Zari work or Zardozi, an art which is considered quite popular amongst embroiders and designers, survives in the narrow alleys of the Old Town of Bhopal.
The richest embroidery of India is the Zardozi which was introduced in India by the Mughal invaders in the 17th century. Zari work or zardozi is a form of embroidery, which came to India from Persia. Its literal translation, ‘Zar’ means gold and ‘dozi’ meaning embroidery.Thus, Zardozi come from the Persian term meaning ’embroidering with gold threads.’ In this embroidery, gold coils and beads are tucked onto fabric using a needle and thread. Metals like gold and silver are transformed into a zari (thin thread) that is used to adorn motifs onto rich fabrics like silk, velvet, organza, chiffon, etc. The Royal dresses of the Begums of Bhopal were also made using the delicate work of zardozi on opulent fabrics. The art has revived a lot over the years all credit to the contribution of local artists who showcase the best possible facet of the craft at the exhibitions, and fashion houses that are introducing it in their clothing and decor range.
HISTORY OF ZARDOZI EMBROIDERY
This Persian embroidery, Zardozi attained its summit in the 17th century under the patronage of Mughal Emperor Akbar. However, under the rule of Aurangzeb, the royal patronage stopped and it 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 craftsmen left Delhi and went to the 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 receiving independence in the year 1947 that the Indian government undertook steps to promote Zari embroidery.
SHOPS TO BUY ZARDOZI ITEMS
There are many shops in the old city of Bhopal that make and sell exquisite pieces made with zari embroidery. One is “National Zari House” in Lakherapura which is an exclusive store to shop for handmade Zar-Zardozi items. The shop is famous for having a wide collection of authentic batuas (purses),mobile covers and thelas (tote bags) done in bright colours. Zardozi has been Akbar Khan’s family business for 60 years. He says that depending on the item and intricaces involved, two artists take around two days to complete six pieces of items. He also mentions that art lovers from Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Gujarat come to his shop to buy handcrafted Zar-Zardozi batuas and purses. If you want to see Zardozi bags and sarees in making, then head to “Zari Centre” at Peer Gate, Moti Masjid road to meet the artisans and witness the live process of this intricate embroidery. One can visit the workshop between 12 noon to 6 pm and meet Farha Nadeem who runs the workshop. On request, she will explain every nuance of the craft and her experience in the industry.
The traditional Zardozi pouches have become famous with the name of “Bhopali Batuas”. It’s considered the best souvenir that a tourist can take as a token of remembrance. There are plenty of shops in and around old city market, but incase of shortage of time, then one can make a a quick visit to MP’s Marignayni Emporiums in New Market.