Embroidery of India

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Chikan embroidery on a saree pallu
Green cloth with embroidery, detail, Crafts Museum, Delhi

Embroidery in India includes dozens of regional embroidery styles that vary by region. Designs in Indian embroidery are formed on the basis of the texture and the design of the fabric and the stitch. The dot and the alternate dot, the circle, the square, the triangle and permutations and combinations of these constitute the design.[1]


Aari work is done by stretching the fabric on a frame and stitching with a long needle ending with a hook (like crewel, Tambour or Luneville work). The other hand feeds the thread from the underside, and the hook brings it up, making a chainstitch, but it is much quicker than chainstitch done in the usual way: looks like machine-made and can also be embellished with sequins and beads - which are kept on the right side, and the needle goes inside their holes before plunging below, thus securing them to the fabric.

Andhra (Andra Pradesh) The Mathurias of Andhra Pradesh, a nomadic tribe found in the forests of Adilabad. The women use cross-stitch.

Banjara (Andhra Pradesh)[edit]

Made by the Lambada gypsy tribes of Andhra Pradesh. It is a mix of applique with mirrors and beadwork. Bright red, yellow, black and white coloured cloth is laid in bands and joined with a white criss-cross stitch. The Banjaras of Madhya Pradesh who are found in the districts of Malwa and Nimar have their own style of embroidery where designs are created according to the weave of the cloth, and the textured effect is achieved by varying colours and stitches of the geometric patterns and designs. Motifs are generally highlighted by cross-stitch.

Banni or Heer Bharat (Gujarat)[edit]

The Banni or Heer Bharat embroidery originates in Gujarat, and is practiced mainly by the Lohana community. It is done with silk floss (Heer means "silk floss") and it is famous for its vibrancy and richness in color pallets & design patterns, which include shisha (mirror) work.

Chamba Rumal(Himachal Pradesh)[edit]

This embroidery flourished in the princely hill states of Chamba, Kangra, Basholi, and other neighbouring provinces. Chamba region has highly skilled craftsmen.

Chikan or Chikankari (Uttar Pradesh)[edit]

Full article here
Chikan (from the Persian Chakeen =elegant patterns on the fabric")work originated in the city of Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh. The myth of its origin links it with Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir. Originally, as a great part of the stitches involve shadow work, it only meant - like in the West - embroidery with white thread on white muslin (tanzeb), fine cotton (mulmul), or voile, fine almost sheer fabrics which showcases the shadow work embroidery best. Nowadays white is not the only colour it can also be seen on pastel coloured fabric as well.
The artisans usually create individual motifs or `butis` of animals and flowers (rose, lotus, jasmine, creepers). The designs are first printed onto the fabric not with chaulk, but with a mixture of glue and indigo.
At least 40 different stitches are documented, of which about 30 are still practiced today and include flat, raised and embossed stitches, and the open trellis-like `jaali` work. Some of the stitches that are used in Chikankari work include: Taipchi, Pechni, Pashni, Bakhia (Ulta Bakhia and Sidhi Bakhia), Gitti, Jangira, Murri, Phanda, Jaalis etc. In English: chain stitch, buttonhole stitch, French knots and running stitch, shadow work. Another is the Khatao (also called khatava or katava) which is a

Gota (Jaipur, Rajasthan)[edit]

It is a form of appliqué in gold thread, used for women’s formal attire. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. Lengths of wider golden ribbons are stitched on the edges of the fabric to create an effect of gold zari work. Khandela in Shekhawati is famous for its manufacture. The Muslim community uses Kinari or edging, a fringed border decoration.

Kantha (Bengal)[edit]

It is an embroidery on many layers of cloth (like quilting), with running stitch. It is also known as Dorukha (= designs/ motifs are equally visible in both side, there is no right or wrong side so both side usable ). Traditionally, worn out clothes and saris were piled together and stitched into quilts. Rural Bengali women still do this with cotton saris, the embroidery thread being taken from the sari border. It started as a method of making quilts, but the same type of embroidery can also be found on saris, salwar suits, stoles, napkins, etc. Themes include human beings, animals, flowers, geometric designs and mythological figures.[2]

Different types include Sujani kantha, Durjani kantha, Lep kantha, Archilata kantha, Rumal kantha and Oaar kantha.


It is a raised zari metallic thread embroidery created by sewing flat stitches on cotton padding. This technique is commonly used for bridal and formal costumes as well as for velvet coverings, tent hangings, curtains and the coverings of animal carts and temple chariots.

Kasuti or Kasuthi (Karnataka)[edit]

(full article here)
Kasuti (Kai=hand and Suti = cotton)comes from the state of Karnataka, but also used elsewhere, as in Kanchipuram sarees. Kasuti is done with single thread and involves counting of each thread on the cloth. The patterns are stitched without knots, so that both sides of the cloth look alike. Stitches like Ganti, Murgi, Neyge and Menthe form intricate patterns like gopura, chariot, palanquin, lamps and conch shells, as well as peacocks and elephants, in fixed designs and patterns.

