From the medieval times the art of Zardozi has flourished, reaching its zenith under the patronage of Emperor Akbar. This gorgeous embroidery reveals artistic use of laid stitch with golden thread. It can be seen in wall hangings, chain stitch on saris, caps and other articles with heavy embroidery. As the embroidery is densely performed, designs done are extremely intricate.

Creation Of Zardozi

The gold wire known as zari is the thread used for zardozi embroidery. The making of zari thread is a very tedious job involving winding, twisting, wire drawing and gold plating of thread. The embroidery of zari zardozi is performed in a very interesting manner. Gold wire is carefully revolved around a silver bar tapered at one end. Then they are heated in furnace till gold and silver alloy is formed. The gilt wire, when drawn through a series of holes made on steel plates, comes out glittering as gold. The gold-coated silver wire is then flattened and twisted around silk thread to obtain zari.

Zardozi has remained as an appliqué method of embroidery. With one hand the craftsman holds a retaining thread below the fabric. In the other he holds a hook or a needle with which he picks up the appliqué materials.

Then he passes the needle or hook through the fabric. After hours of painstaking labor, the result is an exquisite gold-veined work of art.

The Decline

During the rule of Aurangzeb, the royal patronage extended to craftsmen was stopped. Many craftsmen left Delhi to seek work in the courts of Rajasthan and Punjab. The onset of industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries was another setback. Most of the craftsmen turned to other occupations.

Renaissance Of Zardozi

The art of zardozi was revived along with many traditional methods of embroidery in the middle of this century. Zari work was mainly done in Madras and zardozi in Hyderabad until a few decades ago. Today, Uttar Pradesh is home to this finest work of gold and silver embroidery. This craft has caught on to a larger region of Bareilly such as Allampur, Faridpur, Biharkala, Nawabganj and Chandpur.

The non-availability of gold on a large scale became a hurdle in the making of zari threads. The problem was overcome by combining copper wire with a golden sheen and gold colored silk thread.

Another major problem was the availability of skilled zardozi craftsmen. As the craft was on decline, the number of craftsmen decreased, as they had taken on other jobs. But with the revival of the craft, their number began to increase.

Innovations And Success

New designs and products have been introduced apart from the traditional ones. Some of the products are cushion and pillow covers, bedspreads, handbags, sandals and buttons.

Zardozi on kurta-pajamas and chooridar- achkans (tight trousers and men's coat) have gained popularity among the men.

Zardozi-embroidered garments have become quite popular with Indians abroad. Zardozi is also beginning to attract the attention of top fashion designers the world over.

The Present Glory

For the time being, Surat and Banaras remain the principal suppliers of zari material and zardozi crafts. Major handicraft shops sell these embroidered garments, which have become very popular now. Taking orders for embroidery to the customer's specifications is a major development brought into this art by the craftsmen. As a whole, the popularity of this extraordinary craft is quite on rise.

Handicrafts Trade
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