India has been blessed with artists who create finest of handicrafts that are renowned across the world. Uttar Pradesh is no different with artists and artisans specialised in different forms of art from Agra to Varanasi. Mughals ruled major parts of UP for over two centuries which impacted the artwork. The Nawabs were believed to have great taste and appreciation of art which led to further development of the craftsmanship in the region. Even today UP is home to several different handicrafts which are exported across the nation and the world. If you’re in Lucknow, you’re in for a treat – the bazaars in the city will give you a bird’s eye view of all the beautiful handicrafts that Uttar Pradesh has to offer. Be sure to book a taxi service in Lucknow and explore all the bazaars.
Lucknow Chikan Work
Chikan work has a long history that goes back to the early third century during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. Chikan literally means embroidery, but the Chikan work involves 36 different types of stitches. It is a multistep process, with the first step being cutting of the cloth as per the desired shape. It is followed by block printing the core design on which the artist would complete the embroidery. Later, it is washed to remove the ink of the printed pattern. Some of the most common stitches include the Jali, Tepchi, Murri, Pashni, and Khatao. Chikan Kurti and Lucknow Chikan sarees are particularly popular.
The existence of Zardozi goes even far beyond the kings to the times of Rigveda. Yes, the art is that old. Zardozi entails metal embroidery using silver and metal threads. The process of Zardozi embroidery is quite complicated and involves numerous tools. The craftsman works around a wooden frame with his tools which include needles, hooks, glass & plastic beads, gold wires, silver wires, and threads. In UP, you can buy products such as coats, dresses, sarees, pants, etc. with Zardozi work on it, of course, minus the gold or silver embroidery. A few select places also sell exquisite zardozi embroidery designs made from real silver and gold but be prepared to shell out a bomb for these.
Meenakari work is a Persian art that was introduced in India by Mughal invaders. Predominantly seen in Rajasthan in combination with other artwork, it is also practiced by artisans in Varanasi. The artisans who practice the art are known as Meenakars, and it is passed down from one generation to another. Coming back to the art, it involves engraving ornaments with colored enamels to create an appearance of a complete picture. Meenakari jewelry goes through a chain of artisans each of whom completes one task and hands it over to the next person. This is probably one of the earliest examples of division of labor and super-specialization. Meenakari earrings and meenakari paintings are particularly popular.
Zar Buland work
Image source: Flickr
Zar Buland work was developed in Lucknow by introducing variations in existing Bidri work of Karnataka. It is an art of coating one metal over another resulting in a beautiful finished product. The designs in Zar Buland work are above the surface as opposed to Bidri work where it is inlaid. The process as in every artistic work is long and involves steps such as molding, polishing, carving, engraving, and darkening. The Zar Buland work is still famous in the Lucknow, and you can buy souvenirs at a decent price.
India has been a prime producer of natural fragrances including the Attar perfume- also known as Ittar ever since civilization began. Attar is a scented oil that is derived from plants via distillation and then adding it to sandalwood oil which acts as a base. This mixture is then aged for a period varying from a few months to several years. The town of Kannauj in UP is the present perfume capital of India that is trying to keep the art alive while fighting the competition from modern fragrance makers. When you in UP, buy few bottles of attar to keep a civilization old Indian tradition alive.