Glimmering Memories from Zardosi Artisans…

The echoes of Gold & Silver thread embroidery on fine fabric have been reverberating in India since Rig Vedic times between 1500 and 1200 BC. It was nurtured in places as far flung as Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey & Central Asia for thousands of years before it prospered during the 17th century in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. A loss of royal patronage and industrialization led to its decline before the craft began to experience a resurgence in popularity following India’s independence in 1947.

Zardozi is a type of heavy and elaborate metal embroidery on a silk, satin, or velvet fabric base. Designs are often created using gold and silver threads and can incorporate pearls, beads, and precious stones.[4] It is used as decoration for a wide range of applications, including clothes, household textiles, and animal trappings. Historically, it was used to adorn the walls of royal tents, scabbards, wall hangings and the paraphernalia of regal elephants and horses.

Today, zardozi is popular in the Indian cities of Lucknow, Farrukhabad, Chennai and Bhopal. In 2013, the Geographical Indication Registry (GIR) accorded Geographical Indication (GI) registration to the Lucknow zardozi, accrediting a stamp of approval to an artform that has become quintessentially Lucknowi or Awadhi over the eons.

A pen like needle which resembles the shape of a crochet needle, gives rise to an intrinsic form of artwork called the ‘Aari work’. In this artwork beads and ‘muthia’, a sharp edged needle is put to work, which creatively gives rise to chain stitch kind of imprints. This work is popular for its delicate and finest threadwork which enhances the essence of hand embroidery. Aari work traces out its emergence way back in the 12th century, which marked the rule of the Mughal emperors. Floral motifs, traditional designs and fascinated the Mughal royals during that period.

With time, places like Kutch, Lucknow,Rajasthan, and Delhi  started recognizing the specialty of Aari embroidery, which marked the gradual popularity of Aari embroidery. The fabric is first stretched over a frame to remove uneven, loose folds in the fabric texture. The frame comprises four wooden spars resting on wooden posts. Next, using thick cotton thread, the fabric is sewn on to the wooden frame. More often than not, Zari, Cotton or Silk threads are used in embroidery. One of the main features of Aari work is the fine embroidered patterns on the fabric. At times, artisans embellish the outfit or cloth with sequins, stone etc in between the embroidered patterns.

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