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Chikankari is world-famous for its intricacy and beauty.

Lucknow, a city filled with the mystic beauty of its traditional arts and crafts that have been nurtured for centuries and continues to flourish. The rich Indian history becomes visible as one takes a walk in the lanes of Lucknow. From humble tea stalls to sizzling kebabs and the endless beauty of mesmerizing Chikankari fabric. It is a place with diverse art and culture that have evolved over the centuries. It is the birthplace of world-famous delicate embroidery, Chikankari. The Chikan work in Lucknow is older than 200 years and later it was patronized by Nawabs. There are approximately 5000 families involved in the Chikankari embroidery industry, in and around the villages of Lucknow. The majority of artisans belong to the local Muslim community.

Chikan translates to the word 'embroidery'. It is simple and precise handwork on a piece of garment. The technique gives a garment a very subtle and classy feel. Chinakari is an eminent craft amongst various other handloom specialities of India, which has been popular amongst most renowned people from royalties in ancient India to celebrities of today. The main essence of the garment is its simple design, and while motifs are now added to make the garment look rich, it remains a simple and affordable fabric choice. Chikankari is world-famous for its intricacy and beauty.


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The origin story of Chikankari says that it can be traced back to the early 3rd century BC, when Megasthenes, a Greek traveller mentioned the used muslin by Indians. Another story goes as a traveller was passing Lucknow he asked a poor peasant for water. The peasant provided the traveller with water, hospitality, love and service. In return for his kindness and affection, the traveller taught the peasant the art of Chikankari, so that he won't ever have to be hungry and could earn a living. However, the most credible tale of the origin of Chikankari is associated with Mughal Queen Noorjahan, wife of King Jahangir. It is believed that she introduced Persian art in the 17th century. She taught this form of embroidery and was an outstanding embroideress herself. Due to her keen interest in the art, King Jahangir also developed an interest in embroidery and thus established several workshops to perfect this art in India.

Chikan embroidery on a saree Every stitch is done to perfection. Wikimedia Commons


Traditionally the embroidery was done with white thread on a white mulmul fabric by hand. But nowadays chikan embroidery is also done with coloured and silk threads in colours to meet the fashion trends and keep chikankari up-to-date. Chikankari is also known as shadow work. It is an intricate and elegant art of embroidery pursued with a needle on a piece of fabric. The needlework requires time and patience, and that's why the final product appears appealing. Modern chikan pieces are embellished and adorned with sequin, beads and mirror work to enrich their appearance.

Lucknow is the heart of the chikankari industry and the pieces made here are known as Lucknawi chikan. Chikankari is one of the most distinctive ways of designing fabric. The arduous process to design one piece of the garment makes it unique. The process includes designing, engraving, and block printing the design motifs on the fabric, doing embroidery over it by hand and lastly washing the cloth several times for it to be ready to be used.

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One of the most prominent features of the Lucknow chikankari is the stitches. Every stitch is done to perfection. Thus, the level of neatness in the work is hard to find in the embroidery done by machine or any other place. The delicate and artfully done hand embroidery gives the garment a look of richness and skillfulness. The elegance and hard to achieve perfection in Lucknawi Chikankari capture the whole essence of the city of Nawabs.

Keywords: Embroidery, chikan, Lucknow, cloth, artisan


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