Zardozi, meanwhile, practiced in Rajasthan, was historically used to adorn the walls of royal tents and their animals. A laborious, weighty embroidery using metal gold and silver thread (gold leaf and pure silver wires were once used), the practice can be traced across the Middle East and South Asia, and has existed in India since the time of the Rigveda, between 1500 and 1200 B.C.E. Over the course of this long history it has come in and out of fashion, promoted for different social and political purposes, most recently, Malik said, after the independence of the Indian government.
The process of Zardozi embroidery begins cross-legged, seated around the Addaa, the wooden frame. The technique involves tools including “curved hooks, needles, salmaa pieces (gold wires), sitaaras (metal stars), round sequins, glass & plastic beads, dabkaa (thread) and kasab (thread),” Malik noted. The craftspeople trace the design on fabrics like silk, satin, or velvet, which are stretched over the frame. The work then begins with the needle—and it is then that the communal magic happens.