CHIKANKARI IS SUBTLE embroidery
- Chikankari has been derived from a Persian word Chakin or Chakeen, which means creating delicate patterns on a fabric
- It was originally a court craft having been introduced by Mughal empress Noorjahan,There were chikankaars in the courts of Kolkata.
(IIP) - CHIKANKARI IS SUBTLE embroidery,white on white,in which minute and delicate stitches stand out as tedxtural contrasts,shadows and traceries.Some stitches are worked from the back and some from the front.In a unique,anokhi chikan,the stitches donot appear at the back.
The fabric used is fine,and traditionally muslin.Chikan appears to have been derived from the Persian word chikin or chakin,meaning cloth wrought with needlework.It was originally a court craft having been introduced by Mughal empress Noorjahan.There were chikankaars in the courts of Kolkata,Delhi,Dhaka(Bangladesh),Gaya,Varanasi,Allahabad,Rampur and Bhopal.In Lucknow,the Nawabs of Avadh made the finely embroidered muslins a prescribed requirement of the ceremonial court.A single piece of chikan relies on many skilled craftsmen, designer, printer, embroiderer, washerman. Traditionally, different artisan families practiced and perfected one type of stitch and it would,therefore,often take between three to four craftsmen to embroider a single garment.
Chikankari is a very delicate and intricate shadow work type of embroidery. Initially, the embroidery was done using white yarn, on colorless muslins known as tanzeb. However, today, georgette, chiffon, cotton and other fine fabrics are also being used. From being an embellishment used primarily for decorating clothes, Chikankari embroidery work of India has now spread to cushion covers, pillow covers, table linen and so on.
There are different explanations behind the evolution of the term Chikankari. As per one version, the word Chikankari has been derived from a Persian word Chakin or Chakeen, which means creating delicate patterns on a fabric. According to others, it may be a distorted version of Chikeen or Siquin, a coin valuing Rs 4 for which the work was sold. Yet another explanation ascribes the term to the East Bengal language, in which Chikan meant fine.
Bakhiya ,herringbone stitch,done on the reverse of the fabric,gives a shadow effect that became a dominant feature of the craft in the 1980s.Traders flooded markets with coarsely executed work and thoughtless design diversification had eroded the sensibility of the craft.The sensitive design intervention of organizations such as Dastkar and SEWA, were crucial in reintroducing finely crafted stitches such as murri,phanda,eyelets and a variety of jaali.This has improved the quality of craftsmanship and the livelihoods of craftspersons.
Chikan is a delicate and artfully done hand embroidery on a variety of textile fabric like muslin, silk, chiffon, organza, net, etc. White thread is embroidered on cool, pastel shades of light muslin and cotton garments. Nowadays chikan embroidery is also done with coloured and silk threads in colours to meet the fashion trends and keep chikankari up-to-date. Lucknow is the heart of the chikankari industry today and the variety is known as Lucknawi chikan.
Chikan work in the recent times has adapted additional embellishments like Mukaish, Kamdani, Badla, Kamdani, sequin, bead and mirror work, which gives it a rich look. Chikan embroidery is mostly done on fabrics like cotton, semi-Georgette, pure Georgette, crepe, chiffon, silk and any other fabric which is light and which highlights the embroidery. The fabric cannot be too thick or hard, else the embroidery needle won't pierce it.
Inset Fish motif with jaali or pulled thread work in the body.The fish motif was used in art and architecture after the Nawabs adopted the MAhi Murattib, the twin fish, as their state emblem.
1 White-on-white embroidery traditionally done on fine muslin uses darning,stem,satin and buttonhole stitches with pulled thread work and eyelets edged in buttonhole or stem stitchThe phanda stitch used on the edge of ambia or mango motifs creates an embossed texture.
2 Block used for printing the pattern before embroidering.
3 Chikan angarkha,garment stitched from fine muslin and embroidered with phanda stitch and wrapped back stitch,a revival of the elegance and refinement that was closely associated with Nawabi Culture.
History of Chikankari
We find references to Indian Chikan work as early as the 3rd century BC. Megasthenes, a Greek traveler, has mentioned the use of flowered muslins by Indians. There are different versions as to the origin of Chikankari embroidery work in India. It is said that a traveler, who was passing through a village in Lucknow, stopped and requested a poor peasant for water. Delighted at the hospitality of the peasant, the traveler taught him the art of Chikankari, which would ensure that he would never remain hungry in life. Lucknow city is the most renowned place for Chikankari work. Another explanation credits Noorjahan, the queen of Emperor Jahangir, with the introduction of the Chikankari embroidery work in India.
Method of Chikankari Embroidery Work
The stitches used in Chikan Kari work of Lucknow are basically of three categories, namely
Flat Stitches (Subtle stitches that remain close to the fabric)
Embossed Stitches (they give a grainy appearance)
Jali Work (Created by thread tension, it gives a delicate net effect)
Indian Chikan work basically consists of a number of processes, namely cutting, stitching, printing, embroidery, washing and finishing. Cutting and stitching are done by the same person. Then, printing is undertaken with wooden blocks dipped in dye. After this, embroidery is done, usually by women. The last step in the Chikankari embroidery work is washing and finishing, which may take from 10 to 12 days and involves bleaching, acid treatment, stiffening and ironing. The most common motif used in Chikan Kari work of Lucknow is that of creepers. Floral motifs, which are used either throughout the garment or in corners, include jasmine, rose, flowering stems, lotus, etc.