Indian embroidery takes its inspiration from nature and religion. The colours, the base the theme and the style are reflective of a par-ticular region. Embroidery on leather, velvet, net, cotton and silk is done all over the country. The patterns are decided upon on the basis of the fabric and its texture the stitches depend upon the style and the effect to be produced.

Themes and motifs have remained as such for centuries. Even in the pre historic civilization probably it was the same (embroidery needles have been found in excavations). The patterns have always been floral, animals, geometric and religious. Each embroidery style has its own history and a story of development.


The magnificent metallic embellishment of India — dates back to ancient times. It finds mention in Vedic literature, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and all accounts of the Sultanate period. The coun-try, from very early times, was known for the use of gold embroidery on a variety of objects including furnishings, trappings, parasols, and equestrian ornaments. The more aesthetic and evolved embroideries were used on court costumes and especially on accessories such as shoes.

The historical accounts of this craft are shrouded in the usual romantic stories and inaccurate data. But the only certainty is that zarkas — a Persian word meaning zari or gold embroidery — was widely used in all the accounts. History says that from the 13th century, the crafts-people who worked with this medium, setting seed pearls and precious stones with fine gold and silver wire, were known as zardos workers.

Done with metal wire and metal pieces or sequins on velvet, satin and heavy silk bases, Zardozi is one of the most famous and elaborate techniques in metal embroidery. The original embroidery of Zardozi was done with pure silver wires coated with real gold, and was known as Kalabatun. Though silver and gold wires have now been replaced with synthetic threads, the art remains the same. The use of metal em-broidery in Indian textiles and costumes, especially those used for rit-ual or ceremonial purposes, demonstrates the importance of gold and silver within the culture.



Aari embroidery or crewel work is a speciality of Kashmiri artisans who create it in fine, concentric rings of chain stitch using a long hooked needle known as a crewel. The craft of Aari embroidery has existed in India from the 12th century and was patronized by the Mo-ghul courts. It is a form of very fine embroidery and suited the work-ing of very elaborate and highly refined floral motifs which the royals favoured.