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Background

 
The origins of chikankari (Hand Embroidery) are shrouded in mystery and legend. As early as the third century B.C. Megasthenes wrote of the fine flowered muslin worn by Indians in the court of Chandragupta Maurya, perhaps the first historical reference of chikan. It seems likely that chikankari was prevalent in East Bengal during the reign of the Mugal emperors, from where it came to Lucknow in the 18th century during the time of Nawabs fo Avadh, and where it flowered into an art of exquisite refinement.
 
The city of Lucknow, India, evokes emotions and reactions of wondrous nostalgia. It's culture blends aesthetics, refinement, elegant graciousness and impeccable mannerisms with evocations of poetry, music and other distinctive art forms.  Amongst these has been the delicate art of very fine "Hand Embroidery" which is termed as "Chikankari" famed not only in the oriental world but prized in all citadels of culture. It is noteworthy that during this period the Master craftsmen were all men.
 
This highly acclaimed craft fell to abysmal depths once the patronage of the erstwhile Nawabs and landowners ended. It was relegated to a low standard ill paid commercial activity in which almost entirely, only women were involved.
 
Manufacturers used middlemen to exploit women artisans who were not only very poor but also women cloistered and in "Purdah". (Behind the curtains)
 
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