The word “Phulkari” traces back to its Punjabi origin which implies “floral artwork”. Back in the times when the household women sat idle and rested peacefully during the day, their vested interests to express their thoughts and worldviews came into the picture through sheer artwork of Phulkari on a khadi piece of cloth. Sewing their imaginations coupled with the nature’s beauty, surrounding or conversation between a mother and a child was immaculately tapped through needles and thread.
History and Origin
The contemporary haute couture was brought to the Central Asia by the Jat community post the devastated partition of India and Pakistan which is one of the reasons for the downfall of this traditional craft. The beauty of Phulkari is exhibited exclusively through colourful and vibrant threads interwoven on naturally, dyed fabrics with signature embroidery staples passing over the generations. Following the legacy of our mothers and grandmothers, Phulkari dupattas, sarees, salwar kurta are one of the most prized possessions for every traditional woman. Rooted deeply in the Punjabi culture, Phulkari is generally created as an epitome of bonding and love for the wedded wife of a son in the house or daughters also sew their own Phulkari as a part of their dowry. The laborious skill that involves about 12 months to create one Phulkari piece, it’s priced to an equivalent royal Benarsi saree.
The unique feature of stitching the Phulkari textile on the wrong side of the cloth with vibrant silken thread is what marks the authenticity of the silhouette. Add to that, the Phulkari embroidery is very unique and to each, her own respective design. It is usually made on handspun cotton as a base cloth, however, machine-made manufacturing has made it much easier, cheaper and less labor-intensive. You may find Phulkari on cotton, georgettes, and even linen. The first-ever mention of Phulkari in the history of Indian culture has been made in the tales of Heer and Ranjha.
In several elite and wealthy families, skilled Phulkari artists were employed to craft the enriching and delightful kaleidoscope of colors and delicate intricate embroidery. Women would drape these Phulkari silhouettes on special handpicked occasions and also used the for-gifting purposes on auspicious occasions. Phulkari is a proof that every woman has a special corner in her heart for this heart-warming creation.
The formidable artwork has witnessed an array of glorious designs. From abstract forms to geometrical patterns, scenic landscapes, to floral motifs, this depicts that Phulkari embroidery has been done by the hands of a Muslim artisan. The artwork featuring lively and vivacious motifs like that of kushti fighters, natural surroundings, dancers, flora, and fauna are signs that indicate the embroidery has been crafted by a Hindu or Sikh weaver. This beautiful harmony of two diverse cultures meeting together in the melting pot of handcrafted beauty of Phulkari is note-worthy.
Phulkari art is not a child’s play yet the women in rural areas of Punjab and surrounding areas are often found crafting elegant pieces of Phulkari with a needle and a thread. The process involves a fresh fabric and creates perfect isosceles triangles on it. Further, you make them into mountains, run the needles over it and close the stitches thereby crafting perfect triangles on the wrong side of the fabric. The gleaming excitement of a little girl on watching her mother and grandmother weave the creative artwork instills in her great passion to follow their footsteps and carve a niche of her own. The Phulkari embroidery which is generally quite popular in India and overseas is Bagh Phulkari which involves the creation of floral intricate artwork throughout the fabric. Let’s study the types of Phulkari:
Types of Phulkari
This vibrant and gorgeous weaving of traditional embroidery involves the creation of several intricate and delicate floral motifs all throughout the fabric so much so that the ground base is no longer visible. The Garden Flowers as Bagh implies is one of the most popular forms of Phulkari and often women in Punjab adorn this graceful designer drape for special auspicious occasions. This requires a lot of time, efforts, and expenses. Hence, it serves as the status symbol.
The bridal exclusive Phulkari attire is handcrafted by the grandmother as a gift to welcome her daughter-in-law. The stunning details of two-sided lines stitched together on both sides of the fabric neatly, Chope gives an essence of royalty with a mix of unconditional love bestowed by the woman of the house. It is generally in luxe golden or yellow-golden color.
This unique and understated form of Phulkari embroidery is generally designed on a white fabric. The pat is filled in bright colors like shades of pink, deep red undertones. The widows or elderly women of the home house this attire for the aesthetic reasons. The simplicity and sheer sophistication reflecting the poise of the wearer featuring clustered flowers, inverted triangles, chevron darning stitches on the loom are quite a common sight.
This type of Phulkari embroidery which implies “the gate to see God” features human figurines, animals, and birds alongwith the floral motifs is an embodiment of spiritual beliefs. These silhouettes are offered to the shrine in the temples for religious purposes.
The exquisite form of embroidery Sainchi Phulkari depicting the village life featuring the local animals, farmers, wrestlers, local transports like train showcasing the culture and livelihoods of the town in the earlier times. This form of traditional embroidery was much more famous in districts of Firozapur and Bhatinda.
The elegant fabrics of Phulkari dyed in natural colors of five basic distinctive colors. Similar to this is the satranga bagh that features seven distinctive color elements. With floral motifs expressing the feminine and decadent delight of women, these dupattas and ensembles are quite popular amongst the young Punjabi women.
The rare artwork of Phulkari is this Bawan Bagh form which features exquisite 52 types of different floral motifs embroidered on the fabric. Each tailored with finesse and crafted to perfection with distinctive style and form, they were generally curated by the professional artisans. However, it is no longer made and seen.
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Article By : Ambika Asthana