Traditional Embroidery of Punjab: Phulkari

kaudi bagh Phulkari

Punjab: Phulkari

Phulkari embroidery
Phulkari| Image: Craftsvilla

Region & Origin: Phulkari is an embroidery style that originated in Punjab, denoting the technique of making flowers with needle and thread has a history etched in the culture of Punjab.

Spun from the charkha, this spectacular style of embroidery is patterned on odanis, shawls, Kurtis, and chunaris.
The earliest available article of phulkari embroidery is a rumal embroidered during 15th century by Bebe Nanaki, sister of guru Nanak dev.

Also, it has been found that the word phulkari appears in the famous love story ‘Heer Ranjha’ (a love tale) by Waris Shah (1725-1790)

Heer In Phuklkari Dupatta
Heer In Phulkari Dupatta|Image:indiantruelovestories
Technique: It was basically made for a lady or a girl who was going to blossom into womanhood by getting married.
Back in the days, it was a means of socializing for Punjabi women who would sit in groups and weave the dupattas.
The base material is handspun and handwoven Khaddar that is dyed in darker shades.
The embroidered kaddhar Phulkari
khaddar Phulkari| Image:
Soft untwisted raw silk thread called -‘Pat’ is used for the embroidery.
The colors of the thread are very vibrant.
The basic stitch employed for Phulkari is darning stitch, which is done from the reverse side of the
The stitches follow the weave, and a beautiful effect is created on the fabric on the opposite side of the fabric.
For outlining of motifs and borders, stem, chain, and herringbone stitches are sometimes used.
Phulkari stitches
Phulkari stitches
Motifs: The motifs used in Phulkari are inspired by objects of everyday use like rolling pin, sword,
Wheat design phulkari|Image:
flowers, vegetables, birds, animals, etc. They are generally geometrical and stylized. Usually, one
motif is left unembroidered or is embroidered in an offbeat color. This motif is called ‘nazarbuti’
which is considered to ward off the evil eye.
Different types of Phulkaris:
1.Phulkari- A variety of characters, forms, motifs, and designs are scattered and spaced evenly all over the fabric.
  1. High class flowers Embroidered in "darning stitch"
    Darning Stitch phulkari|Image:
    2.Bagh (“garden”)-It is a special ceremonial type of Phulkari. Bagh literally means “garden of flowers.” Designs are so intricately woven such that the base fabric isn’t visible.  Thus the embroidery becomes the fabric itself. Unlike Phulkari, Bagh demands more time and patience and more material, thereby increasing the expense. Thus Bagh sets out to be a status symbol.
    Bagh embroidery work was covering the whole surface of the khaddar
    Bagh Phulkari|Image:

3. Chop – Embroidered with straight stitch/Holbein stitch, which has the specificity of creating the same design on both sides of the Khaddar (fabric), is used. It is usually embroidered on the selvedge of the fabric, and the other two ends are left plain.  It is generally embroidered with one color (Golden or yellowish golden mostly).

"chope" phulkari
phulkari Chop on beige khaddar and red khadar|Image:
Women creating intricate designs
Women creating intricate phulkari designs

Various types of Phulkari in India:

  1. Thirma: Symbol of purity, worn by elderly women & widows, but at times, the choice of white is made for esthetical reasons.
Thirma Phulkari
Thirma Phulkari

2.Bawan Bagh: Mosaic of 52 different patterns that decorate the piece and is the rarest of all.

bawan bagh phulkari
bawan bagh phulkari

3.Vari-­-da­Bagh: Made on an orange-reddish khaddar with the main pattern being a group of three­ four small concentric lozenges (diamond) of growing size.

vari-da-bagh phulkari
Vari-da-bagh phulkari

4.Darshan Dwar: For adorning the walls and homes, especially when the Holy book of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib is brought. It has designs of flowers, animals, birds, etc. Made for a temple as an offering to thank god after a wish has been fulfilled.

phulkari-Darshan Dwar
A 19th Century Darshan Dwar pattern

5.Chhamaas: In this pattern, mirrors are sewn into the cloth giving it a Rajasthani Punjabi look.

Phulkari- Kareena
Kareena in chammaas phulkari

6.Kaudi Bagh: Chains of small white squares representing stylized cowries.

kaudi bagh Phulkari
Kaudi Bagh Phulkari

7.Panchranga: Decorated with five different colors.

Panchranga Phulkari
Panchranga Phulkari

8.Meenakari: Made of gold and white-colored pat, is decorated with small multicolored referring to enamel work (meenakari)

meenakari Phullkari
Meenakari Phulkari

9.Surajmukhi: Sunflower refers to the main pattern of this Phulkari.

Surajmukhi Phulkari
Surajmukhi Phulkari

You would also like to know: Phulkari-In Bollywood Style 


Course Work:

1. Search for designers who have taken inspiration from Phulkari and write a brief about their collection.

2. Make a Moodboard taking Phulkari as an inspiration and, if possible, design your collection.

Submit your Course work in the comment section below or mail me on m email id.

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