Where to buy CHIKANKARI in Lucknow, the city's poetic textile

  • This article is a basic buying guide for prospective patrons of Chikankari in Lucknow.

The city of Lucknow is famous for many reasons but Chikankari is, inarguably, one of its greatest claims to worldwide fame. A delicately embroidered white kurta is the first thing that comes to most people’s mind, when the city’s name is mentioned. The city and the embroidery have become synonymous with, and representative of, one another. Rightfully described as poetry on fabric, Chikan is a must-have in every textile collector’s wardrobe. 

This article is meant to be a basic buying guide for prospective patrons of Chikankari. It has been written in a Question & Answer format and answers some frequently asked questions about the craft.


1. What is the origin of Chikankari?


Many stories are popular in folklore. The most widely accepted theory is that Chikan developed in the Mughal court, under the patronage of Empress Nur Jahan. After the decline of Mughal Empire it found favour in Lucknow, where it flourished profusely.


The word Chikankari is believed to have originated from the Persian word Chakeen which means creating delicate patterns on fabric. There are 32 stitches in the repertoire of Chikan but barely 7-8 of them are used now. 

A work-in-progress Chikankari piece.


2. What kind of clothing is available in Chikan?


Traditional wear like sarees, kurta sets, kurta pieces, lehenga sets and dupattas are commonly available in Chikankari, in semi or unstitched form. Ready-to-wear kurtis and kurtas are also available along with palazzo pants, skirts and Ghararas. However, high finesse thread-work is available in semi or unstitched pieces only.


Classic Chikankari, white suit.  

3. Which materials are used as base fabrics for Chikan embroidery?


Traditionally, the legendary Dhakai/Murshidabad muslin (now extinct) was used as the base fabric for Chikan. It was considered luxurious by the royalty as it was delicate and breathable. It kept one cool in the scorching summer and humid monsoon of Awadh, in the pre-AC times.

Nowadays, cotton (Voile), georgette and synthetic materials are used. Kota DoriaChanderi, organza and silk are also in trend.

Shadow stitch or Bakhiya on Mulmul cotton.


4. What colours are available in Chikan?


Conventionally, Chikan embroidery was done with a white thread on a white base. This combination is still considered the quintessential classic. Although, all possible combinations like white thread on coloured fabric, coloured thread on white fabric and coloured thread on coloured fabric are available now, the combination of white thread on pastel colours (pink, blue, green, yellow, mauve, beige and off-white) is considered most suited for the craft.

Chikankari on cotton. 


5. Where to buy Chikan in Lucknow?


Chowk, Aminabad, Janpath (Hazratganj) and Kapoorathala (Aliganj) are the biggest Chikan markets of the city. Three sources of fine and exclusive products not easily available in other shops are:


Nazakat Chikan, Janpath market, Hazratganj. 

Aaraish by Shivika Singh , near Oudh Gymkhana Club, Qaizerbagh. 

Sanatkada J.C. Bose road, Qaizerbagh. Nazakat and Aaraish also sell online via Instagram.

Ascertaining the authenticity and quality of a ‘Jaali’.

6. Where can I buy Chikan online?


Meiraas is a Lakhnavi brand that stands out of the crowd. Their products are a unique mix of heritage revival and experimentation with modern aesthetics. Patrons looking for high-finesse, concept-based pieces reflective of Awadh’s history and culture will relate to the brand.


Asya by Ambika creates classic, high finesse pieces on high quality fabrics, particularly georgettes. 

Identifying authentic Chikan.  


7. How do I make sure I am buying authentic Chikan?


Beware of the name Sewa/ Seva

SEWA or Self Employed Women’s Association is a self-help group that’s been actively working with skilled Chikan Karigars. They earned a name for themselves because of their work but now hundreds of shops in Lucknow are misusing their name. The original SEWA has only one outlet in Lucknow in Brahm Nagar (Sitapur Road) the others are imposters.



This is a name most shopkeepers use for faux or fake georgette. Georgette is made from pure silk yarn while faux-georgette is made from synthetic fibres. Semi-georgette is a mix of synthetic and natural yarn but it is hardly used nowadays. Fake georgette is more commonly passed off as semi. Pure georgette fabric is grainy and translucent while faux-georgette is completely transparent and rough.


False jaalis

The most intricate stitch of Chikankari is the Jaali. It is labour-intensive and therefore expensive. Many retailers have started fixing ready-made nets on the fabric in place of a Haath ki (handmade) Jaali. It brings down the price and appeals to some buyers but it is not authentic Chikan.

All over lattice work with Hand-made jaali 

Hakoba is not Chikan!

A kind of machine embroidery called Hakoba is sometimes passed-off as Chikan. Hakoba is a beautiful textile ornamentation technique in its own right but it should not be confused with Chikan.

Machine replica of Chikan.


There’s nothing called Machine Chikankari

The term 'Machine Chikankari’, used by some sellers, is not appropriate. Chikan is a handicraft with a Geographical Indication (GI) tag so the term cannot be used for machine embroidery. 


To identify authentic handmade Chikan, all one has to do is flip the fabric and see the reverse side. Look for knots, loose threads and other irregularities that reflect the human touch.

Reverse side of a Boota.


8.  Where can I buy something that’s ‘not very expensive’? 


Firstly, it’s important to understand the pricing logic of Chikankari products (explained in the next answer) to gauge the fair price of a piece. Secondly, one must look for something fairly priced not cheap.


One must never forget that Chikan is hand-embroidery and one piece takes weeks, sometimes, months to take final shape. Selling it cheap would either mean denying craftspeople their due wages or compromising the quality of the embroidery. 

9. What is the price range for Chikan products?


Chikan products range from Rs.850 to Rs.1 lakh (not considering the designer-wear, which can go much higher).


The price of a piece is determined by a number of factors like the quality of the base fabric, finesse of the embroidery, number of stitches used and the spread of the embroidery on the piece. Spread means how much embroidery the piece has, for instance: only around the neck, all-over lattice or sparsely placed Bootis (motifs) etc. If a complimentary craft like Mukaish or beadwork has been used, then the price increases accordingly.

Hand made jaali and Mukaish work.


A list of product wise prices is given below just to give readers an idea of approximate prices (as of February 2020).


a. Pure Georgette sarees: Rs 12,000 up to Rs 1 lakh.

b. Pure Georgette suits: Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000.

c. Cotton sarees: Rs 1,800 and above.

d. Cotton suits: Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000.

e. Cotton kurta: Rs 1,000 to Rs 4,000.

f. Synthetic kurta: Rs 800 to Rs 2,000.


Lucknow reached the zenith of cultural refinement, which it is still known for, during the reign of the Nawabs. However, much of that legendary civilization was destroyed during the 1857 Mutiny. Treasures full of exquisite artefacts were looted, thousands of highly skilled artisans lost patronage and artistic legacies were disrupted. Only a handful of resilient crafts survived that devastation, Chikankari is one of them.


We must never forget how precious this heritage craft is and strive to invest in it as true connoisseurs rather than mere consumers looking for bargains.


Author is from Lucknow. She is a Jewellery Designer, runs www.desidrapes.wordpress.com and lots more. All pictures are courtesy and copyright author. 

eSamskriti.com does not have any commercial interests for featuring names of shops referred to in the article or assumes any responsibility for what you may purchase from the above shops. 

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