Chikankari is a traditional white embroidery which dates back to Mughal Era when Mehrunissa (Nur Jahan) brought it along with her from Persia, her native place.

This art evolved in the mughal courts under the patronage of Jahangir and Mehrunissa. The queen was a talented embroiderer herself and she so pleased the king with this ethereal, white floral embroidery that it was soon given recognition and royal patronage.

Read more here.

Jahangir and Nur Jahan

After the fall of Mughal Dynasty,  the artisans and craftsmen scattered across the length and breadth of India. Some settled in West Bengal and so chikan flourished over there for a while. Some settled in Awadh,  in the royal courts of the descendents of Burhan-ul-Mulk a Persian nobleman, who had found favour with the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah I.

Since then chikankari has flourished in Lucknow and now its native to that place, so much so that it was awarded the Geographical indication for the place in December 2008.

In Chikankari a garment is ready after going through several stages, which might take from one to six months, and all done by different persons. There are five stages in the process of making a chikan garment. These are cutting, stitching, printing, embroidery, washing and finishing. This entire process takes months to finish.

Read in detail about the process from here.

Now what sets it apart from other embroidery techniques? Well the answer to this question lies in a number…. 32….Chikankari is composed of 32, all unique in their own way, kinds of hand stitches. These can be broadly divided into 3 heads – flat stitches, raised and embossed stitches, and the open trellis-like jaali work. Some of these have equivalents in other embroideries, the rest are manipulations that make them distinctive and unique. They cover almost all the embroidery stitches of the country and have interesting and descriptive names. (Read in detail about the types of stitches here.)

Jaali Work is a technique that is somewhat similar to thread work and involves making holes in the fabric. However, the method of doing so is different from the tradition of punching holes in to the cloth. Jaali work involves pulling the warp and weft threads apart with a needle without breaking the continuity of the fabric.

Due to Persian influence on this art form, all the designs are floral in nature. In a typical chikankari, all designs revolve around flowers and vines. The designs in chikankari are named according to the stitch used to make them, eg Murri ka buta. (More info here.)

Chikankari, originally is a Persian white embroidery done muslin fabric. Traditionally its done on pastel colors and thread used is similar to color of fabric. With the passage of time, now chikan is done on many colors and fabric with many new features added in it.

Dame Judy Dench was spotted wearing a Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla’s creation at the 70th International Venice Film Festival. She wore chikankari on pure georgette dress.

She also wore a powder grey coat embroidered with white chikankari in floral motifs with cigarette pants to the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards on November 25

'Philomenia' Premiere - The 70th Venice International Film Festival

Bollywood’s A-listers Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Akshay Kumar and Siddhart Malhotra, walked on the ramp for ‘Men for Mijwan’ a charity fashion show by manish Malhotra, featuring the amazing chikan work of Mijwan workers. (Read more.)

25/19 Chikan in Bollywood

Chikankari, an embroidery form, originated in Mughal era with the landing of Persians. The golden days of chikankari were the days of mughal period. however, with the collapse of the dynasty, the chikan industry also fell apart. It experienced a major downfall during the British rule.

It was only after the industrial revolution that Chikan begin to re-emerge with the same popularity it had before. It took no time in being commercialized. The Bollywood Film fraternity, as well as smaller design enterprises, played a big part in nationally restoring the respect and appreciation Chikan work always deserved. (Read more.)