Sujini Embroidery Work of Bihar, India

Sujani (also known as Sujini) is a form of embroidery originating from the Bhusura village of Bihar in India. In ancient times, it was considered as a form of quilting wherein old sarees and dhotis were used as the creative canvas, the cloth was folded twice or thrice and then simple stitches were done on these used clothing to add newness to them. Today, Sujani embroidery is also practiced in the southern part of Rajasthan for making patterns on Sarees, dupattas and other clothing and home furnishing.


In a diverse country like India, embroidery has always been the expertise of women, both working and homemakers. For every important moment in a woman’s life like wedding, birth, and religious functions, stitching continues to be a promising skill. That’s how Sujani embroidery came into existence in the state of Bihar.


Sujani is said to have originated around the 1920s and was only practiced by the Rajput women. The word “Sujani” is derived from the words ‘su’ which means facilitating and ‘jani’ meaning birth. Quilts for new-born babies were made by stitching together colourful patches of old clothes and then Sujani embroidery was done with colourful threads to create motifs and designs.


The most important requirement is to use easily available raw material as the base fabric. The process begins with tracing down the designs on the base fabric using a tracing wheel and tracing sheet. Then artisans start drawing background by fine running stitch. And finally black or brown threads are used for outlining the motifs and colourful threads are used to fill in colours in the motifs. Materials required for Sujani kantha stitch include a needle, frame, scissors, threads of various colours, inch tape, tracing sheet, tracing wheel, pencil, rubber, blue chalk and kerosene.


This style of embroidery is similar to the Kantha stitch of West Bengal. The difference in use of colours, themes and motifs differentiate these two embroideries from each other. One of the prime difference is that in Kantha embroidery, artisans can stitch in any direction of the fabric, while in Sujani embroidery should always be done in straight lines. Going deep into the intricacies of Sujani style stitch, one will find that this embroidery is done only on cream coloured fabric with stitched motifs outlined by black coloured thread while multiple coloured threads are used to fill in colours.


The craftsmen used fine running stitch to make beautiful embroidered motifs of deities, flowers, and peacock designs for wall decoration. With the evolving times, the craftsmen started embellishing Indian ethnic outfits like sarees, kurtas, dupattas and other clothing items with Sujani embroidery. Home decor items such as cushion covers, bedspreads, and wall hangings are some of the popular items decorated with Sujani embroidery. Winter wear clothing like Stoles and Jackets with Sujani embroidery are made using the Tussar silk fabric.


The Sujani is not merely a traditional craft. It is also a way to convey social and political messages. A typical Sujani embroidered quilt, conveys two different messages – from a drunken man physically abusing his wife to women compelled to observe the purdah, and practices of dowry being given on one hand. Alternately, the other half includes motifs and scenes like a woman as the speaker or host of a public gathering, a female judge, or a scene depicting a woman selling goods and earning a living for herself.


With the rising popularity and vibrancy of other Bihar originated crafts like Madhubani and papier-mache, Sujani embroidered got overshadowed. But today, the production of Sujani embroidery is done in about 15 villages of India. The rural women of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar continue to embroider in the Sujani style, using combinations of a finerunning stitch and chain stitch. When rural women are not allowed to step out and work outside their homes, practicing this art form acts as the prime source of earning a livelihood for them and that’s how they add to their family’s income through this art.