Chikankari is an ancient art of white floral embroidery with raw thread and needle. Its delicacy is mesmeric. This fine white tracey on a transparent white fabric has delighted the hearts of kings and queens and commoners for centuries. It is practiced in Lucknow. It has survived the test of time and has suffered in the hands of commercialisation, lost its way but yet stayed alive. The craft is a tribute to the handicrafts who have handed over the skill from one generation to another.
Lucknow is a a city of old gardens and palaces, fine architectural conceit mosques, ageing monuments, and temples. It was popularly called as the Constantinople of The East as it was very favoured by the European travellers. Like Marseille, it has a great deal of historicity. It is synonymous with,cultural finesse, architectural elegance, anenduring love for gracious living and social warmth.
Lucknow also has the distinction of being today, the cusp of a very beautiful, very aesthetic form of white floral embroidery, unique to this geographical location.Chikankari has been practiced in Lucknow for almost more than two hundred years. But it did not originate in Lucknow. It flourished in the Mughal Court at Delhi in the 16th and 17th centuries. When the Mughal Court disintegrated the artisans scattered across the country. Some of them came and settled in Awadh. They brought this craft with them and gave it roots.
The origins of chikan are shrouded in mystery and legend. Some historians opine, that chikan is a Persian craft, brought to the Mughal Court of the Emperor Jahangir by his beautiful and talented consort Mehrunissa. The queen was a talented embroiderer and she so pleased the king with this ethereal, white floral embroidery that it was soon given recognition and royal patronage. Workshops were established wherein this embroidery was practiced and perfected.