An unusual book on the weaving of the sacred thread

Thread Bare

An unusual book on the weaving of the sacred thread worn by the Parsis adds to the craft revival stories in India

Few, even among textile conservationists, would imagine a book deconstructing kusti, (pronounced ‘kasti’), the sacred thread worn by the Parsi community. It is certainly not a topic that dots fashion conversations these days. But if revival is India’s biggest fashion story at the moment — through

disparate but persistent action by designers, textile experts and the government — unusual projects like these are gushy tributaries feeding into it. Textile designer Ashdeen Lilaowala’s Threads of Continuity, currently a work-in-progress book on kusti weaving, to be published by Parzor Foundation, an NGO, falls in that category.

Pretty strawberry milkshakes sit on the table between us on a baking summer afternoon as Lilaowala gently corrects me on my sweeping use of the term Parsis. He points out that some of it is about the Zoroastrian diaspora, while other references have seeped into our vast textile information from Iranian textile and craft. In the next 20 minutes, I realise that many of my facts about Parsi embroidery, craft, textile and clothes worn for Zoroastrian rituals are mixed up. That’s exactly the case with many people within the community as well, says Lilaowala, adding that documentation of such fundamental, but taken-for-granted realities like the sacred thread could address modern perplexities around identity. He emphasises that the Zoroastrian diaspora is keener than “Indian Parsis” to understand and practice lost rituals and the book attempts to recall information lost in the oral tradition.

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