Your red phulkari is the sight of paradise to my eye/Over you the entire village will fight and die (Punjabi folk song). The phulkari (flower work) shawl epitomises true luxury. Painstakingly crafted, sometimes over years, it could never be bought. The women of every house would spend weeks over the rich embroidery—geometric motifs, sometimes based on the pattern of sheaves of wheat—using the darn stitch, which creates the pattern on the reverse. The embroidery is sometimes so elaborate, the fabric is rarely seen; that’s called the bagh or garden, in which the intricate silk flowers bloom. The shawls formed an important part of the wedding trousseau of the daughter of the house, and were passed on from generation to generation. Contemporary designers, in their relentless search for crafts that can be given a modern twist, have adopted phulkari. Punjabi design house 1469 has an entire division for the craft. It showcases antique phulkaris and their new adaptations in accessories and home decorations in an annual exhibition—Mela Phulkari. Such efforts, along with exhibitions by craft forums, have rekindled interest in this craft, and phulkari co-operatives have come up in the villages of Patiala and Sangrur in Punjab to cater to the demand. It’s the emergence of a new bagh, if you will.

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