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  • Chikankari - The Art behind the Traditional Lucknowi Embroidery

    Lucknow is renowned for its traditional Chikankari embroidery. The craft of Chikan work, which literally means embroidery, is a traditional style of embroidery from Lucknow. The technique of creating Chikan art is called Chikankari and has been used for over 300 years.

    Chikan embroidery Image credit - wikimedia

    Modern embroidery lacks the simplicity and the precision of the handwork invested on the garment making it subtle. The essence of the garment is a simple design.

    The Embroidery Process

    The Lucknow chikankari technique is broken down into stages. The process of chikankari includes the following steps:

    • Design and Engraving
    • Wooden Block printing
    • Embroidery
    • Washing and finishing

    Design and Engraving

    First, the design is determined and engraved on a wooden block by the embroiderer. The wooden block stamps are used to print the design on the cloth.

    Wooden Block printing

    The wooden blocks are then dipped in Safeda and Neel dyes. The wooden blocks are then used to print the design on the cloth. The cloth is then cut to take the form that the garment is intended. There are different blocks: for butis, floral patterns, and borders. Once the fabric or cloth is printed it is now ready for the embroidery work.


    Then the embroidery process begins. The fabric or cloth is placed in a small frame and the embroiderer begins to trace the printed ink patterns. This is done using needle and thread. Different types of stitches can be made on one piece of fabric. This depends on the type and size motifs. The popular stitches include hemstitch, backstitch, and chain stitch.

    Washing and finishing

    Washing is the last stage of the chikankari process. The fabric is first checked for consistency. It is then soaked in water. It is then washed to remove the block printed ink color. To obtain stiffness the garment is starched and ironed. The garment is now ready for commercial sales.

    The stitches are done to perfection and the quality and gracefulness are very difficult to find anywhere else. The precision and effortlessness of each and every stitch cannot be replicate even by a machine. This is why garments made using the chikankari technique, are famous worldwide.


    Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is famous for its ‘Chikankari’ all over the world. Chikankari is a traditional style of embroidery, which originated in the Mughal period. This special kind of embroidery which was invented in Lucknow, was introduced by Noor Jahan, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s wife.

    Image Credit - The Hindu Image Credit - The Hindu

    This beautiful textile decoration style is hand embroidery done on various types of fabrics such as net, muslin, georgette, silk, chiffon, organza, crepe etc. The cloth has to be neither too thick, nor too hard, so that the needle is able to pierce into it easily for the embroidery. Previously, the embroidery was done with white thread only, that is to say that the white or colored clothes were embroidered with only white colored thread. But now to keep up with the modern fashion trends, the embroidery is done with colored and even with silk threads.

    For the chikankari, blocks of various patterns are used to print beautiful designs on the cloth. Then on these designs, the specific embroidery is done. Often a combination of two or three types of embroidery is done. Additional beautification like Mukaish, mirror work, bead work, Kamdani or sequin etc is also often done to give it a party-wearor gaudy look. After the embroidery work is complete, the cloth is sent for washing so as to remove the printed pattern thoroughly. The cotton based clothes are starched and then they are ironed after giving them a final finish. Now they are ready to be sent for sale.

    The Chikan work includes many types of stitches such as Tepchi, Backstitch, Shadow Work, Jali, Bakhiya, Zanjeera, Rahet, Phanda, Khatau, Banarsi, Murri, Ghaspatti, Makra, Kauri, Kangan, Dhanya Patti, Bulbul, Keel Kangan, Sidhaul, Chanapatti, Jora, Baalda and many more. Chikankari workis done to designgorgeous sarees, suits, stoles, tops, kurti, dupattas, shirts and kurta for men, designerlehngas, bedsheets and even embroidered sherwanis. These are available in beautiful colors and designs which make them all the more attractive.

    The exquisite chikankari is done mostly by the poor women in and around Lucknow. Chikankari is often used as style staple by famous designers to create amazing modern and stylish draping. Intricate embroideries make for impressive occasion wear.

    Lucknow has many outlets for chikan work. The cost is in accordance with the fabric used and the type of embroidery done on it. Now days, these can also be bought online. For the summer season,chikankari done on cotton fabric is the best option.

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