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The History of Chikankari

  • By Shefali Ahuja
  • •  Mar 09, 2019

Chikankari is an intricate shadow work type of embroidery, which is usually delicate. Initially, on colourless Muslins called Tanzeb, embroidery was done using White Yarn. However, Today other fine fabrics such as cotton, georgette, Chiffon and more are also used. Initially an embellishment used for clothes decoration only, the Chikankari embroidery work has now spread to items like cushion covers, table covers, linen covers and so.
There are more than one explanation to the evolution of the term of Chikankari. One of them states that the work Chikankari is derived from the persian word Chakeen , which means creating delicate patterns on fabric. Some claim it might be a distorted version of the word Siquin, which was used for a coin with a value of Rs.4, for which the work was once sold. Another theory links the word to the East Bengal language, in which Chikan meant fine.
There are many references of Indian Chikankari dating back to ancient times, as old as 3rd Century BC. A Greek traveller by the name of Megasthenes, mentioned the use of flowered muslins by Indians in his writings. There are also multiple stories regarding the Origin of Chikankari in India, which all differ a lot. In one of these stories, apparently a traveller was passing through a village of Lucknow, stopped and requested a poor peasant for some water. The peasant despite having little served water to the traveller. The delighted traveller wanted to reward the hospitality of the peasant, and thus taught him the art of Chikankari. He believed that this way he won't ever go to sleep hungry. The city of Lucknow is the place with the most renowned Chikankari work. Another story credits Noor Jahan, the queen of Emperor Jahangir, for introducing the art of Chikankari embroidery to India.

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