Zardozi is an ancient Persian art (Zar in Persian means gold and Dozi is embroidery) which has been passed down for many generations. It dates back before the Mughal empire, reaching its zenith under the patronage of Emperor Akbar in the 17th century. Zardozi adorned the costumes of the court, wall hanging, scabbards, regal side walls of tents and the rich trappings of elephants and horses. Intricate patterns traced in gold and silver, studded with seed pearls and precious stones enhanced the shimmering beauty of silk, velvet and brocade.
Zardozi is fashioned with a needle that resembles a very small crochet hook which is used to run up and down through the cloth, much like a sewing machine, while the cloth is pulled tightly over a large wooden frame. Zardozi has remained as an appliqué method of embroidery. With one hand the craftsman holds a retaining thread below the fabric. In the other he holds a hook or a needle with which he picks up the appliqué materials. Then he passes the needle or hook through the fabric. After days of painstaking labor, the result is an exquisite gold-veined work of art.
Zardozi Christmas tree decorations:
Phulkaris and Baghs were worn by women all over Punjab during marriage festivals and other joyous occasions. They were embroidered by the women for their own use and use of other family members and were not for sale in the market. Thus, it was purely a domestic art which not only satisfied their inner urge for creation but brought colour into day to day life. In a way, it was true folk art. Custom had grown to give Phulkaris and Baghs to brides at the time of marriages. Some best Phulkaris and Baghs are known to have been made in Hazara and Chakwal, areas of Northern Punjab in Pakistan.
Some scholars feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as “Gulkari”. Some feel it came from Central Asia along with Jat tribes who migrated to India and settled in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. There is reference of Phulkari in Vedas, Mahabharat, Guru Granth Sahib and folk songs of Punjab. In its present form, phulkari embroidery has been popular since the 15th century.
The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread. Punjabi women created innumerable alluring and interesting designs and patterns by their skilful manipulation of the darn stitch.
In Phulkari embroidery ornaments the cloth, whereas in Bagh, it entirely covers the garment so that the base cloth is not visible.
Bawan Bagh (or Bawan Phulkari):“Bawan” means ” fifty-two ” in Punjabi and refers to the mosaic of fifty-two different patterns which decorate this piece (the number of patterns can be at times more or less than 52).
Bawan bagh (or phulkari) was in fact a display of samples used by professional embroiderers to show their skills and the patterns they could provide to their clients.
This explains why bawan bagh (or phulkari) is the rarest of all the bagh and phulkari.
Kantha is still the most popular form of embroidery practised by rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha. The embroidered cloth has many uses including women’s shawls and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In the best examples, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slight wrinkled, wavy effect. Contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of garments such as sarees, dupatta, shirts for men and women, bedding and other furnishing fabrics, mostly using cotton and silk.
Neran embroidery has recently been singled out as a separate style. It was originally a stitch used in conjunction with Kharek and Pakko embroideries. Neran literally means eyebrows, and are units of button hole stitch formed into a curved shape.
There are two styles done by different Jat communities. Garasia Jat embroidery is predominantly cross stitch with heavy use of small mirrors. The outline is usually done in white before being filled in. Embroidery done by the Dhaneta/Fakirani Jat are tiny bars of tight, padded satin stitch with radiating circles of a couched stitch. Designs for Jat embroidery are geometric, not representational and must be done on loose weave fabrics. The design cannot be pre?drawn and the craftswoman must make decisions regarding the geometry of each piece before she begins Traditionally, all of the fabric given is covered and the base fabric cannot be seen at all. Consequently, this is the most labour intensive, and expensive form of embroidery.
I love how this embroidery is used on cellphone covers, pouches, purses, etc.
Picturesque and vivid Rabari bharat eulogizes creativity and imaginative fervor executed on any piece of textiles. The spontaneous compositions, vibrant colors and graphical motifs add in vivacity to fashion products while amassing spirit and vigor in life style accessories.
Symmetrical and asymmetrical motifs conceptualized based on surrounding topography and reflecting a lot of verve and pleasure in creation symbolizes their wandering lives. Rabari embroidery is a plethora of square, triangular, rectangular, circular patterns composing to form abstract motifs of birds and animals, flowers and fruits, landscape and seascape, insects and reptiles. Linear abstraction filled in with intricate stitches and mirrors are simply created reflecting the observant and exceptional nature of a Rabari woman.
Chain stitch accompanied by an array of accent stitches adds in graphically illustrative quality in their needlework. The ‘bakhiya’ local name for the back stitch is one of the simplest stitches adding in a lot of emphasis to their creative work. The bright and vibrant color palette used on the contrasting background of white or black with sparkling mirrors is easily distinguished with other needle works in the region. One of the most distinctive characteristics of Rabari embroidery is the contrasting and non repetitive use of colors.
PS: Some women believe that the mirror on the cradle cloth protect their children from evil spirits.
Pakko Embroidery is practiced by the Sodha, Rajput and Megwar communities belonging to Gujarat. The word ‘pakko’ literally means solid, referring to the dense stitches that are used. The embroidery work covers almost the whole area of the base cloth. The designs used in the Pakko Embroidery are created using free hand drawing, which are later made on the base cloth using stencils. The outlines are created using a square chain stitch. The fillings are done using a denser variety of the buttonhole stitch with a slightly raised level. Commonly used motifs are peacocks, parrots, scorpions, elephants, milkmaids and flowers, done in a geometric fashion. There is also an ample use of mirrors in this embroidery.
Pakko embroidery mirrored skirt: