UTTAR PRADESH A Rainbow Land

had been to other countries – in Europe, Asia and the Middle East – but none of them had provided even half as much variety, or so much to see and experience and remember, as this one State in northern India. You can travel from one end of Australia to the other and would notice a colourless uniformity which is apparent in many other countries of the world, both East and West. But Uttar Pradesh is a world in itself.

Popularly known as shadow work, Chikankari embroidery is a very delicate and intricate work from the city of Lucknow. A skill more than 200 years old, the embroidery is famous for its timeless grace ethereal essence, the delicacy and lightness of pattern, the minuteness of the stitches and the rich textures, lights and shadows of the whole. As per a popular narrative, the credit for introducing the art of Chikan embroidery to Lucknow goes to the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan, who was of Persian lineage. She was so enchanted with the jaali and delicate flowery designs from Isfahan, the Persian capital celebrated for the exquisite ornamentations on its buildings, that she ordered these designs to be replicated on wooden blocks, printed on cloth and embroidered on finest muslin.

THE EMBROIDERY PROCESS

The Lucknow chikankari technique can be divided in two parts – the pre- and the post-preparation stages. The pre-work involves determining of the design and engraving the same onto wooden block stamps. These stamps are then used for block printing the design onto the cloth with the help of neel and safeda dyes. The cloth is then cut
according to the form that the garment is supposed to take.

Then comes the embroidery process, where the fabric is set in a small frame, part by part, and needlework begins to trace the ink patterns. The type of stitches used depends on the type and size of the motifs. Some of the most popular stitches are the backstitch, chain stitch and hemstitch.

CHANGE IN TRADITION

Started as a white-on-white embroidery form, over the past two centuries, Lucknow Chikan has evolved several distinct forms and embraced the use of colours. Initially, the favoured fabric was muslin as it was best suited to the warm, slightly humid climate. Today, the fabric has been swapped for lighter fabrics like cotton, silk, chiffon, organza and net. Floral patterns and chikankari go hand in hand. Due to its strong Persian influence, flowers have always been a staple with stems, buti and leaves added in to complete the design. Other motifs include embellishments like Mukaish, Kamdani, Badla as well as sequin, bead and mirror work, all of which give the simple work a richer look.

Varanasi has long been famous for its Brocades and Saris. The weavers of Varanasi are internationally renowned for creating some of the most beautiful masterpieces.

Banaras silk is mentioned in the Rig Veda and Buddhist history texts, which, together with images from the Mughal court, provide clues to its evolution. Embroidered silk material from Varanasi has been one of the most popular art forms from the Mughal period (16th century). The exquisite fabric is produced by weaving with warp & weft threads of different colours.

THE WEAVERS

The Sarai Mohana village is the weavers’ village known for its silk weaving. The Banarasi saris made by these weavers are known as the finest saris in India. A tour of the village offers a sneak peek into the craftsmanship of the weavers with their dissimilar design. The weavers work hard on designing these saris to maintain their individuality. A masterpiece of the sari requires 15 days to one month and sometimes up to six months to complete.

DESIGN

Banarasi Saris are known for their pictorial stories; the motifs on saris present a history book of influences — Persian and Mughal and Hindu culture. One can find motifs like asharfi (coin-shape), gaindaphool (marigold flower), chand-tara (moon and star), lateefa (floral bouquet), etc. Based on the type of motif or pattern weaved on to the textile, various varieties of Banarasi saris are available.

Top fashion designers of India have also come together to recreate the magic of Banarasi weaves with a contemporary twist. They help in reviving and sustaining this age old tradition.

The home to the largest hand-knotted carpet weaving industry, Bhadohi has carved a niche in the weaving industry through the most famous types and intriguing designs. Also known as the ‘Carpet City’, the place is the biggest carpet manufacturing centre in India.

The weaving of carpets dates back to the 16th century during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. The Iranian weavers stopped at Madhosingh village in Bhadohi while travelling to India. They had subsequently set up looms and manufactured the first carpet in the country. The place is a hub of various types of carpets including Cotton Dhurries, Chhapra Mir carpets, Abusan, Persian, Loribaft, Indo- Gabbeh and the recent shaggy type carpets. Bhadohi is not just famous for woollen carpets, the weavers also use twisted cotton threads for producing handmade carpets.

