KHETA: Presentation of Shershabadi women’s embroidery

KHETA, an embroidery exhibition of lesser known reversible quilts made by Shershabadi women from Kishanganj district of Bihar, will be held at the National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, from 4 March to 3 April 2022, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Originally settled in Bangladesh’s Malda district on land donated by Emperor Sher Shah Suri (who reigned from 1486 to 1545 AD), the Shershabadi community migrated along the rivers and settled in Kishanganj and neighboring districts of Bihar and Bengal in India.

Delicate yet densely adorned with vibrant colors, Kheta embroidery is a kind of quilting (the art of stitching together layers of fabric) that has survived the onslaught of time and shares a similar origin with other recycled quilting techniques, “Kantha” from Bengal and “Sujni” from Bihar.

Kheta is the cultural identity and embroidered expression of the Muslim migrant community of Shershabadi. The exhibition of embroidered (quilted) products in the Textile Gallery of the Handicrafts Museum will include a live demonstration of the handicrafts by Shershabadi women, workshops for educational institutions to learn the handicrafts, lectures by experts, film screenings/audio-visual sessions giving an insight into the Shershabadi community and culture, and the sale of Kheta products from the museum shop.

Although it is a craft practiced in the remote villages of Kishanganj, Kheta has remained largely undocumented in the family of recycled quilts from the eastern part of India like the Sujanis and Kanthas. In its intricate geometric patterns, Kheta stands out as a contemporary expression of the modern world. The Zameen Astar Foundation (ZAF) and the Azad India Foundation (AIF) have helped bring these most exquisite embroideries to the attention of governments, national and international.

Over the years, however, the Shershabadi community has developed its unique quilting technique of pure geometric patterns, eschewing the figurative representations of Sujni and the circular designs of Kantha. Typically used as a blanket for newborn babies or a mattress for newlyweds, Kheta is an invaluable work of art as it is a finished product designed for everyday use.