traditionally, men from the villages have gone away to the city of Bombay to work in the cotton mills, and the women, left behind in the villages, have followed subsistence agriculture, growing the rice, vegetables and legumes they need. Perhaps because women were kept busy with the daily agricultural routines, leaving little leisure time, quiltmaking has not traditionally had an important role in Maharashtra.
Maharashtrian quilts, called gudaris, are simpler than the intricate embroidered and appliqued quilts from other parts of India. Most of them are pieced in geometrical patterns, though sometimes applique figures are added. Since these gudaris are made from old, personally used clothing—usually cotton, but recently also synthetic—the women consider the quilts for household use only—not for sale. The gudari is made mostly from old torn or worn out saris (women’s wrapped garments), randomly placed layer upon layer, sometimes up to six layers. The in-between layers are at times filled with used trousers and shirts laid out flat. The top layer is the decorative, patchwork portion of the quilt. Sometimes intricately woven borders are cut off of old saris and included on the top layer of the gudari, as seen in this quilt from Solapur, Maharashtra. Using a heavy-gauged cotton thread, quiltmakers hand stitch through the multiple layers of cloth to perform the quilting.
Click images below to view larger and read more information about some of the quilts included in the exhibit.