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Zardozi and Lucknow

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

The textile industry has long flourished in the Indian subcontinent since around 4000 BC.



Indian manufactured textiles paved the way for the subcontinent's relation to the world and gave the country a distinct legacy and identity. In ancient Greece and Babylon, the very name ‘India’ was shorthand for ‘cotton.' Courtly splendour was proclaimed by magnificent fabrics and religious worship still finds expression through cloth. Over centuries, regions and provinces became specialised in making of certain textiles. The beautiful golden silks of Assam, the fine cottons of Bengal, the red dyes of south-east India. Textile makers use an astonishing range of skills to process raw materials and produce regionally distinctive dyes, weaves, prints and embroideries. Today there are roughly around 3000 types of fabrics or textiles produced in the country. Millions of workers, with their heirloom of experience and delicate hands bring about all sorts of beautiful intricacies into being. Amid the countless embroideries prevalent in the region, is one that is Zardozi. As per Wikipedia, Zardozi is a type of embroidery work prevalent in South Asia and Middle East Asia. The posh name originates from Persian words Zar or Zarin meaning 'gold', and dozi meaning 'sewing'. Designs often inculcate the use of gold and silver threads and sometimes more expensive elements such as pearls, beads, and precious stones. With time, silk and other shining threads like dabkaa (a combination of gold and silk threads), kasab (silver or gold-plated silver threads) and bullien (copper and brass coated threads) replaced them. With the decline of the Mughal Empire, India suffered a heavy loss of artisans and textile workshops. However, Zardozi made a comeback soon after India's Independence and has since acquired a special, permanent place in the Indian market, so much so that the Geographical Indication Registry in 2013, accorded Geographical Indication or the GI tag to the Lucknow zardozi. The GI tag will help facilitate the Zardozi products manufactured in areas in Lucknow and six surrounding districts who are now a brand in their own. Lucknow, once the seat of Nawab Wajid, proudly counts Zardozi as it's signature art. Unlike the opulent royal karkhanas (court workshops) of the Mughals, today, in the cramped workshops, the entire economics of the trade has changed. However, the beauty of this art and the effort put into it, remains the same. But still the entire operation is completely manual. Although the era has passed, this intricate design continues to home a deep place in the hearts of people. 21st century girls vying for Sabyasachi's million dollar Zardozi lehengas are all the proof.


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