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Mukaish, Kamdani or Badla – traditional embellishment techniques

Indian traditional apparel and costumes, specially the ones made for festive occasions tend to be heavily embellished. Some like it extra ‘heavy’ and some like it ‘light’, but very few people can steer clear of the golden lure! As a little girl, my sister was fascinated by gold work too, which she called ‘chamki’ work. Once, she bought a grey coloured saree for my mother with clusters of gold spangles on it. Little did I know then, that the delicately shimmering work was kamdani embroidery, also called badla work, ‘mukaish’ or ‘fardi ka kaam’!

A little about Badla/ Kamdani

Badla/ Kamdani is essentially a metal work technique (some people refer to it as  metal applique).  A flattened metallic wire, called ‘badla taar’ is pierced through the cloth or threaded with a needle and twisted to create patterns. Referred to as ‘sachcha kaam’, real silver and gold were used for this work. However,  a variety of threads and metals are used now. There are very few artisans left who practice this craft, and most of them are elderly craftsmen. Women generally stick with the ‘fardi-ka-kaam’ , but don’t seem to be keen on the complex kamdani work. The worrying thing is that the younger generation doesn’t seem to be latching onto this wonderful craft form either.

Kamdani work had flourished under the Mughal ruler,  Akbar. The artisans were patronised and encouraged to come up with new designs. However, it saw a decline under Aurangzeb’s rule. Then, this work saw a revival under the Nawabs of Awadh, who were extremely fond of gold and heavily embellished clothes. Kamdani work is now done in various regions of the country, like Lucknow (where it is also called Mukaish), Bhopal, Udaipur and Jaipur, Kashmir and Hyderabad – each with their own iterations and styles that have been developed over the years.

The Process

After the pattern is traced onto the cloth using a mix of ‘neel’ powder and gum,  the flattened metallic wires or ‘badla’ begin creating magic. There are predominantly two kinds of this work:

  • The ‘Fardi ka kaam’ stitches are primarily used to create ‘tikki’ or dots, which most people relate to as ‘Mukaish’ work and ‘challa’ or ring shape. They are typically spread all over the odhni, saree or apparel in a symmetrical fashion or in different shapes. The density of the dots or ‘danas’ vary based on the desired effect of the design – like the 1000 dana is referred to as ‘hazara buti’ in Lucknow.
  • Another kind of work that is popular is called the ‘Vasli ka kaam’ or ‘Dhok ka kaam’ . This is done to create a slightly raised effect to the embroidery, using different names for the different patterns that are created (like patta/patti, ornia, salami and a few more). The motif/pattern is filled with the ‘badla’ wire in either straight or angular stitches, that has been raised slightly using cardboard or even x-ray sheets and covered completely.

Once the work is finished, the right side of the fabric is turned facing down and then smoothened by rubbing with a ‘cowrie’ shell. This step ensures that the metallic work is set in the fabric and is smooth enough for the wearer.

Where have you seen this work before?

Perhaps seen ‘Kamdani’ or ‘Badla’ work paired with other techniques of embroidery, like Zardosi (Remember, those very popular Zardosi work lehngas for the bride?).  ‘Mukaish’  work accentuating a Chikankari saree or kurta too is a common sight. We did write about Chikankari earlier; have a read about it here. Trying to place where you have come across this in the past? Well, these are the different styles and combinations we spotted:

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Beautiful lucknowi chikankari paired with fine detailing in Badla work – from the House of Kotwara. Image via

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Buy some stunning Lucknawi Chikankari dress material with badla work from Dress 365days. Image via

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Elegance, simplicity with a touch of gold. Tussar sarees with delicate Badla work, available on Jaypore. Image via

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Stunning Badla work on a Manish Malhotra ensemble. Image via 1, 2

From the subtle to the bold, you will find a variety of ‘kamdani’ or ‘badla’ work. So next time you are looking to accentuate your dupatta or saree with a bit of shimmer and shine – try to get a ‘border’ or motifs of ‘badla’ work, if getting a custom-made outfit seems a bit complex. Remember, less is more, always!

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Badla work border on velvet – attached to a plain chanderi saree. Created by Rohit Bal. Image via

Afzal Miyan Karchobwale, a famous lace centre in Lad Bazar, Hyderabad has some exquisite borders in ‘badla’ work, in addition to zardosi and the ‘lampi’ work. In fact, it is a go-to place for leading design houses

Say ‘yes’ to a bit of shimmer and shine with the ancient ‘badla’ work! Try your hand at it, or how about bringing this work home. Embrace our traditional skills, help them stay alive….be notjustashopper!

Nupur

Key References:
  1. Jewelled Textiles:  Gold and Silver Embellished Cloth of India by Dr. Vandana Bhandari
  2. D’Source [Internet]:  

Cover image credits: 1, 2, 3