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The Royal Art of Embroidery – Lucknow’s Famous Zardozi

Lucknow has always been a central hub for Zardozi embroidery technique. During the 12th Century Aurangzeb’s reign, this majestic art form was encouraged under ruling Mughal beneficiaries. 

Due to patronage, the beautiful zardosi artists spread throughout India. Lucknow goes on to be the epitome of traditional Zardozi embroidery mostly due to the high demand

However, over time, with the rise of gold and silver prices, expensive materials became very hard to afford, and the artisans left with no options but to use artificial threads or copper wires polished in gold and silver. In doing so, Zardozi was commercialized as a technique, although the glory of the craft’s old-style heritage is still lost.

Origin– The word ‘zardozi’ derived from the Persian language. ‘Zar’ means gold, while ‘Dozi’ means embroidery. It is an extravagant style of hand embroidery popular in the Indian subcontinent. 

This art was brought to India during the 12th century, and it was made famous through the Mughal patronage.

During Aurangzeb’s reign, the art spread to other parts of the country, wherein Lucknow became a significant center. Since then, Zardozi has remained Lucknow’s exquisite art. The zardozi work in Lucknow can be attributed to subtle intricacy, classiness, and characteristic attractiveness, all developing from the local artisans’ zeal.

Construction– The intricate needlework uses a golden thread that is made from gold alloy. Ingots are melted and pressed through perforated steel sheets to construct a gentle wire, further compressed by hammering. 

The cables are then warped around the silk to form thicker, spring-like Zardozi thread. Other golden embellishments such as sequins and beads are frequently added to the piece for extra impact.

The original zardozi embroidery was done using silver and gold threads, popularly known as ‘Kalabatun.’ An evolved version of zardozi combined with ‘Dabka’ work is said to have developed in Lucknow. There are numerous materials that Karigar would use to comprehensive a fine piece. 

Stretching from Salma (gold wires), beads, Sitara (sequence), precious and semi-precious stones, and also silk threads, they all enhance the artistry of zardozi.

With the rise in gold and silver prices, the trend has been replaced to the usage of synthetic threads. All in all  zardozi work is expensive due to its expensive materials and  mostly because the embroidery takes hours to complete. 

In recent times zardozi has paved its way into the accessories like bangles, ornaments, and even shoe pieces.

Like Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai, celebrities have frequently chosen to wear sarees and lehengas with Zardosi work for many movie openings.

Given the extensive demand from India and abroad, the Zardozi work is crafted on a wide range of garments and accessories such as dresses, coats, purses, belts, stoles, shoes, etc. Bollywood actresses are often seen wearing these beautiful Zardozi designs at events all around the world.

The world-renowned Lucknow Zardozi has freshly been permitted the Geographical Indication (GI) underneath Geographical Indication Registry (GIR). Lucknow remains among the ancient and the finest centers for this zardozi!

Although modern machines and techniques have taken over the traditional methods, but many family clans from Lucknow are preserving the skills needed to create this conventional embroidering by passing them to new generations.

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