Uttar Pradesh's capital, Lucknow, is closely associated with fine embroidery, chikankari. These cool summery shadow-work saris, kurtas, and veils have been in vogue in this city for hundreds of years. Prices vary according to the quality of material used, and the work done on it.
Table and household linen in white or pale pastel muslin, organdy and voile are also popular buys. The light chikan saris are perfect for summer wear. Men prefer to wear their chikan kurtas during summer evenings.
There is a popular legend that a courtesan in the Nawab of Avadh's harem was a master. He was so impressed by the work that he started a workshop where this style of embroidery would be developed further. The
Nawab were the setters of fashion. The other humbler nobles and
Zamindars would imitate them in every way.
Chikankari thus received great impetus during the Nawabi period. The finely embroidered muslin came to be closely identified with the
Nawabi culture and became an intrinsic part of it. The Chikankari tradition gradually filtered down the masses of common people and became a part of their daily life.
The source of most design motifs in Chikankari is Mughal. These motifs can also be seen in the ornamentation of
Mughal buildings like the Taj Mahal and the monuments of
Fatehpur Sikri. There are various stitches used in Chikankari. They vary according to the kind of designs and materials used. The most frequently used stitch is the satin stitch. This is a very delicate and minute stitch.