Chikankari is a delicate embroidery technique more than 200
years old. The design was marked with wooden blocks using
removable pigment. Today colors and different types of
fabric are used in addition to the traditional white thread
stitched onto white cotton fabric. The word chikan comes
from the Persian word chikaan meaning drapery. Some sources
attribute the origins of the craft to East Bengal where the
word chikan means fine. Chikan was first referred to in the
third century B.C. in the records of Megasthanese, a Greek
traveler. There is also reference to the craft flourishing
under the Nawabi influence where a seamstress from
Murshidabad embroidered a cap for the Nawab that strarted a
local fashion trend. There are no surviving samples of early
garments. They were so delicate that after two washes they
had to be discarded. With the British influence,
formalization of the designs started taking place and home
linen started being made. Among the motifs used, the fish
was the most common and was also the emblem of the court of
Who practices this craft?
The craft originated in Lucknow, earlier known as Oudh or
Awadh. More recently, chikan is also being done in other
areas of the country, including Delhi. Each type of
Chikankari stitch is very unique, and is used to achieve
specific visual effects. Craftsmen specialize in particular
stitches; the same person will never do a jaali work and a
What materials and tools are used in this craft?
Tools: Chhapas (blocks for printing),
needles, embroidery frames;
Materials: Fugitive colors, kachcha dhaga
or lachchis (thread), fabric.
What is the Craft process?
The tailor cuts the fabric into the required shape.
Then a quick running stitch is done to give the block printer an idea of the
placement of the designs to be printed.
The designs are printed on the semi-stitched garment with blocks using
fugitive colors. The cloth to be printed is spread out on the table. Then, the
printer dabs the block on the tray of color and places it on the fabric, banging
it with his fist. He repeats the process as he moves along the fabric.
The embroidery is done on the printed designs. Different people specializing
in different kinds of stitching contribute to the finished embroidery.
This is very important. After the garment goes through the
preceding steps it becomes so dirty that the finer flaws are
not seen unless it is washed.
Clipping extra threads, fixing any flaws, and putting
finishing touches on garments are some of the final steps.
Producer Groups practicing Chikankari
Product categories made with Chikankari