Let's explore the nuances of Zardozi as we trace its trails from Iran to India.
A part of the regal aura of rulers, be it of Emperor Akbar, Nawab Wajid Ali Khan or Queen Elizabeth II, is maintained by their opulent outfits often adorned with unique embroidery. Owing to these aesthetic demands, several traditions of embroidery received patronage from the royals in India. One among these is Zardozi, an embroidery art that flourished under the aegis of the nawabs of Lucknow, for which this city has received a GI tag from the Government of India. Let's explore the nuances of Zardozi, as we trace its trails from Iran to India!
Aesthetic influence from faraway lands
Zardozi is a Persian word that is etymologically derived from a combination of two words- zar, which means gold and dozi, which means embroidery. Customarily, the craftspeople who know this embroidery and work on this art form are called zardos or zardosans.
Travelling into the Indian territory, along with the Mughals, Zardozi embroidery was originally practised on rich fabrics such as- silk, satin and velvet. The process of sewing intricate designs on these fabrics with threads made of real silver and gold was called kalabattu. Further, the needle used in this process is called aari, hence, Zardozi work is sometimes also referred to as Aari work.
When Zardozi came to Lucknow, it flourished under the patronage of the nawabs, especially Wajid Ali Khan. Here, Zardozi underwent a few modifications as artisans started etching the designs using dabka (a spring-type thread) instead of metal wires and other forms of embellishments like sequin and pearls.
The evolution of a distinct style of Zardozi is why Lucknow has been bestowed with a GI tag by the Government of India, to aid its preservation. With the relative increase in demand and popularity of Zardozi work, customers can also buy accessories, purses and many other products embellished with this embroidery and not just Indian ethnic wear.
Once an art form whose aesthetic appeal made even the royals swoon, this handicraft industry has suffered a lot since the inception of capitalism. Only a few Zardozi connoisseurs can still be found who prefer custom designs and are willing to pay the artisans in proportion to the work done. If you want to be one of these connoisseurs, then we urge you to explore the karkhanas of Kashmiri Mohalla, Agha Mir Deori and Chowk, among others here in Lucknow!