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Chikankari: The Art of Lucknowi Embroidery

Chikankari: The Art of Lucknowi Embroidery September 11, 2019Leave a comment

A city of elegance and charm, specially famous for kebabs and Chikankari work, Also know as Shan-e-Awadh, that’s the City of Lucknow! And when it comes to the Art of Chikankari, this city is the founder and forerunner of this art. Lucknowi kurtas are famous not only in India, but all over the world. The fine workmanship done by minute needle-thread on the cloth is called “chikankari”. This art has a legacy of over 4 hundreds years and is still very popular amongst youngsters too.

chikankari block designs

How did ‘Chikan’ come to India?

The word ‘Chikan’ is derived from the Persian word meaning Embroidery. Just as the Mughals enriched the art culture in India, Chikankari has also been given by the Mughals to us.

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The story goes that in the 3rd Century B.C. a traveller gifted this art to a peasant lady in return of drinking water. But factual information states that wife of the Mughal emperor Jehangir, Noor Jahan introduced this Persian art in India. Some people believe that when Noor Jahan’s maid, Bismillah, came to Lucknow from Delhi, she exhibited this art too.

Process of making Chikankari

The process can be broken down in 2 Parts, Pre-Work and Post-Prep.
In Pre-Work the Design is decided and then engraved onto the Wooden block stamps. The cloth then is stamped with blocks and then it is cutout.

chikankari colours

In Post-Prep, comes the most important part of Embroidery. The minute needle-work traces over the block print design. The stitches are of many types, but mainly are backstitch, chainstitch and hemstitch.

Some Startling facts about Chikankari business

  • Chikankari in Lucknow trades up to about 4 thousand crores annually. More than 20 thousand people are involved in this profession.
  • The city of Nawabs earns over 2 billion rupees of foreign currency by exporting chikankari.
  • The chikan has about 40 types of stitches and jaalis. Of which the pointed murri is the most expensive.
  • A chikankari kurta demands a lot of time and effort, which is why it is much more expensive than ordinary clothes. It takes about 8 to 10 months to complete a chikan lehenga!

Chikankari reflects the culture of India. Chikan has carved a niche for itself in India and the world and we hope it continues. Government’s contribution is also very important to maintain this culture!