Phulkari Embroidery Essay

PHULKARI EMBROIDERY| | Phulkari embroidery is peculiar to Punjab. Phulkari literally means flower craft. Baugh, which means garden, is a Phulkari in which the entire surface is richly ornamented by a continuous connected design with skillful manipulation of the darning or satin stitch. Chobes is the third type of Phulkari, where the edges alone are ornamented, the center being left plain. | | ORIGIN : The origin of Phulkari is not quite fully known. Some say that the art was brought by Gujar nomads from Central Asia whereas some assert that the Muslim Persians who settled in Kashmir are responsible for it.

It may have some association with Gulkari of Persia which was practiced there. It is also said that the jats, the strongest clan in South-east Punjab who are agriculturists, introduced the art of Phulkari wherever they went. Phulkari is considered as an important part of the trousseau in Punjab. Each of the important ceremonies connected with marriage is associated with wearing of a particular type of Baugh. A Baugh or Phulkari, therefore, is not only a beautiful traditional art but a symbol of maternal love and faith expressed in embroidery. |   | FABRIC USED:

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The beauty of Phulkari depended a great deal on the colour of the ground material. Khaddar cloth which was hand spun and hand woven cotton material, was always used for embroidery. The colour was mostly red, white, blue or black. | THREADS USED: The thread used was pure silk. It is untwisted silken floss called PAT. Golden yellow, green, white, crimson red and orange are the five colours prepared in selecting silk floss for Phulkari work. | MOTIFS USED: The motifs are made up of horizontal, vertical and diagonal stitches, producing geometric pattern in Phulkari designs while the Baugh has an overall geometrically floral pattern. STITCHES USED: The stitch craft of Phulkari consists long short darning stitches. It is a unique method of embroidery in that it is worked entirely on the wrong side of the cloth and the pattern takes shape on the right side. The design is neither drawn nor traced. | KINDS OF PHULKARI: There are many types of Phulkari. The ‘Chope’ and ‘Suber’ were wedding Phulkari presented to bride by her maternal relations during the marriage ceremony. The plain red / dark red khaddar shawl known as ‘Saloo’ was used for daily household wear. Til Patra’ shawls have very little embroidery and are inferior quality Khaddar. ‘Nilak’ is worked on black or navy blue Khaddar with yellow and crimson red pat. | Phulkari is a traditional craft of Jammu and Kashmir. This craft had its origin in Punjab and later came to this region. The clothes featuring this embroidery are part of the gifts given by the bride’s parent to her during wedding. This piece of clothing is usually worn over the traditional shirt by the women. As the name suggest, Phulkari is a style of embroidery of floral designs.

The designs are not limited to flowers alone, but include a variety of other patterns such as birds, animals and scenes depicting village life. The color of the cloth used in this work is generally maroon, red or scarlet. The thread used for embroidery is made from silk usually golden, yellow, crimson red, blue or green colored. If the whole piece of cloth is embroidered, the phulkari work is called ‘baag’ (garden). If only the sides are embroidered, the work is called ‘chope’. Phulkari products range from handkerchiefs, sofa and cushion cover, table covers, bed-spreads to beautiful wall hangings.

Phulkari means flower work. This type of embroidery is striking feature of Punjabi culture. This art of decorating shawls, dupattas with embroidered floral motifs developed in the 15th century. It is a symbol of Sohag, so women wear the clothes embroidered with Phulkari works on every auspicious occasion. In a single stitch interesting pattern on the cloth is embroidered. Smaller stitch indicates fine quality of the embroidery. Usually silken threads in golden yellow, red, crimson, orange, green, blue, and pink are used for Phulkari.

Bagh means garden. Embroidering extremely intricate designs when even a square inch of the base cloth is not visible makes Baghs. Other themes embroidered in Phulkari are the sun, the moon, vegetables, birds, human figures, pots, animals, buildings, rivers, sunflowers, peacock, red chilies, ace of diamonds and scenes of village life. There are various Phulkari styles used for different occasions. Chope presented to the bride by her grandmother during a ceremony before the wedding (it is a red colored cloth with beautifully embroidered borders).

Vari-da-bagh symbolizes happiness and fertility (it is a red cloth with golden yellow embroidery). Ghungat bagh or sari-pallau has a small border on all the sides and is designed in a way that as one covers the head, a triangular motif worked in the center of each side becomes visible, Bawan Bagh (52 in Punjabi) is full of geometrical patterns. Darshan dwar is specifically made to adorn the walls of the home when Holy Book of Sikhs Granth Sahib is brought to a house. Suber Phulkari is a worn by a bride during marriage rites. It comprises five motifs, one in the center and one each in the four corners.

