A delicate hand embroidery technique done on fabrics like chiffon, muslin, organza, organdie and silk, chikankari is one of the most important crafts in Lucknow. The word 'chikan' means embroidery, and this form of art incorporates 36 different stitching techniques. In the beginning, only white yarn or muslin cloth was used. Stitching is done on the back of the cloth whereas the design is made on the front by tiny, running stitches. There are three main types of stitches – flat, embossed, and jaali (net effect). Due to a Persian influence, flowers have a permanent place in this art form. Typical chikankari motifs include creepers and vines. However, the types and styles in which these flowers are made keep varying with fashion trends. Today, there are hundreds of retailers of chikankari fabric across the country. In Lucknow, the lanes of markets are dotted with shops selling chikan work in various forms. You can pick up shirts, kurtas, bedsheets, table cloth, pillow covers and many other items adorned in chikankari. 

The technique is supposed to have been introduced by Mughal empress, Nur Jahan, in the 17th century.  Another legend speaks of a thirsty traveller, who stopped at a village in Lucknow, and requested a villager for water. Humbled by the villager’s hospitality and generosity, he imparted the skill of chikankari to him as an act of gratitude. 

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