Zardozi embroidery has been in existence in India from the time of the Rig Veda. Timeless embroidery hand crafted authentically by the artisans, the word zardozi is a combination of two urdu words ‘zar’ means gold and ‘doz’ means hand-work/sewing or embroidery; zardozi is an embroidery done with a gold thread. This beautiful metal thread embroidery once used to enrich the attires of the Kings and the royalty in India. The treasure of Akbar included wide range of stitched garments, which were embellished with metal embroidery. The way Zardozi is known now, is the process of sewing embellishments on fabrics using a metal-bound thread. The work involves making elaborate designs, using gold and silver threads. Studded pearls and precious stones often find a place in between the meandering golden streams. Shimmery pieces of spangles, stones and sequins are also sewn in to create resplendent patterns on cloth. The pieces created using it are timeless, passed down through generations, just like this craft. Bhopal is one of the places in India where this craft is still practiced in its traditional and authentic way. It can be found in the narrow alleys of this old town and is its signature embroidery art.
From just being used by the royals, Zardozi has developed over the years and now everyone can use it. Earlier it was also used by the royalty to adorn tent walls or in their courtrooms as tapestries, wall hangings and was also used to ornate the royal animals like elephants and horses.
The Begums of Bhopal used the Batuas or the purses adorned with Zardozi, to keep their personal belongings. The traditional Zardozi pouches similar to these are famous even today and are known as ‘Bhopali Batuas’. They are one of the best souvenirs one can take from the city of Bhopal.
Traditionally used to adorn Lehengas, Turbans, Dupattas and Sarees, zari-zardozi work now extends to accessories like purses, footwear, caps etc. The versatility of this craft has led to its implementation on many surfaces for decorative and embellishment purposes. As people are getting to know more about this craft they are making it the part of their lives like the royals used to do. Along with using it on products like clothes, footwear, cushion covers, they are also using it in their interiors as a part of their home decor. It is done on the sofas, table runners, curtains and many more things. This can give the interiors opulence and make it feel like the royals.
It has also become a part of wedding decor to make them magnificent and lavish. It has also become favorite among the brides who want to look extravagant and elegance on their wedding. So it can be seen on the bridal outfits like lehengas, saris and anarkalis. It’s also an important part of Indian couture and is thus used by a lot of designers.
The fashion houses are including this craft in their creations and the artisans also showcase this craft at exhibitions like that of garments and home decor products. Due to this craft is reaching people and local artisans have maintained the tradition and authenticity of this craft.
This craft requires high levels of skill and expertise. The dexterity of the craftsman is a measure of his speed and judgment. All the stitches should ideally be of one size. Zari work is done using the ari needle and zardozi is done using the varieties of embroidery needles.
This craft evolved when the women of the household used to sit and work on fabric after the daily chores. They used to meticulously work on the minute details and churn out elaborately beautiful patterns.
Zardozi constitutes an import part in the export of handicrafts in India. Its export has increased to 16.83% since 2007.
Myths & Legends:
Once a mosquito found the entrance to a king’s head, went inside and gave him a severe headache. All the options to get rid of the mosquito failed. Finally, God himself appeared in Hakim’s (doctor’s) dream and told him the cure for the king’s headache. It was to hit the king in the area of the pain with a shoe. The Hakim told the king about this dream. The king ordered for a shoe embroidered with gold and silver threads for this purpose. The shoe helped to kill the mosquito and cured king’s headache. The king admired the details on the shoe and patronized the artisans as the Zardoz.
(mentioned in the book ‘Zardozi Glittering Gold embroidery’ by Charu Smita Gupta)
Historical evidences point out that needlework and embroidery has been practiced in India from very early times. Bronze needles excavated from the site of Mohenjo Daro (2300-1500 BC) of Indus Valley Civilization, along with figurines speak of drapery that are of the embroidered type.
The Greek explorer, Megasthenes in 300 BC records the zardozi type of embroidery in his Indian travelogue. He describes robes or flowered muslin garments worked in gold and ornamented with precious stones.
In Vedic age, we can find the presence of this craft. Some words like Atka, Drapi, Pesas indicating sewn garments, have been mentioned in the Rig Veda. Here the term Atka means a garment embroidered and adorned using gold thread. This was also known as the ‘cloth of gold’.
