This signature embroidery art of Bhopal has been in practice for over 300 years. It first came to India from Persia, and translates literally to gold embroidery. The original process, known as “kalabatun”, made use of silk threads wrapped in real gold or silver; this thread was then sewn onto different fabrics, along with pearls, beads, sequins etc. During the Mughal era, zardozi was used to embellish tent walls and tapestries, as well as accessories for the elephants and the horses of the royal families.

While the process has now been modernised to a certain degree, the basics have remained the same for centuries. Four major steps are involved in this craft:

First, the design or motif is drawn on a tracing sheet, and holes are punched along these lines. Back in the day, the motifs were very intricate and complex, with themes of flowers and animals. Today, the lines are wider and the designs simpler. Next, the tracing paper is placed on fabric, and wads of cloth doused with a solution of kerosene and robin blue are dabbed on it to transfer the design onto the fabric underneath. The fabric is then placed in a wooden or bamboo frame and stretched, so that every line and curve is clearly visible. The artisans sit around the frame, or “adda”, and begin the painstaking work of embroidery. The final stage involves an “ari”, a crochet-like needle attached to a wooden stick, which can pass threads above and below the fabric. Depending on the detailing required, the artisans can take anywhere between one to 10 days to finish one product.


The heavy and elaborate embroidery makes use of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, and wires. Given the intricacy of the work, zardozi calls for thicker material, like velvet, satin and silk, and the stitches employed are salma-sitara, gijai, badla, katori, and seed pearls. This form of embroidery is generally used to embellish outfits for special occasions. Bhopal is one of the primary centres for zardozi, with workshops across the city employing various karigars (craftsmen). From bags and shoes to clothes, wedding outfits and coats, as well as curtains, cushion covers and belts – everything can be adorned with this craft.