Elegance, beauty, art and craft are ingrained in India’s rich cultural history. Our beautiful country has something unique in store for all its travelers. One of the most popular handcrafted art form across the country is – embroidery. The art can broadly be defined as the process of decorating a piece of fabric with thread and yarn. Depending on the demographics, the process could include multiple decorative materials such as metal strips, beads, sequins and pearls.
Keeping in mind the unique topography of our country where each state has its own style and traditions, the art of embroidery changes as we travel across state borders. Beginning from the northern part of India; Phulkari, Kashida Embroidery and Chikankari are the most popular forms.
The art of Phulkari originated in the early 19th century across the Punjab province. In the literal sense the embroidery comprises of colourful flower patterns or ‘phool’. To create these patterns the darn stitch is used while the base material traditionally is hand- spun, hand woven or naturally dyed khadi.
Further, Kashida Embroidery is the specialty of Jammu and Kashmir. This embroidery process is said to be one of the oldest type of native art forms. Historically the origin of this thread work technique can be traced back to the residents of Srinagar. However Kashida Embroidery gained popularity during the Mughal period.
Chikankari comes from the state of Uttar Pradesh. Principally the city of Lucknow is considered to be the hub of Chikankari embroidery in Uttar Pradesh. The word Chikankari originated from ‘Chakeen’ a Persian word signifying elegant patterns on fabrics. Conventionally done with white thread on muslin cloth, the art has now diversified into various colours and fabrics
Kantha comes from the West Bengal. The images depicted in the embroidery are said to reach back to the post- Vedic period. Running stitches are the primary technique used to create Kantha products. The repetitive use of the running stitch contributes to Kantha’s signature wrinkled and wavy effect on the fabric. In addition to being used in sarees and dhotis Kantha work is also popularly used to create light quits known as Nakshi Kantha.
The technique of needle work incorporating small pieces of fabrics of various contrasting colours, textures and stitched onto a large base fabric is known as Pipli. This art derives its name from its place of origin in Orissa i.e. Piple. The technique comes to life with the use of chain stitch, ruching stitch, taropa stitch and buttonhole stitch. The time consuming technique of stitching layers of fabric and ornaments atop one another results in unique breath-taking art works.
Traditionally, women have been credited for practicing this ancient handmade art of embroidery. Considering the effects of technological advancement it is now possible to replicate the designs on a mass scale However the old world charm of hand embroidered fabrics remains intact.