The Hand-stitched Quilt – A Legacy of the Grandmother’s Gift of Love
Handmade quilts have been around in India for centuries. Generations of women in India have been transforming their old, much-worn sarees and lovingly handstiching them into soft quilts that are as warm and as precious as a mother’s love!
In Maharashtra, they are known as Godhadis, in my home state of Goa, they are known as Gojdi, or Kolch. In Bihar, they are known as Sujani, in Karnataka and Andhra, Bonthe, in Rajasthan, Gudadi, and in UP, Dohar. Bishnupriya Manipuris of Northeast call them Tenar Kantha and in Assam, they are known as Ketha.
A hand-stitched Quilt is known by many names in India, but they have one thing in common, these humble blankets are a tapestry of memories. In many families, hand-stitched quilts are preserved for generations, as they are a symbol of maternal love!
I shared pictures of old quilts in my collection on social media. The purple quilt is at least 70 years old, hand-stitched by my grandmother from her nine yard saree. I can’t get over how tiny and uniform each stitch is! She used to spend hours working on the quilt, stitching in complicated geometric patterns, all done without tracing a design!
I remember her stitching, leaning against a pillar in our old house in Goa, her nimble fingers moving the needle in and out of the fabric in a complicated dance. I would spend hours watching her work. There is a lot of beauty and satisfaction in making something by your own hand. I lack the patience to complete whole projects, but I find hand-stitching very soothing and meditative!!
I asked for reader contributions with pictures of hand-stitched quilts they have. The result was a treasure trove of information!
“This is woven by my great grand mother in law. My son loves to lay and roll on it. The love and care that we get from our parents and grandparents in this form is really mesmerizing,” says Suvarna Sutar-Ghadge.
“This beautiful Godhadi hand woven and gifted by one of my maasi for my new born,” says Prachee Chopdekar.
“In Rajasthan we call them Gudadi. Apart from day to day use in home especially on jute चारपाई , worn out soft old clothing is used to make them in smaller size for newborns. Put a plastic sheet under it and they work wonders because you are not washing multiple bedsheets or drying out huge mattresses. I had 6/7 made by my mum when my daughter was born,” says Priyanka Singh Mann.
“In fact in Hindi ‘गुदड़ी का लाल’ is an expression used to describe a person with extraordinary calibre born in humble background. I remember a TV serial that used to come on DD, it was on Shashtri ji & its title song was ‘गुदड़ी का लाल, देखो गुदड़ी का लाल, लाल बहादुर बहादुर लाल बेमिसाल’,” continues Ms. Mann.
Here is a Patti’s patchwork quilt posted by Nidhi Madhusudan:
“This Handmade quilt was a gift by my mother to my son. Shefali Vaidya as you rightly said , its a gift of love. 80 years old lady in my mum’s village used to come and sit in the aangan and make it in front of us. It’s really special,” says Neha Vaidya.
“Brick red and hand-made. Grateful to the unknown artist. Hope s/he was paid a fair price for this lovely quilt,” says Padma Koty.
“Sharing the quilts made by my great-grandmother in law and grand mother in law Vinita Kamat,” says Neeraja Dashaputre.
“My godhadi made by my mum. From Pune to San Diego,” says Mugdha Dokhale.
Hand stitching Godhadis is an art that is taking a back seat in this world of cheap machine made Chinese blankets. But these beautiful, soft, warm Godhadis are more than just blankets, they are repositories of love and memories for many of us. They talk about the stories of the nimble hands who made them. Godhadis are a legacy of love!