Embroidery of Punjab is the art of creating intricate designs on fabrics with different coloured threads. The Phulkari embroidery is the connotation of growing of flowers. Thus, the motifs and patterns of Phulkari essentially contain floral designs and motifs. The artisans use bright and vibrant colours to accentuate the floral patterns and these patterns are found in almost all traditional attires. As per the historical background of the embroidery of Punjab, it has been traced that the art form has a tradition of almost 2000 years. In fact references to Phulkari embroidery is found in the ancient scriptures like the Vedas as well. In addition to that, the famous poet Waris Shah had mentioned about the art of Phulkari in the popular Punjabi legends of Heer-Ranjha. It has also been traced that the embroidery of Punjab, specially the Phulkari embroidery had attained its present form way back in the 15th century in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was practiced in many different forms and separate designs were prevalent in separate occasions.
Following the tradition, the embroidery of Punjab is done on handspun khadi cloth. Simple darning stitches are made using un-spun silk floss thread which is called 'pat'. This particular design needs intricacy and delicacy and due to this certain fact, the Punjabi embroidery has become one of the most sought after forms of embroideries. Depending on the variation of the embroidery of Punjab, the stitches vary from vertical, horizontal to diagonal. The artisans create salwar-kameez, shawls, heavy dupattas, stoles, sarees, etc using Phulkari and other embroideries that are hugely practiced in Punjab.
The embroidery of Punjab, predominantly the Phulkari embroidery was done on the 'odhnis' in the past eras. Over the years the ancient form of embroidery of Punjab became heavy and intricate. The heavily embroidered 'odhnis' came to be known as 'bagh'which means garden. In this style the embroidery covered every inch of the entire base material so that the cloth was completely invisible. This embroidery uses vibrant colours like white, dark blue, red, black and brown. Imported floss silk yarn from China or Afghanistan was also used after dyeing the materials. The embroidering is now done from the reverse side of the fabric with the silk yarn which gives a shaded effect to the fabric. The embroidered material get the intricate work of colours and the finished item stands as the creative exuberance of the artisan. The motifs used in the embroidery are 'karela bagh', 'gobhi bagh', 'dhaniya bagh' and 'mirchi bagh' which are based on motifs inspired by vegetables. On the flip side of it, 'shalimar charbagh 'and 'chaurasia bagh' are motifs based on the renowned gardens. The artisans use a few motifs like Satrangas which are seven-coloured motifs and panchrangas that are five-coloured motifs in the embroidery works.
The most common and beautiful motif used in the embroidery of Punjab is based on the wheat and barley stalks that grow all over Punjab. The Phulkari embroidery is used in creating attires and clothes for different occasions. The communities of the artisans who are engaged in embroidery of Punjab create Chope which is a red coloured cloth that has Phulkari on the borders and edges. This type of cloth is presented to a bride by her grandmother, just before the wedding; Vari-da-bagh which is basically a red coloured cloth that has embroidery in small patterns all over in yellow, is the connotation of fertility and happiness. Apart from these clothes the artisans create Ghunghat Bagh also known as sari-pallau, Darshan Dwar, Suber, Chamba which is embroidered with the inspiration received from the vicinity including fauna like chilies, peacocks, diamonds, sunflowers, etc.
The embroidery of Punjab includes practicing one of the well known crotchet work, called Chetipani. Another form of embroidery is Athakupani or joint attachment where different kinds of flower designs are fluxed to form the patterns. These patterns and designs are basically inspired from floral, nosegay, almond and date motifs. The colours of the threads are black and brown and the designs are created to bring white weaves in the coloured designs. These embroideries of Punjab include items like curtains, bedspreads, furniture covers and dress material. The embroidery of Punjab has gained recognition in all over India. The items made following the designs of the embroidery of Punjab are most coveted items in the local market and in the Indian market as well. Keeping in mind the modern fashion, the embroidery of Punjab include creating like saris, bedcovers and home furnishing in bright and vivid colours. Another very useful item made by the artisans of Punjab is 'khes' which is made of coarse yarn.
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