The Tiny Threads of Lucknow: Chikankari

Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh has been the motherland of various art forms. Dance forms like Kathak and Mujra, classical Indian music and Urdu and Hindi poetry have beautifully laced the cultural image of the city. Yet amongst all, Lucknow stands out as the birthplace of the famous hand embroidery technique known as Chikankari, said to have been popularized by the Nawabs who commissioned karigars (artisans) for Chikan work on their silk headwears.

A delicate and detailed form of embroidery done on fine textiles like muslin and silk, the finesse of this technique is the reason behind its appeal. Intricate patterns are first block printed on the cloth, on which the artisans weave minute stitches or chikan. Thinner the stitch, finer it is. Traditionally a symbol of luxury among Nawabs, it was beyond the means of the common people till thicker stitches were later introduced that made it cheaper and affordable for the masses.

Though Chikan has historically been a male dominated vocation, many non-profits have used it as a tool for women empowerment. Numerous illiterate and semi-literate girls from poor, conservative families have been trained in the vocation, and offered marketing support, allowing them to earn their livelihoods without having to step out of their homes. Women self-help-groups have been formed facilitated by NGOs, which have established their own businesses of both production and marketing, leading to an increased income for the women. Some organizations which are working with women artisans are listed below. Do take some time to visit their stores if you’re in the city of Nawabs.

Sangraha is an organisation set up by two women karigars – Tabassum & Sheeba who started their journey right from the scratch and now in collaboration with fashion designer and trainors provide months of skilful training to the potential artisans and make sale of the final product.
Address: 19/370 Indira Nagar
SEWA Chikan is an establishment under SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) which brings together poor women artisans and eliminates unnecessary middlemen from the supply chain, ensuring increased income of the women.

• Sewa Chikan (Alambagh)
Address: 565KA/ 96, Singar Nagar Road
Phone: 094150 04539
• Sewa Chikan Industries
Address: Clothing Store Cantt Road, ShivaJi Marg, Cantt Road, Shri Ram Tower, Shivaji Marg, Cantonment Rd Phone: 0522 262 2727

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