Phulkari: Punjab’s pride

Phulkari from the wonderful land of Punjab shouts out joy, happiness, laughter, colour, togetherness and endless love….People of Punjab have been weaving the most magical craft stories for centuries . A colourful Phulkari scarf worn across a Parisian white top never fails to brighten up my day. Does it have the same effect on you?

What does Phulkari mean to you?

To me, until not so long ago,  it meant chiffon dupattas covered in colourful embroidery and, of course, I had to have one too, so, I bought a hand-made one, inspired by Kareena Kapoor (of Bollywood fame) in the film ‘Jab we met’, wearing this gorgeousness. Apologies, I digress.

What really is Phulkari?

Essentially, it simply translates to flower work. The word Phulkari is an amalgamation of two Sanskrit words “phul” meaning, flower and “kari” which means, work.  This style of embroidery (where you embroider on the wrong side of the material) dates way back to the 15th century and thankfully is still loved and growing strong today.

Phulkari is more than just ‘Bagh’

Well, a lot of different types of Phulkari exist,  not just ‘Bagh’ that most of us are familiar with! So, a little explanation about each one of is given right here:

  1. Bagh  – Heavily embroidered with flowers aka as in a garden, covering the fabric with the patterns
  2. Kaudi Bagh – Believed to signify fertility and was traditionally draped by women, who were trying for a baby
  3. Panchrangha Bagh – Simply translates to the ‘Bagh’ being created using ‘Panch’ aka five colours
  4. Vari-Da-Bagh – ‘Vari’ aka a gift. The only Phulkari that did not form a part of the dowry package given to the girl,  but instead was gifted by the in-laws
  5. Bawan Bagh – ‘Bawan’ meaning fifty-two; In this fifty-two different patterns were created on one single Phulkari
  6. Chope – The grandmother gifts this special Phulkari to the bride-to-be before the wedding ceremony.  It’s made using the auspicious golden or the yellow thread
  7. Sainchi – Patterns in this particular style of Phukari simply demonstrate life as it was in the South-East of Punjab, with a references to cattle, village life and transportation
  8. Thirma  – This Phulkari, showing Hindu as well as Sikh traditions, was from the North of Punjab and another one, that is loved by the collectors
  9. Darshan Dwar – This was created in the Eastern parts of Punjab and was offered as a ‘thank you’ gesture to the Gods
  10. Meenakari Bagh – As the name suggests, this Phulkari depicted the traditional jewellery style ‘Meenakari’ using golden and white threads
  11. Surajmukhi – This uses an unique combination of stitches and is gifted to the mother on the occasion of the birth of a son

Now, for some people who encourage the use of this craft actively:

Kanika Goyal

Kanika uses Phulkari in her collection but in fairly non-traditional ways.  Apart from making use of artisans to create this magical style of embroidery,  she is working actively on empowering the artisans involved with Phulkari, to further hone their skills and provide the support needed to make them independent, while helping them preserve their heritage and culture.

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Kanika Goyal working with Phulkari artisans to empower them: Sold by: Kanika Goyal
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Phulkari, but not as you know it; Sold by: Kanika Goyal

Harinder Singh and Kirandeep Kaur, founded this organisation and set themselves a task of firstly, collecting and preserving vintage pieces of Phulkari, and secondly, of working in parallel to improve the efficiency levels and quality of the Phulkari. Along with an Art Historian, Dr. Alka Pande, they organise an event called the ‘Mela Phulkari’ at the Indian Habitat Centre in New Delhi annually. Click here to book tickets for this event.

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Phulkari and Bagh are mainly created and used by Women; Picture courtesy: 1469
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Beautiful  Phulkari embroidery on cotton; Sold by: 1469
Helping Hands

Several organisations, such as Phulkari India (click here to read about them),  are working closely with artisans to keep this beautiful craft alive and strong.

Also, names such as Rekha Mann and Lily Dhaliwal are mentoring artisans too. Read about these wonderful people, right here, at the LifeStyle Journalist.

Celebrate the beautiful craft and colours from the land of Punjab…own a Phulkari, Be Notjustashopper!

See Also

Shilpa xx


Cover Image: via Pinterest



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