The art of Chikankari, by all normal estimates, is about 300-400 years old. It was brought to India by the Mughal Empress Noor Jahan, the wife of emperor Jahangir.
Legend has it that Noor Jahan was an accomplished Seamstress and embroiderer. Both husband and wife were fond of this form of embroidery. Done mostly on clothing on soft mulmul cotton, it looks like delicate lace, and was ideally suited for the hot and sultry North Indian climate. The patterns are all derived from Persian and Turkish motifs.
Noor Jahan taught this embroidery form to the local women and as it spread, it moved to the city of Lucknow.
Lucknow, the state of Uttar Pradesh became the hub of Chikankari embroidery in the years to come. I belong to this beautiful city of gardens. I was taught to do needlework early in life, like most girls of my generation. And Chikankari was the art passed down from grandmas and mum along with dress making and other forms of embroidery.
Now I am a bug for all things creative, so over the years I learned all that I could. Crochet, knitting, tatting, beadwork being some of them. An incredibly lucky pattern book find at a local bookstore during my college days, led me to quilting, that remains my first love to this day.
However, I think, as you grow older and when you have roamed the world and learned all that you possibly could, you start getting this urge to go back to your roots. And hence, the inclination towards a revival of this gorgeous art form that is comparable to no other.
But why revival? You might ask…
Chikankari is all around us. Everyone buys and wears it. Designers are having a ball creating Chikankari dresses that sell for thousands of dollars around the world. And this, at the expense of artisans in the villages around Lucknow who still earn a measly penny. And most would know that Chikankari is a synonym for shadowwork embroidery.
So, I move forward with the dream of bringing the very authentic art of Chikankari back to life. The plan is to incorporate it in textile art projects and quilts without diluting the beauty of the embroidery in any way. To familiarise needle crafter with the many largely unknown and lost stitches that make Chikan embroidery real. Can YOU make a guess at how many stitches make up this embroidery form?
So, who is willing to joining my on this fascination journey to explore the beautiful Chikan embroidery art!!
Till then, this is your Chikankari girl, signing off!!