Zardozi embroidery is a gorgeous metal embroidery that was formerly used to adorn the clothing of India’s Kings and Royals. It was also used to embellish the walls of royal tents, scabbards, wall hangings, and the imperial elephant and horse’s accoutrements. Zardozi embroidery is a type of needlework that uses gold and silver threads to create intricate motifs. The work’s grandeur is further enhanced by the studded pearls and valuable stones.
Zardosi needlework has been practised in India since the Rig Veda period. There are several examples of zari embroidery being used as decoration on gods’ garments. Originally, the needlework was done with genuine gold leaf and pure silver wires. Today, however, craftspeople employ a mix of copper wire and silk thread with a golden or silver finish. This is due to the scarcity of gold and silver on such a huge scale as previously. Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Delhi, Agra, Kashmir, Mumbai, Ajmer, and Chennai are known for their zardosi embroidered work.
Zardozi is a Persian word that combines two Persian words: Zar, which means gold, and Dozi, which means needlework. Zardosi, a Persian needlework form, reached its pinnacle under the patronage of Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 17th century. The royal sponsorship ceased under Aurangzeb’s reign, resulting in the craft’s demise. Craftsmen were unable to continue the needlework on their own due to the high cost and scarcity of raw materials.
The patterns on Lucknow Zardozi are more elaborate and heavier, with a 3D feel to them. This is comparable to Delhi Zardozi work, but designs in Hyderabad and Agra are more minimalistic, with a concentration on big, basic motifs. Nature has always been the source of inspiration for all themes. The national ecosystem of India pervades all Zardozi embroidery, from flowers, leaves, and trees to animals and birds.
The complete design is created on a tracing sheet and holes are made following the traced pattern with a needle at this step of the procedure. Contemporary patterns are more geometric stylizations of similar themes. Whereas Mughal patterns were all intricate nature, flower, and leaf motifs. The papers containing the designs are put on a flat surface with the fabric below in order to trace the design on to a cloth. A solution of kerosene and Robin Blue is prepared, and wads of fabric are dipped in it and then wiped on the tracing sheet. The ink from the sheet can now soak into the cloth.
The cloth with the pattern is stretched over a wooden frame. The frame size may generally be adjusted to fit the cloth size. It is then stretched out and securely held using bamboo or wooden spars to give the fabric a consistent tension. The craftsmen then gather around this frame to begin stitching. The needlework is done using a crochet-like needle attached to a wooden pole called “Ari.”
The Ari, as contrast to a traditional needle and thread. Allows the craftsmen to run the threads both above and below the fabric, considerably speeding up the process. This step can take anywhere from a day to ten days, depending on the complexity of the design and the number of artisans working on the item.
Many artisans fled Delhi in pursuit of work in the courts of Rajasthan and Punjab. With the arrival of industrialisation in the 18th and 19th centuries, the craft suffered yet another blow. The Indian government did not take measures to promote Zari embroidery until 1947, when the country gained independence.
The artisans begin the process of Zardozi stitching by sitting cross-legged around the Addaa, or wooden framework, with their equipment. Curved hooks, needles, salmaa pieces (gold wires), sitaaras (metal stars), round-sequins, glass and plastic beads, dabkaa (thread), and kasab are among the tools available (thread). The next step is to trace the pattern onto the material, using fabrics like as silk, satin, and velvet if feasible. After that, the cloth is stretched over the wooden frame, and the embroidery process starts.
Each zardozi piece is pulled out with a needle and then pushed into the cloth to be incorporated into the main pattern. The major benefit is that Zardozi will be considerably more widely available and accessible to a larger client base, while the original Lucknow varieties will remain as novelty investments.