India has many locations of heirloom excellence where unique and exquisite craftsmanship has flourished over the ages and continue to enthrall as traditional art that has seamlessly fused with trending tastes to appear on fashion fabrics. A fine example of such would be the Phulkari and Bagh; an ethnic offering from Punjab. |
Bagh meaning garden or place filled with flowers is dense embroidery work on Punjabi women’s fabrics worn on special occasions. Bagh is an extension of Phulkari or “flower work” embroidery that rural women in Punjab engage in, in their spare time. Fabrics like odhni, the head cloth or shawl that forms part of a routine Punjabi woman’s attire apart from the salwar and kameez, are generally the canvas for Phulkari. Bagh is embroidery on dresses worn on special occasions like weddings, religious rites and traditional festivals.
Bagh is heavy embroidery spread densely on the whole fabric body so that the base fabric is barely visible while Phulkari has evenly distributed motifs and exquisite panel borders embroidered on the fabric. In Bagh the border would be a part of the main theme, while in Phulkari it would be different.
The embroidery is generally done on a heavy plain cotton fabric called Khaddar. It is done on the wrong side of it using costly floss silk called Pat. The patterns are never drawn beforehand and the threads have to be counted to get the design accurately. The densely packed floral design and other themes of everyday life hand embroidered by the womenfolk who engage in it, sometimes takes upto a year to complete.
The colours of the Khaddar are generally white, red, black and blue. Darning is the most commonly used technique to make the pattern. The width of a stitch would determine the quality of the phulkari or bagh work - narrower the stitch finer the work. For more complicated or unusual designs or for the borders, the herringbone stitch, the running stitch, Holbein stitch or buttonhole stitch are used.
The colour of the Pat is generally gold and silvery white symbolizing the harvest and wild flowers. Some Bagh types are Vari-da-bagh, Meenakari Bagh, Bawan Bagh, Kaudi Bagh, Pancharanga Bagh.
Nowadays embroidery is mostly done on the right side of the cloth only owing to the cost of silk, which has become a necessity, and has to be saved and used sparingly. The economic status of the family is roughly gauged from the amount of Pat that is used.
But weddings and traditional festivals are the two occasions when such considerations are pushed aside and the silk Pat finds its way to its customary place to make the fabrics on display stun onlookers with the resplendent finery.
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