About Chikankari

An Overview of Indian Traditional Chikankari History

Chikankari is a traditional embroidery style that originated in the city of Lucknow, India, and has a history dating back over 400 years. It is renowned for its delicate and intricate patterns, usually done on lightweight fabrics like muslin, chiffon, or silk. Here's a brief overview of its history:

  1. Mughal Influence (16th Century): Chikankari is believed to have originated during the Mughal era in India, around the 16th century. It is said that Nur Jehan, the wife of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was an admirer of this intricate art form and played a significant role in popularizing it.
  2. Evolution in Lucknow (18th Century): Lucknow, the capital of the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh, became the epicenter for Chikankari embroidery. It flourished under the patronage of the Nawabs of Awadh during the 18th century. The Nawabs encouraged the art form, and skilled artisans were brought in to further refine and develop it.
  3. Traditional Techniques: Chikankari involves various traditional stitching techniques, including ‘Bakhiya’ (shadow work), ‘Phanda’ (tiny knots), ‘Murri’ (braid), ‘Jali’ (mesh), and ‘Kangan’ (bracelet). These techniques require meticulous attention to detail and skilled craftsmanship.
  4. Symbolism and Designs: Chikankari designs often feature motifs inspired by nature, such as flowers, birds, and vines, as well as geometric patterns. Each motif holds symbolic significance and cultural relevance. For instance, the ‘peacock’ motif symbolizes beauty and grace, while the ‘paisley’ motif represents the mango, a symbol of fertility and abundance.
  5. Decline and Revival: Despite its popularity during the Mughal and Nawabi era, Chikankari faced a decline in the 19th and early 20th centuries due to various factors, including changing fashion trends and the decline of royal patronage. However, efforts by artisans and designers to revive this traditional art form have helped it regain its prominence.
  6. Contemporary Significance: Today, Chikankari continues to be cherished both in India and internationally. It has evolved to adapt to modern fashion trends while still preserving its traditional essence. Fashion designers often incorporate Chikankari into their collections, showcasing its timeless appeal and craftsmanship.

Overall, Chikankari stands as a testament to India's rich textile heritage and the enduring legacy of its traditional crafts.