This piece of brick red cloth is covered with geometric patterns in tones of red, greenish yellow, white and orange. Along the top and bottom edges (if the piece were vertical) are border grids made up of 6 squares with triangular patterns of thread inside them. The main body of the phulkari is a 6 by 9 square grid, each box housing a stylized floral pattern made from embroidery.
Phulkari embroidery uses stylized designs of objects from daily life, particularly flowers and birds. These designs usually leave ample space between them, allowing for vibrant patches of fabric to show through. The most common color of the cloth that serves as a base for phulkari embroidery is brick red, as red is an auspicious color associated with shakti (power) and the mother goddess. The tradition of phulkari embroidery nearly faded out in the late twentieth century, yet the designs have become a recent international fashion trend.
Embroidery on a plain cotton fabric (khaddar). Red-orange khaddar with neon orange, green, white and red accents which make up the bagh tara (four-part flower) design.
The Punjab region is known for these brilliant embroideries that can function as head coverings, wall hangings, or dresses. The name phulkari, meaning “flower working,” was given to them for their beautiful and intricate embroidered designs. A folk art handed down among women for generations, young girls would begin learning phulkari from their mothers, often participating in village stitching circles. Phulkari are embroidered with stylized designs of motifs like flowers and birds with ample space left between them to allow vibrant patches of the base fabric to show through. This is commonly brick red, an auspicious color associated with shakti (power) and the mother goddess. For a momentous occasion like a wedding, the entire surface of the phulkari would be covered with embroidery. This type of phulkari is called a bagh. From the time a young girl begins to learn phulkari, she hones her skills and works towards creating her wedding bagh, and it is said that she stitches into it her hopes and dreams for marriage. Though the tradition of phulkari embroidery nearly disappeared in the late twentieth century, the designs have recently become an international fashion trend.