What is Phulkari? It is a flower Shower encapsulated with love, tradition and heritage. 'Phul' means flower and 'Akari' means craft. This is the Punjab’s beloved art form and roots of this embroidery go as far back as 7th Century CE. The ensemble of flower designs on Phulkari has always been the celebration of life and represent the happiness and joy in the daily life of its creator. The silk threads perfectly weave the love put in its creation.
Phulkari has always made its mark in folk legends, and literature of Punjab. The 18th century tale of Heer Ranjha (a legendary Punjabi tragic romance) by Waris Shah beautifully describes the wedding trousseau of Heer and lists her wedding clothings with Phulkari embroidery vividly. Even the folk songs of Punjab embrace the emotions behind every piece of Phulkari dupatta worn by daughters of Punjab.
“Ih phulkari meri maan ne kadhi, iss noo ghut ghut japhiyan paawan” which means “My dear mother has embroidered this phulkari, I embrace it again and again with affection”.
Phulkari was established as an embroidery technique passed on from one generation to the next. Motifs used were an adroit representation of the dear and sundry values of Punjab. Most of the women in villages were exquisite at embroidering the motifs on a cotton or khadi cloth. The first twist in the story came in the 19th century, when the demand for Phulkari in America and Europe saw an exponential increase. Embroidery units in Punjab started getting bulk orders of Phulkari fabrics. To cater to the burgeoning demand, machines took over and patterns were modified to cater to the western customer.
With the division of India and Pakistan, Phulkari again faded into oblivion and was only fabricated for familial customary traditions. However, in past few years, it has again risen as an evergreen art, got incorporated in lives right from the time of birth to all the auspicious occasions in one’s life.
With time, the art has now taken over varied dupattas ranging from Chiffon to Organza. The motifs have become more modernized, spinning dreams in long and short darn stitches to create breathtaking and timeless thread work. It even found its way to Runway in Fashion Week. Famous Indian designer Manish Malhotra came out with its Phulkari collection in 2013 and represented craft of Phulkari in Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2017.
This art form is being redefined by multiple designers at present, however its true place in globalized word will be determined in years to come. In the very words of Manish Malhotra - "With such a profuse vocabulary, Phulkari is a craft waiting to be discovered on the global platform"