Chikankari: From Persian Art to A Lucknowi Delight

Lucknow, the city of Nawabs and Nawabi architecture has transcended into modern-day infrastructure. Nazakat and tehzeeb may not have remained the cornerstone of the city, it has in its core essence the art of its own. Unlike many ancient arts, Lucknow has preserved its identity in Chikankari.

What is Chikan? 

The art of Chikankari is exquisite and acuminous needlework. The aesthetic and gorgeous artwork of detailed embroidery of a white motif on transparent fabric has left people awestruck and captivated with its charm. Chikankari has witnessed many cultural crusades, be its commercialization of the artwork or a threat of getting extinct in the crowd of glitz and glam. However, the elegance and glamor that it has, made it survive every perilous phase. 



The Lucknow Collection 

This survival phase of Chikankari has its heart in the artisans of Lucknow. Had it been part of another culture, it may have met its fate, but faith in the tradition, love for the art of Lucknowites and never-dying efforts of skilled craftsmen ensured Chikankari becomes a global phenomenon. Indeed, the Constantinople of the East has been at the core of the prolific and luxurious needle and thread artwork. 

There are several fables that go around about the origin of Chikankari in Lucknow. One of the most popular ones is Noor Jahan, wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir. She was a huge admirer of the Persian artwork. She used to practice it on her own along with the wives of other Mughal emperors. 



The Making of Chikankari


The Chikankari embroidery has around 36 styles of stitching and needlework, that are Earlier, Chikankari was embroidered on Muslins or sheer cotton with white thread, today, the needlework has gone through a polished and enhanced transformation. 



Over time several colors were added in this art, which also includes pastels and soft materials that were inculcated in order to add flavor and elegance in the artwork. These fabrics include Chiffon, Georgette, Kota, Doriya, Organza, Net, and various other fabrics as well. 

A Global Appeal 


The golden era of the Lucknow Chikankari is the reign of the Mughals and Nawabs. Noor Jahan- the queen of Jahangir, is also one of the sources to bring this art of embroidery to India from Persia. The word Chikan is derived from the Persian word “Chikaan”, which means embroidery. 

The art of Chikankari is famous even today, where you can see celebrities of both Bollywood and Hollywood flaunting their Chikankari attire on renowned shows and events. However, the fashion industry plays a vital role in restoring the elegance and grace of the artwork. 



With a Splash of Fusion! 


Chikankari is often combined with several embellishments, which include - pearls, mirror work, and Mukaish. In order to make the art all the more magnificent and sheer the Chikankari is mixed with Zardosi work and crystals, making the embroidery rich and luxurious craftsmanship.

To read more of my exploration, check out here.

Comments

  1. It seems like the finished embroidery is itself a work of art.

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  2. I love Chikankari. I have many kurtas in my wardrobe.

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    1. I love it too. But it was very late that I actually came to know about minute details that goes into the process.

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  3. They really put their hearts in this.

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  4. Chikan work has been my favorite ever since a child. I saw this shop at the mall one day, and my mom decided to check it out. Ever since, chikankari is my weakness! :)

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    1. It is hard to not purchase a Chikankari, especially when it is one of the handwork with such minute details on cotton fabric!

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  5. This is a nice article to read. This is a kind of art which we need to know.

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    1. True that! People are eventually on a global platform recognizing the beauty of Chikan work.

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  6. It pains me much to see entire artistic civilization being buried by modernisation. Article is lit

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    1. Thank you so much! Glad you loved the piece.

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  7. We had some of these in our house before but we didn't think that it would be called that. Good thing now we can get more and look for better styles by its name. Thank you for sharing!

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  8. Wow! thank you for the information on Persian art. I learned a lot!

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    1. Glad I could come to some help. And also, thank you for pouring in the comment - means a lot!

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  9. I wasn't familiar with any of this. I love learning about things I didn't know -- we must hang on to our histories. THank you for sharing!

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    1. I love sharing about these cultural and artistic work from the places I have been visiting.

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  10. Those are amazingly ng needlework. I hope to get my hands on one and feel it with my own touch sensory.

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    1. You should not miss an opportunity, if you ever find it do get it.

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  11. Such a great article to read and I love this post so informative. Glad you share this

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  12. This is very interesting to learn. I will search for patterns of this and will try to create my own :)

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  13. I recommend this blog in general, it has always something worth following up and even if there are books you are not going to read, you will learn something new and may find books you never thought of reading

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    1. Thank you for coming back on the blog and being a regular. I guess you were commenting on the https://www.girlatthewindowseat.com/2019/09/6-books-to-read-when-traveling.html and you landed up here! Well, thanks anyways.

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  14. Wow, I have never heard of Chikankari and I learned so much from the article. It is hard to learn Chikankari?

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    1. It is a hard thing. A lot of time and hard work goes into making one piece of handmade chikankari!

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  15. I love chikankari suits. I have few that I wear occassionally.

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  16. This is the first time I have learnt about Chikankari and it's just amazing

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