"Old is Gold". This phrase is apt for the Indian gold and silver embroidery- Zardosi work.

India has always been in the limelight of the global market for its varied and rich traditional fabric decoration techniques. Decoration can be introduced on garments through 3 techniques-painting, printing and embroidery. India excels in all these three techniques.

Embroidery specifically has always been a universal form of art. The Indian traditional embroidery has withstood the ravages of time, impact of foreign influences and globalization of embroidery techniques to outshine many of its counterparts in today's market scenario.

Zardosi is an art which creates magic on the fabric. It reflects royalty and was known to adorn the attire of Gods and thus holds a distinguished place among all crafts. The common mango motif of Zardosi has found a place in the wardrobe of Kings and Queens of various eras.

The history of Zardosi embroidery in India dates back to Rig Vedic times. In fact the last 5 decades has seen a phenomenal progress in terms of revival of this golden art.

The use of gold and silver threads, beads, stones, and imaginative designs has made it one of the most sought after glittering art to decorate fabric. The word "zardosi" is made up of two Persian terms, 'Zar' meaning gold and 'Dozi' meaning embroidery.

A Persian embroidery form, zardosi attained its summit in the 17th century under the patronage of Mughal emperor Akbar. But in 18th & 19th century the craft suffered a setback due to rising industrialization. It was only after receiving independence in the year 1947 that the Indian government undertook steps to promote zari embroidery. In fact now Zari constitutes an important part of handicrafts export basket, its export increasing to 16.83% in 2007.

The materials used to do the embroidery has also been commercialized to meet the demands of the consumer over the period of time and to reduce the cost, so as to make available to all. Metallic wires, kora, saadi, kinari, salma, badla, sequins, stones and other such materials are used today to add to the glitz and glamour of the embroidery. A pictorial description of some of the commonly used materials is shown below.


The process applying Zardosi on the fabric is time consuming and done by hand. A hooked needle called ari is used to do the embroidery on the fabric which is stretched on a wooden frame.

To further highlight the popularity of this embroidery among consumer today, a collection of six stylized cholis with zardosi embroidery done on it was developed and a survey was conducted to study the acceptance of this ancient art of fabric decoration. The designs are shown below.

The results of the survey were phenomenal. Majority of the respondents of the survey, mostly young women belonging to the age group of 20-25 years well accepted the developed stylized choli. The survey also showed that criterias such as functionality, design, comfort and appeal of the garment through value addition was of utmost importance to the consumer irrespective of the cost.


The traditional art of Zardosi of India still intrigues the minds of the global consumer and has aroused the interest of the global market. From the time globalization and liberalization has taken over the market, competition has reached its zenith and to survive, it has now become a necessity to reintroduce these forms of decoration and incorporate the same on new products and styles to cater to the needs of the consumer today.

About the Authors

Geetha Rai is M.Sc., PGD in International Trade, M. Phil, HOD, Baldwin Women's Methodist College, Bangalore and Dr. S. Kauvery Bai, M.Sc., M.Phil, Phd, Professor, Department of Textiles & Clothing, Smt VHD Central Institute of Home Science, Bangalore