At the end of the meeting of the Crafts Council of India in the city, Vijayalakshmi Nachiyar from Ethicus brings another ancient and sacred craft with her upcoming exhibition. This time it's Lucknow's Chikankari embroidery.
“I looked for ways we could take our fine cotton fabric to another level with embroidery, and I looked for places where cotton was traditionally used as a raw material. Chikankari was traditionally made from very, very fine cotton for the embroidery, ”says Vijayalakshmi.
There was a lot of preparation in the project. She traveled to Lucknow several times to find the right artisans (several groups of women embroider there). She finally narrowed it down to a group of 30 women. "Who seemed perfect for what I had in mind for my saris," she says.
During her exploration, Vijayalakshmi learned that Chikankari used to use 75 different stitches. “At the moment, around 25 of them still do the really good job. Otherwise, no more than three or four different types are usually used. “A combination of stitches determines the delicacy and the cost of the sari. "In addition to shadow work. there are stitches like, Hathkadi, Phanda, Murri, Bijli, Kil, Bhakia, Karanphool, Jaali, Hul, Kate, Ghaspatti, Pechni, Etc. Each stitch gives the fabric a certain look and texture. Some are worked on the underside of the fabric, some stitches are flush with the fabric, others are drawn up … “Since we at Ethicus have both fine, plain-colored and structured cotton, we tried to create different combinations of stitches. And they look different in every kind of sari. The saris have gold pallu and borders and we added colorful tassels to make them more elegant, ”she explains.
It took eight months to create this line. Five to six women work on a sari and it takes up to six months to complete a piece depending on the work. While in earlier days the motifs were picked out in a thread (ek taar), rarely does anyone do that anymore. The Ethicus saris are embroidered with two threads (taar). Three or more strands are used in the more recent Chikan work.
Information you can use
- The Chikankaari saris range from 18,000 to 80,000 rupees
- There will also be a collection of Ajrakh and Bandhini sarees from 6,000 rupees.
- Venue: Whispering Stones, Uppilipalayam, Coimbatore.
- Date: February 14 and 15, 2021 (Friday and Saturday)
- Time: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The original motifs were taken from Persian gardens, the bootis, the flowers, the bels, Jaali work is the hardest. These motifs come from the screens behind which the women in Purdah lived their lives and watched the outside world. We made a sari with Jaali work that was a revival of a 100 year old design that was picked up on as soon as we received it. It was white in white, ”says Viji, adding that the fish is another motif that was the state symbol of the Lucknow Nawab.
While one story attributes the origin of Chikankari to the Mughals royalty, there is another story that says it all started with a bored princess of Murshidabad. In search of something to do, the lady began to embroider intricate motifs with very fine thread on very fine cotton to make a hat for her husband. They say it has kept them busy for a year. The women from noble families took it up and Chikankari was for a long time a sign of the most refined and best fashion of the blue blood. Achkans, Dupattas, caps … all showed the intricate embroidery.
"Some of the incredible Chikankari embroidery still exists in private collections and museums," says Viji, showing a hand-signed copy of an edifying book by textile expert Paola Manfredi with the title Chikankari A Lucknawi traditionwhat inspired them to do this project.