In the ancient Indian epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, there is a mention of embroidery done using gold thread, which suggests the use Zardozi during that time. Like in Mahabharata, Yudhishthira was presented with various clothes and products, by the king of Kambuja. These were made of animal skin as well as of wool and were embroidered with the thread of gold.
The 6th century CE sacred work written in Jain literature, ‘Acharanga Sutra’, has a mention of a gold embroidered material. It says that this kind of material should be shunned by the monks.
Jataka Tales also have evidence of this craft in the form of golden turbans and trappings made for the elephants, which were made using gold thread. In the cave no. 17 of the Ajanta Caves, the paintings have a depiction of this type of embroidery done on the clothes.
Several products like clothes and footwear embellished using gold and precious stone are mentioned in the texts, ‘Harshacharitamanas’ and ‘Kadambari by Banabhatta, the biographer of King Harshavardhana of Kanauj.
In ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’, the Italian explorer Marco Polo, mentions the coverlets for bed and cushions adorned with gold and silver embroidery, which he saw during his visit to the then kingdom of Guzzerat, located on the western side of the Indian Sea.
He writes, ’Coverlets for beds are made of red and blue leather, extremely delicate and soft, and stitched with gold and silver thread. Cushions also, ornamented with gold wire in the form of birds and beasts, are the manufacture of this place; and in some instances their value is so high as six marks of silver. Embroidery is here performed with more delicacy than in any other part of the world.’
Works of Sanskrit literature of the 14th century speak of products like the Svarnopanad (shoes embroidered in gold and inlaid with jewels), and the Suchipalki (narrow piece of embroidered silk).
The matured form of the craft of Zardozi came to India during the Tughlaq dynasty, a Muslim dynasty of the Turkish origin founded by Muhammad bin Tughlaq. It became a popular embroidery used for the royal costumes. Though it flourished during the times of Firoz Shah Tughlaq who succeeded his cousin Muhammad and became the ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty. In fact, he is the one who coined the term zardozi, as it was mentioned for the first time in his memoir ‘Futahat-I-Firozsahi’. In it there is a mention of some new kinds of clothes worn during this time. He also identified these different kinds of clothes, their uses and made them as well as the term Zardozi famous among the masses. Workshops or Karkhanas, as they were colloquially known, were developed and the zardozi embroidery started being developed in them. This began the institutionalization of this form of embroidery. Though according to shariyet, despite of this, he wanted to make this craft one of his own and thus implemented rules and restrictions on the designs and patterns and restricted them to just a certain kind. All these limitations became a hindrance in the development of this craft.
Later in the 16th century, this craft reached the Vijay Nagar Empire, which was under the reign of Hindu king Krishnadev Rai and Achyuta Rai during that time.
With the onset of the Mughal era, zardozi saw great patronage. It was at its peak of development, usage and reached a high degree of sophistication. As, floral motifs were embroidered with a thoughtful use of gold and soft colored threads. Pearls and precious stones were also used along with these for the outfits, to increase their magnificence. They also introduced a change in textile surface ornamentation and designs. Now multi-colored designs combined with gold and silver thread were made.
The patterns of these textile designs took inspiration from the Mughal court paintings.
The geometrical and floral motifs of the hashiya (border) of these paintings were the main source for the textile designs. The karkhanas developed during the Tughlaq dynasty were transformed to a new trend of Court Karkhanas. The culture of having these in the royal court was developed in places like Delhi and Agra. The royalty and nobility during this time donned the outfits having Zardozi embroidery. This is also found documented in some of the literature of that time like,
In the journal article: LAST MEMOIR OF FRANCOIS BERNIER FROM SURAT: MARCH 10, 1668 by Aniruddha Roy, that “According to French traveler Francois Bernier, ‘The king appeared seated upon his throne, at the end of the great Hall, in the most magnificent attire. His vest was of white and delicately flowered satin, with a silk and gold embroidery of the finest texture and was a turban of gold cloth, had an aigrette whose base was composed of a diamond of an extraordinary size and value.’
In the document ‘Ain-i-Akbari’, written by Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, he mentions the love of the Mughal Emperor Akbar for the woolen shawls embroidered in Zardosi. He also writes,” His majesty pays much attention to various stuffs, hence’ Irani’,’ European’ and Mongolian articles of wear are in abundance. Skilful masters and workmen have settled in this country to teach the people an improved system of manufacture. The imperial workshops in the towns of Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur, Ahmedabad, turn out many masterpieces of workmanship and the figures and patterns, knots and variety of fashions which now prevail, astonish experienced travelers. His majesty himself acquired in a short time a theoretical and practical knowledge of the whole trade, and on account of the care bestowed upon them, the intelligent workmen of this country soon improved. All kinds of hair weaving and silk spinning were brought to perfection and the imperial workshops furnish all those stuffs which are made in other countries.” This shows how involved the Mughals were in the craft of Zardozi and also that they developed it further by appointing skilled artisans to work and also to teach this craft.