The hand-knotted carpet manufactured on a vertical wooden loom is one the most prominent ones. The designs depict flowers, animals, garden and tree in various hues and shades to liven up the space. The process of carpet making is not an easy task. It involves a number of steps like picking and sorting, carding and spinning, dyeing, weaving, trimming and washing. The desired design is a cue for choosing the colour of the dye. The dyed yarns are then weaved into carpets on the looms present in weavers’ home or weaving looms taken on rent on contract basis.
The speciality of carpets in Bhadohi is their individual design developed by native weavers which has been famous worldwide since age.

When nearly 400 factories, making ceramic items, such as sanitary goods, electrical goods, tableware and decorative ware dot a place, you know you are in Khurja! Considered one of the oldest Pottery Centres, the art of pottery of the places has two tales to tell. One legend says that Afghan King, Taimur Lung accompanied Egyptian and Syrian potters during his campaign in the Khurja region over 500 years ago. The second legend states that potters had been moved to the region during Mughal Empire. Several steps go into making the beautiful pieces of art. Initially, the clay batter is created and made into circular sheets which are churned to a uniform mix. The mix is made into cakes and transferred to hand set into different moulds to give it shapes of mugs, bowls, etc.

The clay form is taken out from the cavity and taken to the artists who add colour to the pieces. The paint is then left to dry and further sent to kiln for baking. The pottery is done with relief work using earth colours like orange, brown, and terracotta on to a white background. The new contemporary designs have also fetched a lot of buyers. If you are a pottery lover, Khurja is a must-visit for you.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is littered with treasure trove that has an interesting historic trail, once such fine example is the pottery craftsmen of Nizamabad town in the Azamgarh District of Uttar Pradesh. The pottery is famous for its illustrious black sheen and rich history. The distinctive colour can be credited to the process in which the articles are fired in enclosed kiln with rice husks. The smoke generated in the process imparts the black colour. Designs are etched on the dry surface, which are then filled with silver paint that is made from zinc and mercury. To lend a glossy look to the products, some vessels are coated with lacquer when they are hot. The final work stands out for its striking design of flowing silver floral pattern.

The potters make tea-pots, sugar-bowls and other decorative articles. The earthen wares and statues of Gods and Goddesses particularly of Ganesh, Laxmi, Shiva, Durga and Saraswati are also made.

This unique art has its roots in the Kutch region of Gujarat, where it’s believed to have been brought to Nizamadad during the Mughal Emperor Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad era almost 400 years ago. The Mughal Emperor invited the potters from Gujarat to come and live in Hanumantgarh city, the name was later changed to Nizamabad and offered land to stay in. Since the town was surrounded by four lakes and were linked together with underground pathways and in order that the ladies of the town could bath in private, the potters were asked to make potteries for pouring and holding water. Over time their pottery style gradually became influenced by Muslim aesthetic form with highly intricate silver inlay incorporated into their pottery.

Multitude of fragrance waft in the air as you enter the city of Kannauj. The city, also referred to as the ‘Perfume Capital of India’ has a long history of manufacturing perfumes and trading fragrances with the Middle Eastern countries. Kannauj manufactures traditional Indian perfume called Kannauj Ittar.

Not only for manufacturing, the city was also known for distilling natural fragrance in the ancient times. Perfume makers at Kannauj still use the age old method of extraction being followed for hundreds of years. The art of perfumes is presumed to have been passed from various generations. The city produces only six types of perfumes like rose, bela, mogra, mehndi, hina shamama and mitti. They are manufactured from naturalingredients like flowers including white jasmine, vetiver, rose, sandalwood and other aromatic substance like camphor, musk, and saffron. New fragrances are made by mixing the traditional ones.

The perfume makers in Kannauj follow the century-old method of extracting perfume. The method involves boiling flowers in a copper vessel and condensing the vapours with cold water. Each bottle of perfume at least needs production time of about 15 days. The manufactured perfumes have no alcohol or chemicals added. The ittars are meant to be applied directly on the body to last much longer. If you are travelling to Uttar Pradesh, visit the Perfume Capital and grab your share of innovative perfumes.

Ruskin Bond

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