Chikan, a traditional embroidery emerged from Lucknow is about 400 years old. This technique is called as ‘Chikankari’ or Chikan work.
According to some historians, Megasthenes noted the use of flowered muslins by Indians in their artwork during early 3rd century BC. Some of the sources also revealed that this art has come to India from Persia. However, chikankari gain its popularity during the time of Mughal Empire. During the reign of Jahangir, Noor Jahan (the wife of Jahangir) did a lot to promote this craft form.
Jahangir established several workshops to perfect this art. During his time, fabrics used were mostly Muslin or Mulmul which were best preferable for the warm and moisture climate. After the downfall of Mughal Empire in an 18th and 19th century, Chikankari artisans spread themselves all over India. However, Lucknow was the center of chikankari and Awadh, the second center.
Lucknow Chikankari can be broadly classified into parts i.e. Pre and Post-preparation stages and the 36 types of various stitches that are widely used in embroidery phase.
The three primary stages of any Chikankari work is namely:
It is an initial phase of Chikankari work in which cloth is cut according to needs. Designs are printed using wooden block stamps and blue inks.
Then printed patterns are drawn through inks.
After the embroidery is completed, the fabric is submerged in water to remove outlines. Then, it is starched to obtain stiffness.
There are ten principle stitches that are made from raw skeins of the thread:
- Keel Kangan
- Lucknow Chikan embroidery is extensive, time-consuming art. For becoming the master in this art, one will take nearly 20 years to learn it deeply.
- The embroidery itself takes ten days to complete depending upon the size of the piece.
- Ustad Faiyaaz Khan and Hasan Mirza Saheb are two of the notable Chikan artisans of Lucknow who have guided many novices of this art.
- In the year 1986, an Indian film directed by Muzaffar Ali was released starring Shabana Azmi and Farooq Shaikh. This film revolves around the story of chikan workers in Lucknow.