Chamba Phulkari is a hybrid having a series of stylized leaves, wavy creepers and flowers. Dhaniya bagh (coriander garden), satranga bagh (garden of rainbow), motia bagh (jasmine garden), leheria bagh (garden of waves) are some other baghs that are commonly seen on clothes, dupattas and these days even on upholstery items. The art of phulkari has its origins in the early part of the 19th century when the odhini or head cloth was hoghlighted with embroidered flowers. Phulkari, literally flower-crafting, comprises of the colourful embroidery that originates from Punjab.

Over the years this embroidery became heavy and the work more complex and the heavily embroidered odhinis came to be known as bagh (literally garden). In this style the embroidery covered every inch of the entire base material so that the cloth was completely invisible. The darn stitch is used in Phulkari work while the base material for the embroidery has traditionally been hand-spun, hand-woven and natural dyed khadi. Colours like white, dark blue, black and brown were used for the base material but the preferred colour was red. Imported floss silk yarn from China or Afganistan was used after locally dyeing.

The embroidering is done from the reverse side of the fabric with the silk yarn which gives a shaded effect to the fabric. The uniqueness of this work is that the fabric itself is used as an inner decoration so that the pattern sewn on becomes an integrated combination of colours. The smoothness on the reverse of the fabric speaks volumes of the quality of workmanship and skill of the embroider. The motifs used are karela bagh, gobhi bagh, dhaniya bagh and mirchi bagh are based on motifs inspired by vegetables while shalimar charbagh and chaurasia bagh are motifs based on the famed gardens.

Satrangas are seven-coloured motifs and panchrangas are five-coloured motifs while the most common and beautiful motifs is based on the wheat and barley stalks that grow all over Punjab. In modern times this vibrant folk art of Punjab is now embroidered not only on odhinis but also on saris, bed covers and home furnishing in bright and vivid colours. | | | Sitting on the charpoys (beds woven with jute strings) pulled into the protective shade of a tree, or ensconced against a wall, women in villages and small towns all over Punjab are often busy creating spectacular flower-embroidery on dupattas, shawls or other garments.

Called phulkari in local parlance, the origin of this beautiful art can be traced back to the 15th century AD. The word phulkari literally means flowering. It is a form of craft in which embroidery is done in a simple and sparse design over shawls and dupattas. In some cases where the design is worked over very closely, covering the material entirely, it is called bagh (a garden of flowers). THE MAKING The embroidery of phulkari and bagh is done in long and short darn stitch, which is created into innumerable designs and patterns.

It is the skilful manipulation of this single stitch that lends an interesting and characteristic dimension to this needlework. While the stitch itself is uncomplicated, the quality of the phulkari depends upon the size of the stitch. The smaller the stitch, the finer the embroidery. The threads used were of a silk yarn called pat. In the past, the silk threads were brought in from different parts of India, like Kashmir and Bengal and also from Afghanistan and China. USING COLORS Bright colors were always preferred and among these, golden yellow, red, crimson, orange, green, blue, pink etc, were the popular ones.

For the embroidery, only a single strand was used at a time, each part worked in one color. Shading and variation were not done by using various colors of thread. Instead, the effect was obtained by the dexterous use of horizontal, vertical or diagonal stitches. This resulted in giving an illusion of more than one shade when light fell on it and when it was viewed from different angles. To keep the embroidered part clean while working on the cloth, the finished portion was rolled and covered with a muslin cloth.

Specially created designs varied from village to village or region to region in Punjab and were given suitable names descriptive of their form. While phulkari was used to ornament cloth, the bagh ensured that not even a square inch of the base cloth was visible. | BASE CLOTH The cloth primarily used and preferred by the women, was the home-spun, locally woven and dyed khadi. It was strong, long-lasting, and cheap and served the purpose of keeping the wearer warm during winters. Another reason was that the embroidery involved the counting of threads while doing the straight darn stitch.

The coarse weave made this task easier. In addition, the thick cloth did not pucker and pull and could be worked upon without a frame. Usually, pieces of small width, about 45 to 60 centimeters, were worked on separately and the two or three strips were joined together to form the required size. REPERTOIRE OF MOTIFS Beginning with geometrical patterns, flowers and leaves, the repertoire of motifs was constantly enlarged. Birds, animals and human figures and objects of everyday use were inducted, along with vegetables, pots, buildings, rivers, the sun and the moon, scenes of village life, and other imagery.