In the memoir of Jahangir, called ‘Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri’; the garments like robes, worn during that time, have been described as adorned and ornamented using the Zardozi embroidery.
Zardozi received a fresh impetus under Shahajahan. Royal robes decorated with all over floral designs were the height of fashion, as the motifs on them were outlined with embroidery done using gold thread and were similar to the fine minakari (enameled) jewelry worn by royalty. Shah Jahan’s reign was famous for the highly gorgeous costumes decorated with gold and silver embroidery. Patka, a long cloth band essential to bind the long and heavy garments like the jama. It was fastened around the waist in such a way that both the ends of it loosely hanged down reaching up to the knees. They were generally made with ‘double layer’ weaving technique which facilitated the decoration of ending panels. They were highly decorated with silver and gold embroidery and were made with large flowering plants motif on the short end-panels hanging in front. These patterns were highly influenced by the motifs used in the authentic Mughal ornaments and were in vogue during that time. Earlier the designs only consisted of floral, bird and animal patterns. The Mughal period introduced the use of floral designs with geometrical patterns and it gained a lot of prominence.
Also there was a distinction in the way the Zardozi embroidery was done in the outfits for men and women, as mentioned in the various literary texts of the 19th The ones for women were delicate and fine whereas the ones for men had bold and heavy embroidery showing the roughness of this gender.
There was an extensive use of gold and silver during this time which can be seen represented in the paintings belonging to it. The development of textile designs during the reign of Shah Jahan was the result of his keen interest in the development of decorative art. He made the arrangement of motifs very intricate. These floral motifs were arranged in a more delicate manner with high ornamentation of zari wire. Plants, foliage, sprays, blossoms and floral scroll all began to be presented in a more delicate manner. In the 19th century, two distinct types of gold and silver embroidery developed. Zardosi came to be the heavy gold inlaid work upon velvet or satin. The other branch was Kalabattu which was light and delicate embroidery in gold and silver thread, wire and spangles upon fine silk, cotton and muslin. The early Mughal style of the design finely embroidered in silks with the entire background filled with gold threads became rare after the 18th century due to the expense in both material and labor.
Aurangzeb was the only member of the Mughal Royal family who didn’t wore the outfits adorned with zardozi embroidery. Other than him, everyone wore it.
Under the reign of Aurangzeb this royal patronage stopped and the craft of Zardozi embroidery faced a decline. The artisans started migrating to different places. Thus, the art of Zardozi suffered.
The dispersal of the craftsmen from the workshops in Agra and Delhi during the decline of Mughal power brought the skill of the men trained in the royal workshops or Karkhanas to the Hindu royal courts. These crafts quickly adapted to the imaginative tastes of the Hindu state. The artisans migrated into different parts, many of them went to Lucknow. Nawab Shujaudaula of Lucknow took interest in this craft and promoted it. His son, Nawab Asaf al-Daulah followed his father’s footsteps and soon Lucknow became the center for products decorated using the Zardozi embroidery.
Blue and Purple velvet fabric were prominent among the royals for the zardozi embroidery, as gold on these colours gave them a luxurious look.
This craft was also used to decorate the cord of hookah.
At that time, the zardozi artisans were known as Zardoz.
After the Awadh dynasty ended, the proximity of this craft with the ordinary folks increased and it got immensely popular among the masses. Domestic Karkhanas took over the culture of court karkhanas.
According to a master craftsman in Bareilly, the art of Zardozi originated in Egypt. The technique was said to have been introduced in India by the Portuguese who would send satin to India to be embroidered with European designs. In 1948, the Zamorin of Calcutta is said to have received Vasco da Gama dressed in fine cotton clothes, a silk turban which was all embroidered in gold.
The royalty of the western world also seemed to use Zardozi embroidery in their outfits. The most famous example of this is a peacock dress, it was worn by Lady Curzon at the Delhi durbar in 1903. Along with being adorned with the Zardozi embroidery, this gown also had Jewel Beetle elytron sequins.
