Chikankari: Of legendary elegance

Chikankari: Of legendary elegance

(PHOTO: thestatesman.com)

Laced with the beauty of delicacy, femininity and fine elegance, pretty patterns of flowers, petals and leaves work their way intricately on fine crispy muslin in summery hues…

"Chikankari is reputed to be among the finest traditional embroideries from India, typical of Lucknow, once the capital of the vast and rich dominions of the state of Awadh. With the gradual decline of Mughal authority in the second half of the 18th century, the nawabs of Awadh established their independence from the Delhi court. They gave credence to tthe legendary extravagances of oriental monarchies, shaping thier own asthetic and style… Lucknawi lifestyle came to define class, taste, manners and culture…, Paola Manfredi writes as she delves deep into the times and the unique and exquisite tradition of Chikankari in her beautiful coffee table book: Chikankari – A Lucknawi Tradition.

With a simple title, its neat and tastefully designed cover in soft tone and touch of tradition, you may tell this one book by its cover. 

"Chikankari is not just about embroidery. Its legendary finesse is based on a creative blend of delicate embroidery with very fine dressmaking and sewing techniques," the author writes as she brings alive the old tradition.

Holding a wide range of impressive "personal and public collections" of the Lucknawi art in simple white, grey and Sepia, the book traces the history of the fine royal art and craft which has sustained the tradition to this day with modern flavours and appeal.

Thirty good years of hard work spent in understanding and developing the art, the author makes a remarkable attempt in preserving the rich history of Chikankari and all the intricacies of its 72 stitches. Presenting neat and beautiful displays of the crafts along with descriptive explanation of the ancient work, the book reveals the mysterious origins of the crafts and the inspirations behind the motifs

Explaining the seamless stiches and its different names, its unique techniques and the production process in minute details, the book brings alive the old tradition of making elegant clothes of the royals and nawabs. The book also explains the symbolic meaning of the art and its socio-cultural significance.

Beautifully designed and a well researched in-depth study of Chikankari, anyone seeking to know more about the exquisite traditional embroidery that speaks of royal sophistication and elegance in all its glory would be delighted to chance upon this soulful book. 

Paola Manfredi's 30 years of tireless work in a book would inspire many to preserve and promote the unique beauty of Chikankari – a Lucknawi tradition and treasure.

Book title: Chikankari; Author: Paola Manfredi; Publication: Niyogi Books; Price: Rs.2,495

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