Stories from Awadh: In conversation with artisans of Ada Chikan in Lucknow about the heritage craft
If there’s one thing that us Lucknowites resonate with is our rich culture. We’re proud of the grace in our spoken word, our 'pehle aap' upbringing, our traditions and mannerisms, and the cultural symbolism that make the City of Nawabs unique.
One of these symbols, as we have known across centuries, that has woven itself with the historical narratives of the city is the elegant Chikankari. Weaving beautiful stories of the people of yore whilst occurring in scenic instances of Lucknow, the art of Chikan is created by the artisans that keep on passing the baton to newer generations, with the collective objective of keeping the age-old art alive.
To decode just a few of the backstories, we spoke with some artisans from Old Lucknow, at the manufacturing factory of one of the biggest Chikankari names in the city — Ada Chikan.
Behind the scenes: Tête-a tête with women artisans
Celebrating International Women's Day whilst shining light on the women artisans behind this craft, we collected some of these craftswomen together and this is what we learnt form the conversations.
The women, aged between 25-70 years, explained how the craft was passed onto them by generations — like a heritage heirloom passed on for decades, an art intangible yet congruous.
Pushpa Devi, a woman artisan who has been doing Chikankari for 20 or so years, shared that she came from a rural household, "Sasural aake ghar ka kaam kiya. Kuch khaas nahi tha toh yahi pakad liya," she continued. "Sukoon milta hai silai karke," she explained how she feels that moment of transcendence while doing the embroidery.
Seema, who has been doing embroidery since she was 12 and who had her 6-year-old kid with her during the interview, shared her story, “Maine Ammi se seekhi hai Chikankari. Hume Saare taake aate hain."
Seema went on to talk about the earnings from the craft, and her association with Ada Chikan, "Itne samay se karrahe hain aur itna kama lete hain ki maine apne behen aur bhai ki shaadi isi se kari hai." "Ghar pe araam se banate hain, kaam bhi hojata aur bache ki dekbhaal bhi," she added.
At the same time, Sangeeta explained that she had been working with Ada for a while and her motivation to work harder was the income. Self-sufficiency and self-dependence go a long way and the women expressed how they felt empowered working together, earning for their families, and doing well for themselves.
About Ada Chikan
Synonymous with Lucknow, the qala of Chikan takes pride in its intricacies and grace. Elegant, yet effervescent, the designs that we find on clothing world-wide today find their way back to this soil and from the artisans born in Awadh.
Giving wings to this entire community of local craftswomen for generations now, ADA Designer Chikan Studio has gained popularity throughout the country for its aberrant designs. Their vision is simple yet poetic — curating the craft of Lucknow Chikan and proffering it to all, exhibiting it globally.
The brand has adapted to changes in modern fashion most eloquently and showcases evolution in its ensembles today. Established in 2005, it continues to produce handwoven Indian textiles with passion and love in a plethora of embroidered hues and a huge range of variety in designs.
Location: Twin store in Hazratganj:
68, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Hazratganj, Lucknow
P.S. Ada Chikan is delivering worldwide. Check out www.adachikan.com for more info.
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