Phulkari, meaning flower work, is the embroidery of flower motifs in vibrant Indian colours. Embroidered majorly in the states of Haryana & Punjab, this style uses stitch on the backside of the fabric, so the design takes shape in the front. The base used is usually a hand-spun or natural dyed khadi cloth. This contrast of dull fabric and bright threads is what makes it extremely attractive. Phulkari is worn during celebrations and festivities, mostly in northern India.
Phulkaris and Baghs were worn by women all over Punjab during marriage festivals and other joyous occasions. They were embroidered by the women for their own use and use of other family members and were not for sale in the market. Thus, it was purely a domestic art which not only satisfied their inner urge for creation but brought colour into day-to-day life. In a way, it was true folk art. Custom had grown to give Phulkaris and Baghs to brides at the time of marriages. Some best Phulkaris and Baghs are known to have been made in Hazara and Chakwal, areas of Northern Punjab in Pakistan.
Some scholars feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as “Gulkari”. Some feel it came from Central Asia along with Jat tribes who migrated to India and settled in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. There is reference of Phulkari in Vedas, Mahabharat, Guru Granth Sahib and folk songs of Punjab. In its present form, phulkari embroidery has been popular since the 15th century.
The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread. Punjabi women created innumerable alluring and interesting designs and patterns by their skilful manipulation of the darn stitch. The base khaddar cloth used in Western Punjab is finer from those of Central Punjab. Black/blue are not preferred in Western Punjab, whereas white is not used in East Punjab. In West Punjab, 2 or 3 pieces of cloth are first folded and joined together. In East Punjab, they are joined together first and then embroidered.
In Phulkari embroidery ornaments the cloth, whereas in Bagh, it entirely covers the garment so that the base cloth is not visible. The end portion of pallav of Phulkari have separate panels of exquisite workmanship of striking design.
The most favoured colour is red and its shades, because Bagh and Phulkari are used during marriage and other festivals. Red is considered auspicious by Hindus and Sikhs. Other colours are brown, blue, black, white.
Historically the fabric used for the Phulkari work is a thick and even weave mainly khaddar whose thread was manually spinned loomed and dyed with natural pigments.
Khadi or Khaddaris a term for handspun and hand-woven cloth from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan primarily made out of cotton.
The cloth is primarily woven from Hemp and may also include silk, or wool, which are all spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha. It is a versatile fabric, cool in summer and warm in winter. In order to improve the look, khadi/khaddar is sometimes starched to give it a stiffer feel. It is widely accepted in fashion circles.
Nowadays, Phulkari is doing on all kind of the fabric like chiffon and on light weight cotton also.