Punjabis are well known for food, clothes and fun in the world. Their culture and heritage are rich. Though Punjab is famous for many things like Golden Temple in Amritsar, Agricultural produce and open heartedness of its residents yet it is also famous for its handicrafts, in the world.
The most popular handicraft of Punjab is Phulkari – a women’s wear.
Phulkari depicts the rich culture of Punjab. Phulkari making is an ancient art-a true folk art. It can also be termed as a domestic art – an art of villages.
In the olden day, the main motive of phulkari was for marriages. It used to be prepared by the family women for their own or for the other members of family.
In the marriages brides were given dozens of different types of phulkari, in dowry. It maintained the status of the family.
Origin of phulkari dates back to 15th century. But in the absence of evidence and documentation it cannot be confirmed. One more theory works that the Jat tribes of East Punjab, basically peasants, migrated from Central Asia were the pioneers of this art.
The theory is believable because bibi Nanki, sister of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, first Sikh guru, used to give embroidered handkerchiefs to her brother.
One more theory works that it had migrated from Persian art where it was known as ‘gulkari’. Gul means flower and kari means work. Phulkari has the same meaning. Bagh is also one form of phulkari.
No doubt phulkari making was a magnificent art technique of Punjab. It was the art of villages.
Phulkari was embroidered on coarse hand woven cloth with floss silk thread which used to come from Kashmir, Afghanistan and Bengal in strands.
The main characteristic of phulkari was the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cloth with colored silken thread.
The women of Punjab really created innumerable, alluring and interesting designs and patterns of their skilful manipulation of the darn stitch.
China also used to supply best quality silk.
In the olden days phulkari basically was a family affair. The village women used to sit together in a common place in the village (known as ‘trinjhan’) where cloth was weaved, thread was manually spinned and dyed with natural colors.
Phulkari has a magnificent place in folk lore also in poems, songs and geets. When women sat in ‘trinjhans’, making phulkari they used to sing collectively.
Types of Phulkari
Bagh ‘the garden’: When whole cloth is covered with embroidery it is called bagh. It could be terms as a technical culmination in the art of phulkari. Only the families having great wealth used to purchased bagh.
Thirma: This type of phulkari was from North Punjab loved by both Hindus and Sikhs. Its white khaddar (coarse cloth) was called Thirma.
Darshan Dwar: The phulkari on which temple or gurdwara was embroidered, to show the deity.
Sainchi phulkari: This phulkari depicted village life. Figures of animals and birds used to be embroidered.
Vari Da bagh: This type of phulkari was to be given to bride by her in-laws. It had sqares on it.
Bawan Bagh: This phulkari had 52 patterns on it
Chope: Chope phulkari used to be provided to the newly born by his or her maternal grandmother. It was also used to wrap the bride after bath.
Surajmikhi: Surajmukhi flowers were the patterns of this phulkari.
Kaudi bagh: Kauries were sometimes used as currency. This phulkari had that.
A seven colored phulkari was known as satrangi.
Til Patra Phulkari: It was embroidered as tills (sesame seeds) have been sprinkled on the cloth.
Neelak phulkari: It was made of a black or red background with yellow or bright red embroidery.
Ghunghat Bagh: This type of phulkari was heavily embroidered around the centre. It is said to be originated in Rawalpindi (in Pakistan).
Chhammas Phulkari: Mirrors are sewn into the cloth with yellow, grey or blue thread.
The types of phulkaries, we have discussed are mostly 50 to 150 years old. In the modern times phulkari has taken shape on shawls, bedsheets, duppatta (Odhnis), shirts and cushions.
Though the real phulkari work was 100-150 years old and has almost disappeared. But it is still alive in Patiala (Punjab). Tripari Saidan is the biggest centre of phulkari.
Actually phulkari work was done by the Hindu community living in Bahawalpur District (in Pakistan). And at the time of partition these Hindus migrated to India. Most of the phulkari workwomen settled in Patiala in Tripari Saidan. Many women are till dedicated to this art and can be seen stitching phulkari in tripari. You can see many shops in Tripari Saidan selling phulkari.
But the oldest and the biggest store is Corner Dupatta Store. The store is being run by Rajesh and Darshna (Husband and wife.).
Now new generations are reluctant to adopt this art as labor is much and money is less.
Phulkari making is in the unorganized sector hence there is no aid from the Government.
Phulkari is exported from Patiala to many countries viz. USA, UK, Canada, Australia and where Punjabis are settled.
If you want to purchase phulkari you are welcome to visit Patiala. Phulkari rates are reasonable in Patiala. Moreover you are also welcome to bargain. If your bargain power is high you can purchase at reasonable rates also.
How to reach Patiala?
Patiala is 250 km away from Delhi and is well connected by road and Railway. After reaching on bus stand Patiala, you can hire a autorickshaw for Tripri Saidan. You can visit any of the phulkari centers in Tripri Saidan
Corner Dupatta Store
Rana phulkari center
Shammi Cloth Store.
N.B.I have also produced a documentary on phulkari, which is under post-production.
International Travel Writer & photo journalist
8A/37, Anand Nagar – B, Patiala (Punjab)