Kathi (Gujarat)[edit]

Attributed to the Kathi tribes, this technique combines chain stitch, appliqué work and mirror-like insertions.

Kutch or Aribharat or[edit]

The best known of the Kutch embroidery techniques is Aribharat, named after the hooked needle which forms the chainstitch. It is also known as Mochibharat, as it used to be done by mochis (cobblers).[3]

Sindhi stitch or Kutchi bharat (Gujarat)[edit]

A variation of Kutch work, this geometric embroidery starts with a foundation framework of herringbone stitch or Cretan stitch, and then this framework is completely filled with interlacing. It is said that this technique originated in far away land of Armenia and found its way to Gujarat by travelling Nomads. Sindhi stitch or Maltese cross stitch is also similar but the innovation of the Kutchi women have taken it beyond the traditional designs... Kutch work[4]

Kashmiri or Kashida (Kashmir)[edit]

Kashmiri embroidery(also Kashida) is used for phirans (woollen kurtas) and namdahs (woollen rugs)as well as stoles. It draws inspiration from nature. Birds, blossoms and flowers, creepers, chinar leaves, ghobi, mangoes, lotus, and trees are the most common themes. The entire pattern is made with one or two embroidery stitches, and mainly chain stitch on a base of silk, wool and cotton: the colour is usually white, off-white or cream but nowadays one can find stoles and salwar-kameez sets in many other colours such as brown, deep blue, sky blue, maroon and rani pink. Kashida is primarily done on canvas with crystal threads, but Kashida also employs pashmina and leather threads. Apart from clothes, it's found on home furnishings like bed spreads, sofa and floor cushions, and pillow covers.

The base cloth, whether wool or cotton, is generally white or cream or a similar shade. Pastel colors are also often used. The craftsmen use shades that blend with the background. Thread colors are inspired by local flowers. Only one or two stitches are employed on one fabric.

Kashmiri embroidery is known for the skilled execution of a single stitch, which is often called the Kashmiri stitch and which may comprise the chain stitch, the satin stitch, the slanted darn stitch, the stem stitch, and the herringbone stich. Sometimes, the doori (knot) stitches are used but not more than one or two at a time.

  • Sozni embroidery (dorukha) is often done so skillfully that the motif appears on both sides of the shawl with each side having a different color. Consequently, there is no wrong side. This is done by a fine needle and generally a single or at the most double thread is used.
  • 'Papier maché' embroidery. Here flowers and leaves are worked in the satin stitch and employ the bright colors that are found in papier maché objects. Each motif is then outlined in black. This design is employed either in broad panels on both sides of a shawl or on the entire surface of a stole. The final effect of this type of embroidery looks translucent and has a “stained-glass work” look.
  • Aari (hook) embroidery; motifs include the well-known flower design finely worked in concentric rings with the chain stitch. The Aari is a hook needle which gives an even and machine like finish of embroidery. The cloth is firmly set of a wooden frame & the aari is maneuvered over the pre-drawn pattern or design. Thoridaar is yet another variation of the aari work. It is generally the first step to learning the art of hook embroidery.
  • Shaaldaar and Chinar-kaam are other popular forms
  • Kashida is inspired by nature. The designs and colour combinations of motifs and patterns showcase the flora and fauna of Kashmir.

The motifs depict the trees, chinar- maple leaves, lotus, creepers & twigs, flowers, blossoms, badaam (almond), other fruits and birds.

  • Samovar (the antique Kashimiri tea-pot) is a very typical & popular design used in Kashmiri embroidery. The Samovar patter is then filled up with intricate flowers and leaves and twigs.
  • “Kashir-Jaal” implies fine network of embroidery, particularly on the neckline and sleeves of a dress material. “Naala Jaal” implies embroidery particularly on the neckline and chest/yoke, because “Naala” means neck in the Koshur dialect of Kashmiri language.
  • “Jaama” A very dense embroidery covering the whole base fabric with a thick spread of vine/creepers & flowers, badaam and heart shapes, A variation of this form is “Neem-Jaama”, where neem means demi or half, because the embroidery is less dense, allowing a view of the fabric underneath.
  • “Jaal”. It consists of “bel-buti“: a fine and sparse net of vine/creepers & flowers. Variation of this form is “Neem-Jaal”, where again the work is less dense.


Small rectangular pieces of metal are squeezed shut around some threads of the fabric.

Patti Ka Kaam (Uttar Pradesh)[edit]

Done in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.

