No, you didn’t get it wrong. This post is not about Chicken Curry that India is so famous for. It is about chikankari that Awadh is famous for. Awadh, that kingdom of a rich cultural heritage evokes memories of fine muslin cloth embroidered with delicate stitches of shadow work and stem stitch. The Lucknowi chikankari kurta is a staple of almost every Indian’s wardrobe either as a man’s or woman’s upper garment.
For me, I always associate chikankari with my mother . I still recall the smell of her starched chikankari saris mingling with the fragrance of 4711, her favourite cologne. I hear the swish of her saris in pastel shades of baby pink, light lemon and sky blue . And I remember the magical flowering creepers and paisley that wandered all over the sari.
Around 36 different kinds of embroidery stitches are used in Chikankari . The price of a piece depends on the complexity of the stitches and the design. Chikankari which uses a variation of French knot ( mori) is rare and more prized than the commonplace shadow stitch that typifies chikankari.
The common motifs are paisley, flowers , and vines and leaves. Today this decorative hand embroidery is used for garments ( including necks of men’s kurta’s), table mats and table cloths as well.
Evolution and change
The gorgeous chikankari in mulmul or muslin gradually gave way to chikankari on organdie and organza. And the white threads also gave way to coloured thread to produce a different effect. Chikankari that decorate the necklines of men’s kurtas spread to the silk, terrycotton and even printed kurtis of the women! And with today’s craze for georgette means you can find chikankari work on this diaphanous, flowy fabric too.
Apart from garments, chikankari is also used to embroider table cloths and table mats
[Tweet “Mughal Emperor Jehangir patronised chikankari to please his beloved empress Noorjehan who loved it so!”]
The magic of chikankari that was once confined to the workshops of Awadh, has now spread far and wide. But what remains unchanged, however, is the fine stitches that are patiently worked by hand.
No story of Indian textiles is complete without mentioning the humble cotton. It is the very fabric of this country. This fine material that is worn throughout the length and breadth of this land, clothing kings and beggars alike.
India’s cotton has been legendary. People say its muslin was so fine that an entire sari could be pulled through a small ring. And Indian weavers were so skilled that none could surpass their skill. It was the advent of textile mills that spelled the death knell of this indigenous industry.
Some amazing facts about King cotton
- It is a cash crop that contributes almost 19% of India’s GDP
- 51 % of India’s arable land is used to grow cotton
- India contributes 18% of the world’s cotton production
- When Britain lost its American colonies, it shifted its focus to sourcing cotton from India!
Cotton is undoubtedly the most breathable, easy to care for fabric. I just can’t get enough of it.
Disclaimer : I am neither a textile manufacturer nor a historian . I am just passionate about textiles and fabrics. I have gathered all my information from the Internet. Please excuse any errors and omissions.
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I do hope you are enjoying reading about the fascinating traditions of Indian textiles….