Throughout Punjab, in the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities alike, women embroider odhni (veils) or chaddar (wraps) ornamented with phulkari, literally ‘flower work’ and bagh or garden, a variation where the embroidery completely covers the support material. The support fabric is most often an auspicious dark red, or more rarely, an indigo blue or a white reserved for elderly women, on which the embroidery is executed in untwisted floss silk called pat.
Darning stitch is used to embroider from the reverse side of the fabric, with the longer float on the face, thus allowing large surfaces to be densely embroidered with the economy. Aside from their everyday use as veils, phulkari is integrated into the lives of the women and is an indispensable element in ceremonies, especially those concerning birth, death and marriage. When a girl child is born, the women of the family organize a great feast, marking the beginning of the task of the child’s grandmother in creating the future bride’s trousseau.
The most significant items of the trousseau are the chope, a reversible phulkari worked in double running stitch and wrapped around the bride after the ritual bath two days before the wedding, and is generally embroidered with one colour (Golden or yellowish golden mostly); and the suber phulkari, composed of five eight-petal lotuses, worn by the bride when she walks around the sacred fire during the wedding ceremony. A phulkari is also worn when visiting a temple during religious festivals to request prosperity and happiness for loved ones.