Zardozi embroidery is a form of beautiful metal embroidery, which once used to embellish the attire of the Kings and the royals in ancient and medieval India. Zardozi or Zar-douzi is an elaborate style of hand embroidery popular in Iran, India and Pakistan.
This exquisite embroidery work was also used once to adorn walls of the royal tents, scabbards, wall hangings and the paraphernalia of regal elephants and horses in India.
Zardozi embroidery work involves making elaborate designs, using gold and silver threads. Further adding to the magnificence of this work are the studded pearls and precious stones.
Zardozi embroidery has been in existence in India from the time of the Rig Veda. There are numerous instances in ancient India mentioning the use of Zari or ‘Gold and Silver Thread’ embroidery as ornamentation on the attires of Hindu gods. Initially, the embroidery was done with pure gold wires and real gold leaves. However, today, craftsmen make use of a combination of copper wire, with a golden or silver polish, and a silk thread, the reason being the rare availability of gold/silver on such large scales today as in olden days.
Main Centers of Zardozi embroidery in India are Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Delhi, Agra, Kashmir, Mumbai, Ajmer and Chennai. The word ‘Zardozi’ is made up of two Persian terms, Zar meaning gold and Dozi meaning embroidery.
Zardozi attained its summit in India in the 17th century, under the patronage of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Under the rule of Aurangzeb, the royal patronage stopped and this led to the decline of the craft. Since the cost was high and raw materials quite rare, craftsmen could not carry on with the embroidery on their own. Many brilliant craftsmen left Delhi and went to the royal courts of Rajasthan and Punjab in search of work.
With the 18th and 19th century bringing industrialization, the craft suffered another setback. It was only after Indian independence in the year 1947 that the Indian government undertook measures to promote Zari embroidery and revive it once again.
Zardozi in India attained its fame and popularity through Mughal patronage.The Zardozi garments worn by the royal Begums of the Mughal courts were as priceless as they were exquisite.Those days pure gold was beaten into fine metal thread and this thread was used to embroider motifs on silk, satin and velvet fabric. This was further enhanced with the addition of precious gems such as diamonds, emeralds, and pearls and then sewn into the fabric as part of the embroidery.
Zardozi is a very ancient craft and one of the oldest forms of hand embroidery starting from Rig Vedic period in ancient India. Today, Zardozi is part of high fashion. One can see this form of exquisite embroidery in European fashion shows. It’s now exported to many countries from India. Zardozi has also found its way these days into accessories like designer bangles, handbags and even shoes. We even see Zardozicushion covers and draperies these days. But there is also a flip side. We often see fraudulent people trying to pass off machine embroidery as handmade Zardozi these days. This is a very disturbing trend.
Agra, Jaipur, Lucknow, Delhi, Banares and Bareilly are the hubs for original handmade Zardozi work, each place having its own style and own techniques. The Zardozi products manufactured in areas like Lucknow and six surrounding districts of Barabanki, Unnao, Sitapur, Rae Bareli,Hardoi and Amethi became a brand and now carry a registered logo to confirm their authenticity.