Chikankaari- The Art of Lucknow

Welcome to my city Lucknow, where Chicken is not only eaten with great delight, but also worn (Chikan) with equal charms. Lucknawi Chikan is the major craft work of Lucknow. The art or technique is known as Chikankari. The word ‘Chikan’ literally means “embroidery” and is derived from the Persian word ‘chikaan’ meaning drapery. The art is unique in itself because it incorporates ion itself approximately 36 different stitching techniques. Chikankari can be synonymous with ‘white on white’ because mostly chikankaari is done using white thread on white fabric. But nowadays, due to changing and evolving fashion trends, it is being done on various coloured cloths.


History of Chikankaari

Chikan work is almost 400 years old art. Some historians believe it’s origin is from 3rd century AD, during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, as indicated by Megasthenes’ account. Another commonly believed theory is about the contribution of Mughal king Jehangir’s wife Noor Jahan to the craft. In that era, Chikankaari was limited only to white muslin cloth, owing to the warm, humid climate of India. After the fall of Mughal empire, the credit of restoring Chikankaari to its former glory goes to the then Governor of Oudh- Burhan-Ul-Malik, which is why Lucknow is the centre of Chikankaari.

Why is Chikankaari essentially in floral designs?

The Mughals were Persian descendants, so Persian influence over Chikankaari is obvious. This is why, Chikankaari is mostly found in floral designs. The styles of the flowers may vary, and sometimes, stems, leaves, etc are also there to increase the continuity of the pattern.

How is it made?

The making procedure can be roughly broken into 3 stages. Firstly the design is block printed on the cloth of choice. The cloth is stitched into the garment it will form- a suit, kurta, frock, etc. block printing is done using multiple wooden blocks of wanted designs and washable blue ink on the fabric. Next is embroidery in which the blue inked patterns are traced by needle work. The most special feature of this embroidery is that as many as 36 types of stitches are used in this phase. Depending on the pattern intricacy and size of the piece, the embroidery process alone can take up to 10 days to complete. Next, the fabric is soaked in water to wash away the blue ink outlines and then it is starched to obtain the right stiffness depending upon the fabric.


Types of stitches:

  • Tepchi
  • Bakhiya
  • Hool
  • Zanzeera
  • Rahet
  • Banarsi
  • Khatau
  • Phanda
  • Murri
  • Jali
  • Turpai
  • Darzdari
  • Pehchani
  • Bijli
  • Ghaspatti
  • Makra
  • Kauri
  • Hathkadi
  • Banjkali
  • Sazi
  • Karan
  • Kapkapi
  • Madrazi
  • Bubul-chasm
  • Taj Mahal
  • Kangan
  • Dhania patti
  • Rozan
  • Meharki
  • Chanapatti
  • Baalda
  • Jora
  • Keel kangan
  • Bulbul
  • Sidhaul

Type of cloth used:

The fabrics used must be soft as the entire embroidery is hand stitched. Silk, chiffon, georgette, net, voile, kota, doriya, cotton, organza, muslin and faux fabrics are, therefore, best suited.

Type of garments made:

Chikan garments are made for both sexes and for all age groups. They include everything from long and short kurtas, tunics, sarees, Anarkalis palazzos, t-shirts, capri pants and even accessories such as shoes, bags, belts, lamp shades, table cloths, cusion covers, etc.

Undoubtedly, the sheer variety of Lucknow Chikan work today is more bountiful than ever before. It is in great demand in generally urban masses and celebrities in Bollywood and Hollywood alike. Who can forget the famous scene in the song “Rangrez” in the movie “Tanu weds Manu” featuring Kangana Ranaut. The charms of Chikankaari have been beautifully potrayed on the 70 mm screen many a times. The Geographical Indication Registry accorded Lucknow Chikan the GI status in December 2008.

Sweat of the artisans!

It won’t be righteous to talk about Lucknow and Chikankaari, in such details and not about the artisans who shed their sweat making it. Chikankaari is a highly skilled work and is quite time consuming, because it is hand stitched. So, it requires genius of a skilled artist, for which training alone can take up to 20 years. Two of the most renowned Chikan artists are Ustad Faiyaaz Khan and Hasan Mirza Saheb.

Image source: Google

80 thoughts on “Chikankaari- The Art of Lucknow

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  1. WOW great article 🙂 very informative 🙂 I love chikan work 🙂 infact I recently bought two chikan kurtas from ADA studio, Lucknow 🙂 The sheer elegance and beauty of this handcraft skill is marvelous 🙂 It can never get out of fashion 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nice write up, this is a dream world of wonderful art work, talent, imaginations. The entire sales and business sector dominated by group of people who are totally exploiting poor and uneducated skilled work force. I was there couple of times and visited the places how hard work behind these beautiful designs. How big groups make big money selling these clothes all over and the working community left behind with poverty and struggle and more exploitation. The so called many past govt s including present rulers never care and build this industry to get fame world wide but every day they wear same best designed dresses and show off in public. Also very hard to educate the crowd in this line up to encourage to export as they have no money and facilities.

    Hope you will continue the article with various parts of industry and people involved to blog the best to show the grievances parts so govt and industry can take it seriously to build this industry to super million dollars trade and the lives of people improve and next generations get wide range of education health and smiles to all who involved.

    Also if any one want to export this designs our doors are open to place orders. We can support a cause at step one.

    Wonderful to read your article. Hope you can further help people to enlighten them for bigger growth in lower line up.

    Cheers Himanshi, appreciate your time.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Delighted to know that you also hails from Lucknow☺
    Lucknow has been better known for its embroidery called ‘chikankaari’ .
    It’s appaling that despite greater push by various stakeholders, the art is rapidly losing its charisma and ebulience.
    Hope with the course of time this remarkable skill and art would rejuvenate.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Especially after it was taxed, the artisans had to suffer. But the craze that the people have for it, I don’t think that it would ever become outcast. Nevertheless, it has lost its original charm.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an amazing post…… You literally shared every possible detail….. I just love chikankari work and I am really happy to know that you also like it…… 🤗 Thanks for sharing this post 👍👍

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Very nice post and thanks for the meaningful informations. A delight for a fashionista like me. My hubby recently bought me a beautiful B&W piece from one of his trip to India. Love it. Can’t wait to wear it and show it on my blog.

    Liked by 3 people

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