Chikankari Revival: How Lucknow Rediscovered Its Heritage Embroidery

Chikankari embroidery is a traditional hand embroidery style that originated in Lucknow, India, during the Mughal era. It is known for its fine needlework, delicate floral and paisley motifs, and use of white thread on white fabric. Chikankari embroidery has been an integral part of Lucknow's cultural heritage, but it declined in the 20th century due to various factors. 

However, in recent years, chikankari embroidery has undergone a revival in Lucknow, and this blog will explore the factors that contributed to its resurgence.

Historical background of chikankari

Chikankari embroidery has a rich historical background in Lucknow, dating back to the Mughal era. The Mughals brought chikankari to Lucknow, and it quickly gained popularity among the royalty and nobility. Chikankari embroidery was predominantly used to adorn traditional North Indian attire, such as flowing kurtas and dupattas, as well as household items, such as curtains, tablecloths, and napkins.

However, during the British colonial era, chikankari embroidery faced a setback as machine-made products from England replaced Indian handicrafts. Despite this, a few skilled artisans continued to practice the craft and kept the art of chikankari embroidery alive, albeit it went largely unnoticed by the masses.

Kubra Chikankari Modal Straight Kurta

Factors that contributed to the revival of chikankari

Factors that contributed to the revival of chikankari

Chikankari embroidery has seen a remarkable revival in recent years, owing to several factors. A significant contributor has been the growing fascination among consumers for handmade and traditional crafts, resulting in an increased demand for authentic and distinctive products, including chikankari.

Furthermore, the Indian government has initiated promoting handicrafts, including chikankari embroidery, by establishing several craft organisations and programs. 

These initiatives provide artisans with learning opportunities and tools to promote their art work to reach a wider customer base.

Designers and the fashion industry have also played a crucial role in reviving chikankari embroidery by integrating it into their collections and showcasing its versatility and beauty. This exposure has helped raise awareness about embroidery and increase its popularity.

Finally, social media has played a significant role in the resurgence of chikankari embroidery. 

These factors have brought new opportunities for artisans to display their skills and sell their products. Nevertheless, some challenges must be addressed to ensure the continued success and growth of the chikankari industry.

Chikankari Today: Examples of its use in fashion and design

The art of Chikankari embroidery has evolved significantly from its original form to its current state. Traditional white embroidery still holds cultural and aesthetic significance, but many contemporary designers have begun using this art form with bright colours and bold patterns to show the versatility of their work. Chikankari embroidery can now be seen on a variety of fabrics, opening up new markets for traditional craftspeople.

Lucknowi chikankari is the most widely acclaimed style of embroidery that uses popular chikankari motifs—including flowers, paisleys, and leaves in white thread on white fabric. The intricate work gives it a delicate and detailed finish.

Mukaish embroidery is another style of chikankari, in which small metal wires or twisted threads are inserted into the fabric to create intricate designs that give the embroidery a shimmering effect—perfect for formal wear.

Phulkari embroidery is a regional variation of chikankari embroidery originating in Punjab. Bold floral designs characterise it in bright colours on a coloured fabric. Phulkari embroidery is often used in bridal wear and symbolises a woman's marital status.

Chikankari embroidery has also been incorporated into home decor and lifestyle products. From tablecloths to cushion covers, chikankari embroidery can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any room.

Nabiha Chikankari Modal Straight Kurta

Challenges and Opportunities for chikankari artisans

The art of chikankari, in which intricate and elegant patterns are embroidered on textiles by hand, is facing challenges due to increased competition from machine-produced copies. Artisans have had to speed up their work—resulting in lower-quality designs or inferior imitations that do not reflect the true cultural heritage

However, chikankari artisans have benefited from the popularity of handmade and traditional chikankari crafts, which has increased interest in their embroidery. With the help of a government programme that supports works of craftsmen in rural areas, chikankari artists have been able to make their way to new markets.

In order for chikankari to survive, traditional craftsmanship must be preserved and promoted. Many organisations are taking steps to train and educate young artisans in the methods and techniques of embroidery. By supporting this heritage style and creating a demand for handcrafted textiles, the industry can continue to thrive while also offering employment opportunities to people in the region.

To expand their reach, traditional chikankari artisans can team up with designers who use their work in clothing and accessories. By reintroducing people living abroad to the art form through these products, its popularity will grow among Western audiences—and eventually new customers for embroidery manufacturers back home.

Despite traditional artisans' challenges in maintaining their skills and competing with cheaper copies, there are also growth opportunities. With government support, the fashion industry's interest in chikankari embroidery can help to keep it thriving as an essential part of Lucknow's cultural heritage.


The chikankari revival in Lucknow is a testament to the resilience of traditional crafts and the importance of preserving cultural heritage. The revival of chikankari embroidery has provided livelihoods for artisans and contributed to the city's cultural and economic growth.

As consumers, we can support the chikankari industry by purchasing ethically made products and supporting local artisans. With the right support and encouragement, chikankari embroidery will continue to thrive and evolve, preserving the rich cultural heritage of Lucknow for generations to come.

FAQs' about Chikankari Revival

What is the heritage of Chikankari?

Chikankari is an old textile art form practised in India since the 16th century. It originated in Lucknow, known as "chikan", and later spread across the country and became popular as "Chikankari". The word "chikan" comes from Persian and means embroidery on cloth.

What is the history of Lucknowi embroidery?

The art form developed in Lucknow during the 16th century and became popular as "Chikankari" around the 18th century. Lakhnavi Chikan was a style of embroidery prevalent in  Lucknow, which later spread across India and got popularised as Chikan Embroidery.

Who introduced Chikankari embroidery?

The art of Chikankari embroidery was brought to India by the Mughals from Persia.

What is special about Chikankari embroidery?

Chikankari embroidery, originating in Lucknow, India and dating back to the 16th century, is a form of needlework using intricate white stitching on fine muslin or cotton fabric. The designs often feature floral patterns and motifs inspired by Mughal architecture.

What is the embroidery technique of Lucknow called?

The embroidery technique is called Chikankari. The word ‘Chikan’ is derived from Persian and means embroidered gold thread.

Where did Lucknowi Chikankari come from?

Chikankari embroidery has its roots in Mughal architecture. It was developed by the royal court during the 16th century and passed down through generations of artisans until it became an integral part of Lucknow’s culture.


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