The etymology of Phulkari – it takes the name from two Sanskrit words Phul meaning flower and kari meaning work. Therefore, it means flower work. This art mainly concentrates on floral designs and geometric figures. However, people in Hind and Sikh also included objects from everyday life.
When we trace the origin, we can say that it is rather blurred. Some say that the craft is mentioned in Rig Vedas of Aryans. Few say it must have originated from Scythians or Iraninas. Phulkari embroidery was initially made for personal and domestic use such as skirts, bed spreads, pillow cases, shawl, wall hangings etc.., Only very few people make use of this and are widely displayed in museums or bought for personal use.
Phulkari is traditional embroidery of India and Pakistan. The base cloth is called the Khaddar, which is a rough and sturdy cotton fabric. The embroidery is made using soft and glossy silk thread or cotton threads. This craft is passed on to generation i.e. from mother to daughter. Therefore, every household has women who are expertise in this craft. Moreover all the motifs and patterns are not repetitive or a copied one.
This embroidery is different from all other embroideries in two ways. First because of the darning stitch, this is a simple straight row of stitches woven in and out of the fabric. By counting the number of threads in the khaddar, stitch was controlled and the variations in the length of the stitch create the geometric design. Chain stitches were used to outline a motif and satin stitches to fill them.
Second and most important aspect is that it is stitched on the reverse side of the fabric. A single numerical error is enough to destroy the symmetry and the beauty of the entire piece of work!
In swat the phulkari embroidery is made with bright, vibrant colors on a dark background. A women’s skirt with the phulkari embroidery is the classic example of swat valley. It is a beautiful example of how the localities adapted the art in their own taste. Mostly black or indigo-blue color khaddar cloth is used. A florescent pink or maroon thread was used for motifs. Sometimes the bright yellow thread is used to highlight the motifs. These contrasting colors enhance the beauty of the art.
Shawls, table cloths, pillow cases, fire fans are embroidered with phulkari. The designs include diamond shape discs, triangle etc.., A unique pattern of Ram’s horn was used which is the ancient symbol for power and fertility. Some designs can be traced back to 1000 years!! A special type of Phulkari shawl is called Bagh (garden in Farsi) was stitched for special occasions. Baghs are generally heavily embroidered such that the background is almost not seen.