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Meet the Craftsmen of Zardosi

Zardosi was highly praised by the elites of all communities in India, including Hindus, Muslims and Europeans. This fondness for ornate Zardosi work has not wavered with time. Several families in Hyderabad, Lucknow, Jammu, Kashmir, Kolkata, Varanasi, Agra and Delhi are currently involved in reinventing this technique. Zardosi is also combined with Dabka work to produce elegant hybrid creations. Initially zari work was done solely by men, though this tradition is slowly changing with time and in several clusters, 10-15% of the workers are female. Women have been encouraged to take up this skill as a means of further perpetuating the art of Zardosi.

An artisan at work   The Chowk area of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, renowned for Zardosi
L: An artisan at work
R: The Chowk area of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, renowned for Zardosi

Today, the Muslim community is one of the most actively involved in the production and innovation of Zardosi. They pass their wisdom down through generations, training new craftsmen in the skill and the patience required. Nimble fingers, concentration and an eye for intricacy are considered extremely favourable within these communities. Zardosi work is applauded everywhere, and craftsmen continue to incorporate traditional techniques in the creation of Zardosi pieces. There is an increasing demand for Zardosi and this creates availability of work, ensuring that rural craftsmen are able to earn a living. It is common to see younger members of a family work alongside the elder members in a craft where skills are passed down from one generation to the next. For some, it is helpful that work can be commissioned on a full-time or part-time basis. Piece-work is also provided for a contracted amount of embroidered work.

An artisan carefully works on Zardosi embroidery   Craftsmen working with a mounted frame
L: An artisan carefully works on Zardosi embroidery
R: Craftsmen working with a mounted frame

The Geographical Indication Registry (GIR) confirmed the registration of Geographical Indication (GI) for the Zardosi technique of Lucknow. These Zardosi products, produced in Lucknow and six surrounding districts of Barabanki, Unnao, Sitapur, Rae Bareli, Hardoi and Amethi, have been authorised to carry a registered logo to confirm their originality. This has proved to be a huge asset for these producer communities, certifying the uniqueness of their crafts and making them distinct from imitators.

An intricate butterfly motif makes up part of the elaborate patterns
An intricate butterfly motif makes up part of the elaborate patterns


Images: D'source