The crafts began as objects of patronage for kings, but the people who possess a stronghold in the textile industry serve the same patronage now. In addition, the Government State Emporiums are developing craft articles utilizing the zardozi technique. This not only sustains the craft but also provides livelihood to many of the fine craftsmen.
Bhopal is known for its rich heritage of crafts and this art of zari-zardozi too has been predominant here for almost three hundred years. The influences are from the western parts of the country. It is said that the Begum of Bhopal invited the artisans here, the rulers of Bhopal being great patrons of art and culture. They educated and motivated the artisans about the intricacy of this craft and kept the tradition of making it alive. Their passion for grandeur and extravagance drew them to the zari-zardozi craft. The members of the royal family were dressed in the exquisite zari creations. The Royal dresses of the Begums of Bhopal were made using the delicate work of zardozi on opulent fabrics.
Zardozi designs are so unique that apart from their monetary value, the fabric also looks rich and royal. To make these unique designs different types of Zari threads are used. Depending on the intricacy and the type of the design, the Zari thread used is divided in the following categories,
Gijai: a thin and stiff wire/zari thread. This is used for intricate patterns.
Sitara: a small star shaped zari thread/metal piece. This is used for floral designs.
The Kalabattu: a braided golden zari thread. Thicker version of it is used for borders, whereas the thinner version is used at the ends of the drawstrings of necklaces, purses and even in the tassels.
Tikora: a gold zari thread, it is spirally twisted and used in complicated designs.
Kora: a dull zari thread.
Chikna: a shinier zari thread.
Different types of stitches are used to create the Zardozi embroidery. Some of them are,
Due to the intricacy involved in it, this embroidery is mainly done on the lush and heavy materials like,
Materials like Georgette are also used.
In zardozi embroidery, the patterns are given a dimension and thickness using stones and spangles, whereas in zari the chain stitches form elaborate and intricate designs. Motifs used in the Zardozi embroidery are mostly inspired from the nature, like flowers, leaves, trees, animals and birds. Other than this, the geometrical and abstract motifs, inspired from Persian art are also commonly used.
The motif that is commonly used on the pallu of a saree, is that of a mango, known as ‘Keri’.
The peacock is a recurring motif in the zardozi embroidery.
The Zhumar is an example of a graceful tessellating pattern.
Some of the basic designs done are,
Thali Numa: Central designs
Jali Numa: Geometrical patterns
Bharat: Filler designs
Various types of thread work is done in this craft. A few are as follows:
Mina work: The name comes from the resemblance of the designs to that of the enamel work in the jewelry.
Kataoki Bel: This is a border pattern which has a very stiff canvas and sequin edgings covering the entire surface. A variation to this is a lace made on net and interspersed with zari stitches and spangles.
Gota work: Woven golden borders are cut into various shapes of birds, animals, and human figures etc. These are then attached to the cloth and covered with wires of silver and gold.
Kinari work: This type of design is seen mostly in the Batuas or the purses. The embellishments are done as the edges or tassels.
In order to make sure that this craft reaches to everyone, the materials used in went through a lot of changes from pure gold and silver to copper. On the basis of this, zardozi can be divided into three categories,
Real Zari/Zardozi: Pure gold and silver are used in it and due to that it is expensive. It is generally sold on a made-to-order basis.
Imitation Zari/Zardozi: Silver electroplated copper wire replaces the pure silver wire in this one. It is comparatively less expensive than real zari. Also unless given a closer look, it is difficult to differentiate between this and real zari.
Metallic Zari/Zardozi: Slitted polyester metal film is used here. It is very light in weight and also the cheapest among the three. Thus it is the widely used form of Zardozi. These are also available directly in the shop.
The craftsmen presently following this craft have come into this not merely as ancestral occupation but also as a source of income. Most of them are working under a middleman who supplies the embroidered products to exporters. The export houses and designers are the very few patrons of this technique. Due to this the artisans don’t get the money they deserve.
Artisans are not satisfied with the wages they receive. They work really hard as Zardozi embroidery is a very time consuming and intricate craft. Though with the wages they receive, some of them aren’t even able to sustain their family.
Since the artisans have to sit for a long time while doing this craft, they face a lot of medical problems like back pain, eye strain and neck pain.
As many of these artisans belong to the rural areas and are illiterate, they aren’t aware about the government schemes and policies for them. Also a lot of the times, the benefits of these schemes don’t even reach these artisans.
