Example of phulkari, eastern Punjab, Indian subcontinent. Example of phulkari, eastern Punjab, Indian subcontinent. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden, TRC 2017.2772.

Phulkari is a counted thread embroidery technique from the Punjab and neighbouring districts in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The word literally means ‘flower working’. This work is normally carried out by women, sometimes for family members and on other occasions for commercial purposes. The work is carried out in a floss silk thread (pat) on a cotton ground (khaddar) using a darning stitch on the reverse side of the cloth.

The design is worked from the centre (the chashm-e-bulbul) of the ground material outwards. Popular designs include geometric patterns, as well as stylised figurative, animal and plant forms. Traditionally phulkari work was used to decorate shawls, head coverings (odini) and long, wide scarves (dupatta). These embroidered garments were called by the general term phulkari. Those items with a scattering of embroidery were called adha bagh (‘half garden’), while special occasion garments that covered the whole body and that were totally covered in embroidery were called bagh (‘garden’).

Bridal versions were traditionally worked in shades of red, while those worn by widows were in cream or white. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a much wider range of items was being decorated with phulkari, including bags, cushion covers, footwear, jackets and tablecloths.

See also: Gillian Vogelsang and Willem Vogelsang, Encyclopedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian Subcontinent. 2021. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, pp. 270-276.

Online source of illustration (retrieved 17 May 2021).


Last modified on Monday, 17 May 2021 13:09
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