An intricate form of embroidery that emerged from certain parts of India, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh- is the exquisite Zardozi embroidery. It consists of gorgeous metal embroidery work of gold and silver and were used to adorn the apparels royals and chiefs or members of their family. Not only attires, but the detailed work also adorned the walls of palaces, castles, royal tents, handles of swords, scabbards, wall décor and paraphernalia of chief’s elephants and horses. The work was further enhanced by attaching studded pearls and precious stones to the fabric. For embroidery, pure silver wires and real gold leaves were used in the past. But with the advent of simplification in recent times, a combination of copper with golden or silver polish and silk thread is used. This makes the embroidered garments affordable.
The golden and silver wires form the design and needle and thread are used to sew the elements on to the cloth. Some stiches including Laid-stitch, backstitch, couching chain stitch, running stitch and satin stitch are also used. Zardozi is done in two distinctive manner. They are karchobi and kamdani. The first one has heavy stitches on a gorgeous base such as velvet or satin which is usually seen on coats, tent coverings, furnishing and canopies. The latter includes more light, delicate work and is famous in Rajasthan. It is seen on bridal wear these days.
Zardozi designs incorporate spherical and triangular outlines, creating a base of flowers. Borders often has floral tendrils. The corners are embellished with Hindu mantras, a floral spray or birds like peacocks. Another striking feature is the jaali on some parts of the fabric. The more expensive ones use precious stones and real gold and silver wires. This work is being vividly used in bridal leghngachol, salwar suits, dupattas as well as sarees.
Zardozi embroidery originated with the invasion of Mughals and flourished immensely under the rule of Akbar but later on, due to industrialization and lack of patronage made the craft endangered. Currently, Zardozi embroidery is extreme ornamental with crusted gold work. Both Hindu and Muslims adopted it. Being among the oldest and most posh embroideries in India, it is certainly a treasure to be preserved. Lucknow, Bhopal, Chennai and some districts around Uttar Pradesh including Barabanki, Unnao, Sitapur, Rae Bareli, Hardoi and Amethi are some of the places where zardozi artisans reside.
It’s a matter of pride that the high demands for Zardozi as a component of high end fashion has allowed it to sustain itself in this modern world of dying crafts. Not only Indian ones, it is popular among the European designers too. In this ever evolving world, Zardozi is not only restricted to apparels and sarees but its applications is evident in ornaments as well as home furnishings.