This craft also faced declination due to decrease in its demand. Though now as people are getting aware about it and since it’s also being used by some celebrated designers, its demand is increasing.
As now the number of artisans involved in making this craft has increased, the competition in this field has also increases. So it becomes necessary for these artisans to introduce Zardozi embroidery on new products, keeping its authenticity intact. They need to cater the needs and preferences of today’s consumer in order to increase the popularity of this craft and make their place in the market among the competition.
The demand and production of Zardozi were also affected due to COVID. Also since many artisans have only been working on this craft since a long time, they have no knowledge of anything else and thus they suffered a lot financially.
The pandemic also affected the prices of the raw materials, though the artisans who took the orders before the pandemic, have to sell those products for the price agreed at that time.
The younger generation no longer wants to be a part this traditional craft. Since, its laborious and the income generated doesn’t justify the labor.
A major setback has also been in the deterioration of the quality of the material on which the zardozi work is done. The quality Makhmal used earlier has been replaced by the synthetic velvety fabric and so is the case with the threads as well as the beads and stones, making the entire piece look like a deranged version. However, for the right value and from the right place, high quality work can still be procured. Many old examples of the work have also been lost as the owners sold their textiles to recover their investment.
The creation of this embroidery is meticulous and laborious, though the exquisite outcome makes it all worthy. The process involves transforming tracing the design on the fabric after which the fabric is fixed on a wooden frame. The artisan has to sit and work in such a way that everything he needs for doing the embroidery like needles, threads, sequins etc., is at his hand’s reach. The embroidery is done using a variety of custom made needles like the Ari needle. Gold and silver threads are looped in the lengths of the fabric and embellished with beads, stones, sequins and pipes. The designs created can be very intricate which might take the artisan around ten days to complete one product, depending on the size of the design and the product. The traditional way of crafting the Zardozi is known as ‘Kalabutan’. Even though modernization has taken over this traditional process, the basics of it still remain the same.
Kalabattu: Braided gold thread used for borders. The thinner varieties are used for the drawstrings of purses
Tikora: Gold thread spirally twisted for complicated designs
Kora: Dull zari thread
Chikna: Shiny zari thread
Sitara: A small star shaped metal piece used for floral designs
Semi: Precious stones or imitations
Chalk Powder base and kerosene oil: These are mixed together to form a paste used for printing the design onto the fabric before the embroidery begins
Fabric: Cottons, velvet, silk, satin, chiffon
Tools & Tech:
Wooden frame or Karchob: The fabric to be embroidered is stretched over this wooden frame to create a workable tension. It is tied to the frame with simple oblique stitches. The frame has two longitudinal lengths of wood called the ‘Kalla’ and the other two which hold them together are called the ‘Shamshera’. The fabric is wound onto the loom horizontally and the embroiderer can work on it sitting down.
Wooden hammer and circular base: used to beat the zari to make it shinier.
Needles: Different types of needles are used according to the fineness required. For example, the Ari needles which are the Muthi Ari with a wooden handle and Teeli ki Sui without the handle. These needles have hooked or crooked tips.
Fatelah: A wooden block to wrap the zari thread. This makes easier to use the thread while working.
Scissors: Different types and sizes of scissors are used to cut the fabric, the silk cotton cord, the threads and the zardozi embroidery threads.
The artisans do their puja in the morning before starting their work.
Artisans sit on the floor around the wooden frame, keeping it at a table height. This allows them to work both on top of the fabric while guiding the thread below the fabric. The size of the wooden frame is such that, at a time five to seven people can sit around it and each can work on a different portion of the design on the fabric, if the size of the fabric is big. This also increases the production.
Making the Zari thread:
The metal ingots or blocks are melted to form a bar. These metal bars are known as Pasa. They are then beaten and formed into lengths, which are then pulled through perforated steel plates and made into wires. Here, metals like, pure gold/silver, plated gold/silver or even a copper base colored using golden/silver colour are used.
Now using rubber and diamond dies these wires are made thinner. This process is known as Tarkashi process. The Zari thread is made.
To make the Kalabattu, a process called Badla is performed. Here the wire is flattened and twisted with a silk or cotton thread. The outcome is known as Kasab or Kalabattu, which is then used for the Zardozi embroidery.
Both the Zari thread and the Kalabattu would be of uniform thickness, flexibility and ductility.
