Lahore The Heart of Hand Embroideries
Apart from the indigo, cotton, saltpetre and silk, what Lahore has been famous for centuries is, the hand embroideries. During the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century, his chronicler Abu Al-Fazl wrote this in the famous Ain-i-Akbari:
“His majesty [Akbar] pays much attention to various stuff; hence Irani, Ottoman, and Mongolian articles of wear are in much abundance especially textiles embroidered in the patterns of Nakshi, Saadi, Chikhan, Ari, Zardozi, Wastli, Gota and Kohra. The imperial workshops in the towns of Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur and Ahmedabad turn out many masterpieces of workmanship in fabrics, and the figures and patterns, knots and variety of fashions which now prevail astonish even the most experienced travelers. Taste for fine material has since become general, and the drapery of embroidered fabrics used at feasts surpasses every description.”
But since the advent of the industrial revolution, there has been a steady decline of this art form. The embroidery researcher Sheila Paine analyses this phenomenon in her book “Embroidered Textiles” like this:
“Once the social context no longer exists and the beliefs and fears that embroidery promoted or deflected no longer torment, once linen is no longer painfully cultivated, spun and woven, sheep are no longer the mainstay of life and exotic silks from other lands a precious luxury – then traditional embroidery is doomed.”
With all the freedoms, comforts and conveniences of the modern world that we all enjoy, the faster the products are produced, the quicker these end up in landfills, as machine produced items tend to generate and hold little value. We believe the slow movement is an appropriate cultural shift that we all should aspire towards. And for us, what can be better than to try to revive the hand embroidery in the city where it used to thrive for hundreds of years.