‘Phul’ in Hindi is ‘flower’ and the word ‘Kari’ denotes ‘work’; thus ‘Phulkari’ becomes ‘Flower Work’. Basically ‘Phulkari’ indicates ‘flower-work embroidery’, because, embroidery work was mostly done using flower designs during the initial days.
‘Phulkari’ is a typical embroidering style that was conventionally followed by the village female folks of the Eastern and Western Punjab (Eastern Punjab remained in India, while Western Punjab is in Pakistan now). In the earlier period, ‘Phulkari’ had a significant part to play in the lives of all women who lived in this part of the world. It was a customary practice for grandmothers to start organizing the prospective bride’s cloth collection as soon as a girl was born in the family!
It is assumed that the advent of ‘Phulkari’ was in the 15th century, and the period was during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Another prevalent postulation is that ‘Phulkari’ came to India through the ‘Jat’ people who came from Central Asia. It is also said that possibly ‘Phulkari’ came from Iran, where this special art was known as ‘Gulkari’. That being said, the word ‘Phulkari’ is mentioned even in the holy books of Punjab and also in the conventional country songs.
The weaving, dyeing, and embroidery works of ‘Phulkari’ are done randomly within house premises.
The base cloth generally used will be rough cotton cloth like Khaddar. This is because of the involved low expenses.
‘Georgette’ and ‘silk’ cloths are also used to create ‘Phulkari’ in recent times, just because of the popularity of these types of cloths.
The applied stitch for the embroidery work will be generally darning (both long and short) and the length will be approximately ½ cm.
For bringing in varied results, stitches are made in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal ways. Though the color of the used fabric will be brown, white, black, and blue, the standard color will be red.
The generally created designs are ‘birds’, ‘animals’, ‘flowers’, and ‘leaves’, and these are created by imprinting, using a wooden block wherein the desired motifs are carved.
In general, plain silk or cotton is used as the base cloth for creating ‘Phulkari Sarees’; ‘Pat’, which is an ornamental silk thread is used for the embroidery work.
Though the generally employed stitching style is ‘Darning’, varied styles such as ‘Button-hole’, ‘Satin’, ‘Herringbone’, ‘Chain’, ‘Holbein’, ‘Stem’, and ‘Running’ are also used now and then.
An important point to note is that normally the ‘class’ of ‘Phulkari’ is ascertained by inspecting the way of stitching; if close stitches are used, then it is assumed that the ‘Phulkari’ is superior.
You must check the embroidery work with care, for ensuring the quality of ‘Phulkari’ sarees.
These days you can also see machine-made ‘Phulkari’ sarees; they are just artificial sarees that resemble the real ‘Phulkari’.
Visit Sanskriti website;http://www.sanskritivintage.com/ you can very clearly see the close range images and the embroidery patterns of ‘Phulkari’ items
There are diverse categories of ‘Phulkari Sarees’.
Bagh Phulkari: ‘Bagh’ in Hindi is ‘Garden’; in ‘Bagh Phulkari’ sarees, the embroidery work is done right through the whole cloth and hence the actual cloth is imperceptible. This type saree is meant for occasional events.
Chope Phulkari: After the ceremonial wedding day bath, the bride is dressed in this sari; the perceptible peculiarity is that, this saree is made by her mother’s mother. The base color will be maroon and the two sides will have identical designs. The embroidery work will be done using yellow or golden yarn.
Vari-da-Bagh Phulkari: When the bride enters the house of the bridegroom, the bridegroom’s father and mother gift this saree to her. The base cloth will be Khaddar and the color will be orange-red. The embroidery work will be done using either gold, or orange colored threads.
Thirma Phulkari: The base cloth is Khaddar and the color will be white. Generally, widows or old women wear this brand saree. The thread used for the embroidery work will be usually pink or red.
Darshan Dwar Phulkari: This is a specially prepared ‘Phulkari’ and is meant for donating to ‘Gurudwaras’ (the holy place of Sikhs). Different types of designs can be seen in this ‘Phulkari’ such as ‘animals’, ‘flowers’, and ‘humans’.
Sainchi Phulkari: The usage of this one is limited to certain regions of Punjab, and usually the embroidery designs will be that of ‘boxers’, ‘agriculturalists’, ‘rural life’, ‘animals’, etc. However, ‘Sainchi Phulkari’ is hardly seen these days!
Bawan Bagh Phulkari: ‘Bawan’ is a Hindi word, and the meaning is ’52 (fifty two)’. This is a seldom seen ‘Phulkari’, and in this design, there will be 52 diverse kinds of patterns.
A grand banquet is hosted by the female folks of the house where a woman has delivered a girl, and this function initiates the process of making plans for the upcoming bride’s cloth collection.
It is customary for the bride to dress in ‘Phulkari Sari’ while going round the holy fire that is set on the wedding location and also while attending the spiritual functions.
If a boy is born ‘Phulkari’ is given as a present to the mother; similarly, ‘Phulkari’ is also used to cover the dead body of women.