Framing the fabric:
The fabric on which the embroidery is to be done, is fixed on a wooden frame called ‘Karchob’ or ‘Adda’. The fabric is fixed done by stitching its ends to the sides of the Adda. This wooden frame is made in such a way that it can be adjusted according to the size of the fabric. So after fixing the fabric, the adda is adjusted. This stretches the fabric and tightens it, making it easier to do the embroidery on it.
Tracing the design:
The design that is to be embroidered on the fabric, is drawn on a sheet of the gateway paper or a butter paper.
Now, a needle is used to make fine holes on this design. This creates a stencil of the design. This process is performed meticulously.
Transferring design to fabric: Sodhan
A rough cloth is kept underneath the fabric stitched on the adda and the stencil created previously is kept on top of the fabric. Now, a paste made by mixing chalk powder or Kharia and kerosene oil is rubbed on this stencil.
This paste penetrates through holes created on the stencil, to the fabric. A white residue is left on the fabric when this paste dries, in the places where the holes were done on the stencil. This residue can be removed using kerosene oil, once the embroidery is done.
Thus, the design to be embroidered is transferred on the fabric.
Creating the embroidery:
The artisan uses a hook-tipped awl or a needle called ‘ari’ for this process.
They start from the top of the fabric and work on both sides of the fabric. They use both their hands, where they draw the thread through the fabric using the ‘ari’ and create the design with their one hand, and guide the thread from below the surface using their other hand.
Once the basic design is made, gold and silver bullion threads are used for filling some areas, as these threads are thick. They are also used to give a bold outline to the design.
Other than this basic method, different methods are used to create the Zari and Zardozi embroidery. These methods are as follows,
Zari: This is done with the Ari needle. The needle is kept perpendicular to the cloth at all times. The yarn is held along the other surface of the cloth using the thumb and fore – finger. The yarn is rotated in the anti-clockwise direction so that it can be caught by the hook of the Ari. The Ari is then rotated towards the worker and pulled out forming a loop. The next loop is drawn from inside the previous one. Sequins, beads and the sitaras are also stitched using the Ari. The beads are lined onto the needle till a string is created and pushed into the fabric when needed. The sequins and sitaras are taken one by one. After this the area is pounded using a hammer to make give it better sheen.
Zardosi: This embroidery is done entirely using needles and the yarn used is mostly cotton. Spangles, heavy gold and silver threads are all applied to achieve zardosi. These days, craftsmen have also started to innovatively stitch in bone, shells, rhinestones and even mirrors. This type of embroidery also creates a three dimensional effect with its padding, purls and layers of spangles.
Embellishments like gems, pearls, precious stones, sequins etc. are affixed on the previously created zardozi embroidery. This is done using an adhesive.
Firstly, a dot of the adhesive is applied on the fabric. The adhesive is filled in a plastic cone, similar to the one used for henna. Immediately after this the crystal or sequins are placed on it using a matchstick. Sometimes two artisans work together in this process, which makes it easier.
This enhances the embroidery, making it more appealing.
Bhopal is the capital city of the state of Madhya Pradesh, the culture and heritage of which brims with the rich influence of the Nawabi rule. The city is a versatile blend of old and new traditions. It has also evolved into one of the busiest commercial centers in the country. It is one of the primary centres for zardozi in India. The workshops of Zardozi are all across the city and it also provides employment to a lot of craftsmen or as they are colloquially known, ‘Karigars’.
Bhopal is said to have been originally called Bhojpal and was established in the 11th century by King Bhoja of the Parmara dynasty. It was a small village in the Gond kingdom by the 18th century, during which the Mughals had captured and ruled. The Afghan soldier - Dost Mohammed established the princely province of Bhopal in 1723 by warding off the Rajput rulers. He transformed the village of Bhopal into a fortified city, and acquired the title of Nawab. Bhopal came under the British protectorate in 1818 and was subsequently ruled by the famed Begums - Qudsia Begum, succeeded by her only daughter Sikandar Begum and then Shahjehan Begum. Bhopal flourished into a well established city under their just rule, excelling in art and infrastructure.
In 1926, the son of Jehan Begum, Hamidullah inherited the throne. During the rule of Nawab Hamidullah, the Bhopal State signed the 'Instrument of Accession' and became the part of the Indian Republic in 1947.
Bhopal is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh on the Malwa plateau. It lies at an elevation of 500 meters. The landscape is uneven and specked with small hills. The city has two beautiful lakes namely the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake, collectively known as the Bhoj Wetland. The city is lined by the Vindhya ranges to its south.