Phulkari (Punjab and Haryana)[edit]

Phulkari (Phul=flower, Kari=work) is the most famous rural embroidery tradition of Punjab, mentioned in the Punjabi folklore of Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah. Its present form and popularity goes back to 15th century, during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign[5] Phulkari also means headscarf, and it comes from the 19th century tradition of carrying an odhani or a head-scarf with flower patterns. Its distinctive property is that the base is a dull hand-spun or khadi cloth, with bright coloured threads that cover it completely, leaving no gaps. It uses a darn stitch done from the wrong side of the fabric using darning needles, one thread at a time, leaving a long stitch below to form the basic pattern.[6] Famous for Phulkari are the cities of Gurgaon (Haryana), Karnal, Hissar, Rohtak and Delhi
Bagh: An offshoot of phulkari and almost always follows a geometric pattern, with green as its basic colour.

Pichwai (Rajasthan)[edit]

Colourful embroidered cloth-hangings made in Nathdwara, Rajasthan.

Pipli (Orissa)[edit]

Appliqué or Pipli Work originates from the Pipli village in Orissa and some parts of Gujarat. It is based on patchwork: brightly coloured and patterned fabric pieces are sewn together on a plain background. Designs include human forms, animals and vehicles. Originally this technique was used for parasols, canopies and pillows for the Rath Yatra Nowadays different home décor items can be found, such as lamp shades, garden umbrellas and bed covers.

Rabari (Rajasthan and Gujarat)[edit]

This embroidery style is made by the Rabari or Rewari community of Rajasthan and Gujrat. This very colourful embroidery style, using stark contrast was traditionally used only for garments, but now it can be found on bags, accessories, home furnishings, etc. Mirrors of all shapes and sizes are incorporated in the embroidery, as a result of the belief that mirrors protect from evil spirits. Designs include not only flowers and fruit and animals such as parrots and elephants, but also temples, women carrying pots, and the ubiquitus mango shape.

Shamilami (Manipur)[edit]

A combination of weaving and embroidery and was once a high status symbol.

Shisha or Mirrorwork (Gujarat, Rajasthan)[edit]

This ornamentation method originated in Persia during 13th century and involves little pieces of mirror in various sizes which are encased in the decoration of the fabric first by interlacing threads and then with buttonhole stitch.[7] Originally, pieces of mica were used as the mirrors, but later, people started using thin blown-glass pieces, hence the name, which in Hindi means "little glass".[8] Until recently they were all irregular, made by hand, and used mercury, nowadays one can also find them machine made and regularly shaped. It's usually found in combination with other types of stitches like cross stitch, buttonhole stitch and satin stitch, nowadays not only by hand but also by machine. Mirrorwork is very popular for cushion covers and bedcovers, purses and decorative hangings as well as in decorative borders in women's salwar-kameez and sari. There are various types of chikan work: Taipchi, Bakhia, Phunda, Murri, Jaali, Hathkati, Pechni, Ghas Patti, and Chaana Patti.
oda Embroidery:- The Toda embroidery has its origins in Tamil Nadu. The Nilgiri Hills, inhabited by the Todu community have their own style called pugur, means flower. This embroidery, like Kantha, is practiced by women. The embroidery adorns the shawls. The shawl, called poothkuli, has red and black bands between which the embroidery is done. As Todas worship the buffaloes, buffalo becomes an important motif in the Toda embroidery among mettvi kaanpugur, Izhadvinpuguti and others.

Toda Embroidery:- The Toda embroidery has its origins in Tamil Nadu. The Nilgiri Hills, inhabited by the Todu community have their own style called pugur, means flower. This embroidery, like Kantha, is practiced by women. The embroidery adorns the shawls. The shawl, called poothkuli, has red and black bands between which the embroidery is done. As Todas worship the buffaloes, buffalo becomes an important motif in the Toda embroidery among mettvi kaanpugur, Izhadvinpuguti and others.

Zardozi or Zari or kalabattu[edit]

The most opulent form of Indian embroidery is the Zari and the Zardozi, known since the late 16th century, brought in India by the Moghul invaders. The word Zardozi comes from the two Persian words Zar=gold and Dozi=embroidery. This form uses metallic thread. Once real gold and silver thread was used, on silk, brocade and velvet fabric. Metal ingots were melted and pressed through perforated steel sheets to convert into wires, which then were hammered to the required thinness. Plain wire is called "badla:, and when wound round a thread, it is called "kasav". Smaller spangles are called "sitara" and tiny dots made of badla are called "mukais" or "mukeesh".

Zardozi is either a synonym or a more elaborate version of zari where the gold or silver embroidery is embellished with pearls and precious stones, gota and kinari, making this art only affordable by rich people. Nowadays Zardosi thread has a plastic core and a golden-coloured outside. The thread consists of coiled metal wires placed on the right side of the fabric and couched with a thinner thread.

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External links[edit]