Phulkari are embroidered textiles (phul means “flowers”, kari means “work”) from the Punjab and neighbouring areas in the north-west of the Indian subcontinent. The textiles were worn by Muslim, Hindu and especially Sikh women as head coverings and shawls, and also used as ceremonial hangings and covers at festivals and religious and life-cycle rituals, particularly at weddings. They were considered auspicious and an appropriate gift from the groom’s family to his new bride. They were also held above a groom during his ritual bath. The shawls embroidered with dense designs in floss silks were the most prestigious type - the bride was wrapped in such a textile made by her grandmother after her bath. As dowry, phulkari also symbolised the wealth of the bride and her family.
In general, phulkari designs of the eastern Punjab are mainly floral and figural whilst western Punjab designs are dominated by geometric patterning.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label