The binding cord
Fashion designer Ashdeen Z Lilaowala's new book, Threads of Continuity, chronicles the craft of weaving the kusti, the sacred thread worn by both men and women of the Zoroastrian community
In what way is the kusti important to Zoroastrians?
The sudreh and kusti are given to a child when they are initiated into the religious faith at the Navjote ceremony. It signifies the child becoming an adult and the sudreh and kusti help provide protection and select the right path in life. It is a part of our existence. The kusti is used in various ceremonies — from marriage to funeral. Zoroastrians are expected to perform a prayer involving the kusti five times a day.
What made you work on the topic of kusti weaving?
When I was a student at the National Institute of Design, we had to document a craft for a project, and being from the community I thought of working on it. I then went on to research more and have worked on the book for 10 years now.
What are the different facets of kusti weaving?
It’s similar to the janeu ceremony in Hindus, but here both girls and boys wear it. Kusti is woven out of 72 threads, and each represents different chapters of the Yasna (the sacred text). Other than the 72 threads it also has 12 tassels and is worn in a particular way around the waist. Women are the ones who weave the kusti (initially it was wives of priests mostly), but the numbers have gone down. Also, the way the kusti is woven here, is the same as the way it is still done in Iran.