Patiala, Punjab


In the 15th century, the women of Punjab started practicing Phulkari embroidery. Phul means flower and kari means flower. This textile art is a celebration of womanhood. A woman is a creator of next generations, thus to mark the auspicious occasion of birth of a girl child, her mother or grandmother starts embroidering a Phulkari. The textile is made as per the characters of the woman, grows along with her over the years and is gifted during her wedding.

Earlier, Phulkaris were made only for personal use and not for sale. It was a means of creative expression for the women of Punjab and forms an essential part of Punjabi weddings. The dowry would range from 11 to
101 Baghs and Phulkaris. It is believed that at some point, 52 types of Phulkari were present. Some of them are: Thirma (white khaddar worn by elderly and widows), Darshan Dwar (made as an offering to god), Bawan Bagh (52 types of patterns are made), Vari-da-bagh (orange-red khaddar gifted to the bride by her in-laws), Chope (made by the bride’s maternal grandmother for her wedding day), Surajmukhi, Panchranga Bagh (5 colors are used), Satranga Bagh (7 colors are used), Meenakari Bagh (gold and white colored silk floss is used), Sainchi (narrates the village life of Punjab).

The reference of this rural handmade embroidery tradition of Punjab can be found in various ancient text in the likes of Mahabharata, the Vedas, Guru Granth Sahib, the story of Heer Ranjha, etc. During the partition of our country in 1947, this folk embroidery almost disappeared. Due to the refugee crisis, Phulkari became a means to earn money. This led to its revival. Motifs include kakri (cucumber), belan (rolling pin), chandrama (moon), flowers, geometrical patterns and shapes.

Khaddar is a coarse fabric and silk is delicate. So, it required immense skill to embroider the silk floss on khaddar. While embroidering, the artisan has to count the number of stitches on both sides of the fabric pertaining to the symmetrical designs. Traditionally, silk floss and mulmul, khaddar were used as thread and base fabrics respectively for their purity and durability. Now, different fabrics like chiffon, georgette, silk, and regular cotton are used. The bright and vibrant embroidery uses a variety of stitches like herringbone, buttonhole and running stitch. But, it is distinguished by the use of darning stitch on the wrong side of the fabric. The narrowest the stitch was, the finest the piece became.



Desired motif is carved on wood such that an outline of the design appears.


The wooden block is printed onto the fabric.


The printed pattern guides the embroiderer the direction in which the stitch should follow.