By air: The Raja Bhoj Airport of Bhopal is 15 km away from the heart of the city. It is connected to Mumbai, Indore, Gwalior and Delhi as well as international flights.
By rail: Bhopal Railway Station is a major rail-head in Mumbai - Delhi broad gauge. It has connecting trains to all major cities in India. The railway station is near Hamidia road. Major trains going from Bombay to Delhi via Itarsi and Jhansi also go through Bhopal.
By road: Bus facilities, both public and private are available in Bhopal. All cities in the state are connected to Bhopal by bus services. There are numerous daily buses to Sanchi (46 km), Vidisha, Indore (186 km), Ujjain (188 km) and Jabalpur (295 km).
Bhopal is a thriving city with well established infrastructure like banks, hospitals, transport etc.
The major industries in Bhopal are electrical goods, medicinal, cotton, chemicals, weaving and handicrafts.
Bhopal boasts of more than five hundred state government sponsored schools and many other prestigious educational institutions like the Rajiv Gandhi Proudyogiki Vishwavidyalaya, Barkatullah University, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT) etc.
Bhopal is a buzzing modern city which has moved to contemporary construction and yet retains its historic flavor.
It boasts of the presence of Taj-ul-Masjid which is the largest mosque in Asia. Its construction was commissioned by Begum Shahjehan and it was completed in 1971 after her death. The large complexes are resplendent with intricate details and grand architecture.
The Shaukat Mahal was built in a combination of Greek, Latin and Islamic styles.
Monuments like the Moti Masjid and Taj-ul-Masjid still stand exuding grandeur and overlooking the concretes and high rises of the city of Bhopal.
The rules of the Mughals and the Begums have left a beautiful mark on the culture of Bhopal. Extravagance and splendor are blended into the culture with ease.
The city holds people of all religions and all the major festivals are celebrated with much aplomb. It is a vibrant amalgamation of the Hindu and Muslim culture. A three - day Iztima (Muslim religious assembly) used to be held in the precincts of the Taj-ul-Masjid annually. It draws scores at Muslim pilgrims from all parts of India.
In the culinary side, Bhopal is known for its meat delicacies like the Kebabs, honed over its Muslim rule. A well known snack is the Bafla, which is a wheat cake dunked in ghee is an ideal accompaniment with a thick bowl of Dal (pulses). Paan or betel holds a popular place in Bhopal. Here, it is considered a science and art to make the different delicious varieties.
The people of Bhopal are a mix of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
The main language spoken is Hindi but a dialect called Bhopali is also prominent. The other languages spoken are Urdu and English.
The traditional attires include Salwar - kameez, Kurtas and Sarees which are now worn during occasions. The younger generations have taken to contemporary and kitsch attires.
The artisans here also collaborate with the ones in the nearby villages, they invite them to teach this craft as well go to those villages and teach it there. This way, increasing the awareness among the locals. There are some artisans who have been doing Zardozi since over 30 years and have the tradition of crafting Zardozi in their family.
Traditionally during the karkhana culture, only men used to work on this embroidery in the workshops and then the products were sold in the market. While the women of the house, occasionally worked on it at their homes and only made the products for themselves. Now, since mainly the workshops are home-based both men and women do Zardozi embroidery together. This also helps them financially.
The Bhopal lake lend immense beauty to its landscape and is a feature which lingers in the memory. The vast lake called Bhojtal is a major source of water supply for the residents. It is said to have been built by the Parmara Raja Bhoj during his tenure as a king of Malwa. The city has grown around the lake and is culturally attached to it. The lake also contributes to the city's rich biodiversity.
Bhopal is famous for the Batuas known as 'Bhopali Batuas'. They are embellished in zardosi work in which coins or betel nuts used to be carried by the womenfolk. The zari-zardosi handicraft has also flourished beyond this and is now a sought after craft form for its beauty and grandeur.
A Paan shop can be found in every nook and corner in Bhopal and the city is known for its 'Bhopali Paan'. These are available in many delicious varieties, toppings and even custom-made options.
List of craftsmen.
Jewelled textiles: Gold and Silver Embellished clothes of India by Vandana Bhandari
Costumes and textiles of royal india by Ritu Kumar
Travels in Mogul Empire by Bernier Francois
Zardozi: Glittering Gold Embroidery by Charu Smita Gupta