Phulkaris and baghs came to be embroidered in a stunning range of exquisite designs. In dhoop chaon, which literally means “sun and shade”, an amazing interactive display of light and shade was created. The designs remained earthy and true to life. There was dhaniya bagh (coriander garden), motia bagh (jasmine garden), satranga bagh (garden of rainbow), leheria bagh (garden of waves) and many other depictions. Today the most intricate and sought after phulkaris are the sainchi phulkaris, which bring scenes from rural Punjab to life.

An incredible wealth of detail is embroidered onto cloth. REFLECTING EMOTIONS With time, the phulkaris became closely interwoven with the lives of the women of Punjab. | The joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams and yearnings of the young girls and women who embroidered the phulkaris were often transferred onto cloth. Many folk songs grew out of this expressive combination of skills and intense feelings. So, it is that one hears a young woman, whose betrothed has not sent a promised message to her, murmuring sadly, softly, as she embroiders peacocks on a phulkari.

It was not long before phulkari folk songs became a part of the famous, pulsating folk dances of Punjab – the gidda and the bhangra. A SYMBOL OF FAMILIAL TIES The women of Punjab created phulkari mostly for personal use. The cycle began with the young girl who followed her mother’s chores and learned household work including this embroidery. When the girl got married, phulkari formed a part of her bridal trousseau. If a son was born to her, her mother would start preparing a vari da bagh, a gift she would present to her grand daughter-in- law.

The bagh was considered a symbol of marriage and among the wealthy families, sometimes up to fifty-one pieces of various designs were given to the bride. She, in turn, wore them for auspicious and ceremonial occasions. In some parts of Punjab, it was customary to drape the new mother with a bagh on the eleventh day after the birth of the child, when she left the maternity room for the first time. PHULKARI FOR DIFFERENT OCCASIONS Phulkaris were also made for religious ceremonies or to be used at other festive times.

A phulkari is sanctified to be used as the canopy over the holy book of the Sikhs, the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’. For each different occasion, for each different setting, the versatile fingers and fertile imagination of the women of Punjab designed an impressive selection of phulkaris. DIFFERENT VARIETIES There are different varieties of phulkaris and baghs made in Punjab. The Chope, usually presented to the bride by her grandmother during a ceremony before the wedding, is embroidered with straight, two-sided line stitch and appears the same on the reverse.

Only the border is embroidered and the center is left plain. It is usually red in color and worn as a veil. Vari-da-bagh (bagh of the trousseau) is also on a red cloth with golden yellow embroidery symbolizing happiness and fertility. The entire cloth is covered in a lozenge design with smaller ones within the border and is again intricately worked in different colors. Ghunghat bagh or sari-pallau (covering for the head) has a small border on all four sides. In the center of each side, which covers the head, a large triangular motif is worked. Bawan bagh (fifty-two in Punjabi) has as many geometrical patterns.

Darshan dwar (the gate offering a view of the deity) is usually for presentation in temples or to adorn the walls of the home when the Granth Sahib (holy book of the Sikhs) is brought to a house. The gate motif has been inspired by the arched verandahas of the temples. It is again, always on a red cloth. The architectural design depicts two outer panels of all gates with arched tops. The bases face each other with motifs of humans, animals, birds, flowers etc. , giving the impression of passing through a crowded street. Suber is a phulkari worn by a bride during marriage rites.

It comprises five motifs, one in the center and one each in the four corners. Chamba is a hybrid phulkari having a series of wavy creepers, stylized leaves and flowers. It came into vogue earlier this century. Besides this, designs inspired by various day to day items, fauna and flora around us also found their way into this craft. Surajmukhi (sunflower) is a cross between a chope and ordinary bagh in brilliant yellow, which creates a stunning effect. Mor or tota is one that has a peacock or parrot motif. Mirchi, as the name suggests, has chilies in red, orange or green usually on brown.

Belan and parantha symbolize the rolling pin and leavened bread. Ikka or ace of diamonds has been inspired by playing cards. Satrang is a seven-colored phulkari. Jewellery items like bangles, earrings, etc. , are also embroidered At times, a snake was embroidered, guarding a woman’s treasure. Another variety popular in Haryana was the Sheeshedar where small, round, matt-dull mirror pieces were included in the embroidered motifs. Traditionally, the phulkaris and baghs were never sold in the markets as they were only woven by the women of the house for their personal use.

A NEW FORM OF PHULKARI A new form of phulkari is being embroidered these days. | It is not as detailed or time consuming as the older variety. Using a range of different fast colored synthetic threads, it is embroidered from the top of the cloth rather than on its reverse. The Punjab Government’s Emporium, Phulkari, boasts of the best collection of this form of embroidery in the country. Their sizeable assemblage of a variety of these original pieces has been garnered from the villages in the state. Many of these are being exported, especially to the Middle-East. | | PHULKARI EMBROIDARY


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