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The Chikankari Legacy: A Thread that Weaves Through History

Posted by RangSutra Crafts on
The Chikankari Legacy: A Thread that Weaves Through History
Finding its origins in the Mughal era, Chikankari travelled to India around the 16th century. The exquisite art, believed to be introduced by Noor Jehan, the wife of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, blossomed in Lucknow under the Mughal rulers' patronage. As the Nawabs of Awadh came to power in the 18th and 19th centuries, Chikankari gained tremendous popularity, becoming a symbol of nobility and royal elegance.

The Essence of Chikankari

Chikankari is characterized by its delicate and shadow work embroidery type. Initially, done using white thread on white muslin, drawing inspiration from nature –flowers, leaves, birds, the art has since evolved, weaving in Persian and Turkish influences, and expanding to a spectrum of colours and designs. Each piece reflects the artisans’ discipline and precision, with over 40 different stitches used in its craftsmanship.

Struggle and Resurgence
The British colonial era saw a decline in Chikankari as machine made fabrics eclipsed natural crafts in the market. However, recognizing its cultural significance, organizations like ours have since endeavoured to revive this art. Today, Chikankari is not just a traditional embroidery but an integral part of contemporary fashion, extending to sarees, kurtis, and home linen.

Rangsutra's Role in Reviving Chikankari
Our Chikankari artisan clusters in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh primarily use five main stitches – tepchi, sidha bakhiya, phanda, ghas patti, and chana patti, in their craft.  Rangsutra began work in these villages in 2019-2020. The project supported by HCL Foundation has striven to mobilize, train, upskill, and empower around 200 women in Chikankari embroidery. Through skill upgradation workshops women had the opportunity to learn, embroider, and earn. These women travel to village centres in Ritthwa, Salempur and Akbarpur Talu to practice their embroidery, and today, the quality of their work has not only improved, but also allowed them to earn a decent income for their work.

The Artisans' Journey
To say that the journey of these artisans is inspiring would be an understatement. Transitioning from low-income workers exploited by middlemen, under the support and guidance of Rangsutra, they have grown to be skilled craftswomen who now earn a decent income and own personal bank accounts. Being part of the Samuday Seva Shakti Samiti, these women are at the heart of a major craft centre, proudly upholding the legacy of Chikankari.

A Living Heritage
Chikankari, more than just an art form, is a testament to the skill, dedication, and cultural richness of its artisans. It's a craft that has withstood the test of time, evolving yet preserving its traditional essence. As we embrace this exquisite form of embroidery, we not only celebrate an artistic legacy but also contribute to sustaining the livelihoods and traditions of the artisans behind it.

Discover Pardis: A Tapestry of Gardens and Craftsmanship
As we celebrate the rich heritage and evolving beauty of Chikankari, we invite you to explore Rangsutra's latest masterpiece, the Pardis collection. This exquisite line is a tribute to the enchanting Persian walled gardens, a harmonious blend of nature's splendour and architectural finesse. Pardis encapsulates the essence of these paradisiacal spaces, where exotic flora thrives against the stark contrast of stone and brick.

Each piece in the Pardis collection is a canvas, bringing to life the intricate floral
Chikankari motifs, meticulously hand-embroidered on striped fabric. The designs
symbolize the beautiful gardens nestled within rigid walls, a metaphor for the
resilience and beauty of nature amidst manmade structures.

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