The art of storytelling has many forms, and this embroidery that finds its roots in Punjab, has a big role to play in not only history, but also in classic and contemporary fashion. As we celebrate the harvest festival of Baisakhi today — also the Punjabi new year — here’s a quick lesson in Phulkari and Bagh kadai (embroidery).
The art of this threadwork goes back centuries, marking milestones in a woman’s life. Traditionally, the embroidery was done with silken thread on hand spun fabric by women of the village to commemorate birth, weddings and was worn at auspicious occasions. While phulkari, as the name suggests, connotes the flower motif, bagh (garden) is a variant that includes motifs of birds, plants, intricate geometric shapes, taking over the entire length of the fabric.
Apart from these, there are many styles of phulkari and bagh embroidery, based on the type of stitch done and what it aims to depict. These include chope (embroidery done on the borders), reshmi shisha (embroidery that includes mirror work), sainchi (embroidery that includes figurines and scenes), thirma (embroidery done on a white base) and darshan dwar (embroidery depicting gates of a temple).
IN POP CULTURE:
The word phulkari was born in the literary domain, when Sufi poet, Waris Shah narrated the tragic love story of Heer and Ranjha in the 18th century. Fast forward to the present day and Bollywood has also shown love to the textile by reviving it on the big screen.
From Kareena Kapoor Khan in Jab We Met (2007) to Anushka Sharma in Phillauri (2017), the embroidery has helped represent Punjab. It was also reported that Anushka sourced phulkari odhnis from local markets and weavers in Punjab.
ON THE GLOBAL STAGE:
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, phulkari has taken centrestage with an exhibition that took off in March and will go on till July. Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection has on display rare pieces of the art that ranges between the periods of mid 19th century and 1947.
Phulkari, the native craft of Punjab was revived by Manish Malhotra Label's tribute in the year 2013 with a collection called 'Threads of Emotions'. The collection was designed by infusing global influences of modernism with the traditional craft. It left a lasting impression on many, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art which is recognizing the traditional craft of Punjab by doing an elaborate showcase of the work of regional kaarigars and the couture collection especially curated by #ManishMalhotraLabel. @manishmalhotra05 has been invited to speak about the revival of this traditional handicraft and it's global footprint on 28th April at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. #ThreadsOfEmotions #HandcraftedCouture #ManishMalhotra #TributeToPhulkari at #PhiladelphiaMuseumofArt #America @philamuseum
It also has on display the works of designer Manish Malhotra, who showcased a collection in Delhi back in 2013, which saw his interpretation of phulkari .“I’ve been invited to speak at the museum on April 28 and I’m overwhelmed with the honour. It’s a matter of pride that our traditional art and craft is not only being respected, but also being honoured on a global platform,” says Malhotra. Some of his phulkari designs with a contemporary twist are a part of the exhibition.
"Threads Of Emotions" from our 2013 collection left a lasting impression on many, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art who are holding an elaborate showcase of the work of regional kaarigars and the couture collection especially curated by #ManishMalhotraLabel. @manishmalhotra05 has been invited to speak about the revival of this traditional handicraft and it's global footprint on 28th April at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. #ThreadsOfEmotions #HandcraftedCouture #ManishMalhotra #TributeToPhulkari at #PhiladelphiaMuseumOfArt #America @philamuseum
Traditionally, phulkari had more than 50 varieties, depending on what the design connoted and who it was gifted to or made for. Now, the needlework has gone beyond classic odhnis, with cushion covers, keychains and varied interpretations of the art on offer. While hand-done phulkari is highly priced, its machine-made interpretation is cheaper.