EMBROIDERIES OF INDIA / PHULKARI WORK / FEATURES
- Phulkari and its larger version Bagh is generally meant to embroider floral designs on clothes worn for special occasions like bridal attire, weddings, grand parties etc.
- In Phulkari, embroidery is uniformly distributed through motifs; in Bagh, you have flowery scapes that literally cover the base cloth.
- The end portion or pallav of Phulkari has separate panels of exquisite workmanship of striking design.
- Traditionally, phulkari garments were part of a girl's wedding trousseau, its motifs expressive of her emotions and the number of phulkari pieces defined the status of the family. Girls practised to get their wedding trousseau readied before their marriage as a social practice not for commercial considerations.
- Today the practice of giving away a Phulkari and Bagh to the would-be bride, by the family and relatives, has come into vogue. So professionals have taken over.
- The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth called Khaddar with coloured silken thread or floss called Paat.
- Nowadays cost considerations have restricted this to darning only on the front or right side of the cloth, by many families. This darn stitch achieves a striking effect with innumerable alluring and interesting designs and patterns.
- Phulkari is more about life in the villages. No religious subject or darbar scenes are embroidered.
- The base khaddar cloth used in Western Punjab is finer compared to that from Central Punjab. Black/blue are not preferred in Western Punjab, whereas white is not used in East Punjab.
- In West Punjab, 2 or 3 pieces of cloth are first folded and joined together. In East Punjab, they are joined together first and then embroidered.
- Silk thread in strands, come from Kashmir, Afghanistan and Bengal. The best quality silk comes from China.
- Techniques and patterns were not documented but transmitted by word of mouth. Hence, each regional group was identifiable by its unique embroidery work.
- The word phulkari usually indicates the shawl was woven on loom and embroidered to cover women's heads or to be displayed in a gurudwara (Sikh temple). This tradition was often associated with the Sikh heritage but as it was also shared with Hindus and Muslims, it happens to be more location specific than religion specific.
- The patterns were never drawn beforehand and the threads had to be counted to get the design accurately. Today there are changes in tracings and other means being used.
- The densely packed floral design and other themes of everyday life hand embroidered by the womenfolk who engage in it, sometimes takes upto a year to complete.
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