Lack of market space, low wages and no recognition are some of the battles being waged by ‘zari zardozi’ artisans even as young entrepreneurs strive to break the barriers and make the craft a profitable pursuit.
Zari zardozi is a style of embroidery that came to India from central Asia in the 12th century. An ornate and sumptuous craft, it was patronised by the affluent and courtly classes. The embroidery style is practiced by thousands of artisans, especially women, across Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
The craft has also been included in the One District One Product (ODOP) scheme of the state government. Ibn Hasan, who has been associated with the craft for decades, calls lack of an organised market as the biggest impediment to the development of the people connected to it.
Musaddiq Ali, an artisan living in Miranpur Katra, says five people, including his wife, do the zari zardozi work with him, but they find it hard to get a good price for their products. "Craftsmen like us do not get any facility from the government,” he rues.
However, young people are using their entrepreneurial skills to make big profits from this traditional art. Javnaz, who worked as an assistant manager in a private bank in Mumbai, joined the zari zardozi industry after returning home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After securing a loan from the district industries center, she started her business. She gets her products made by artisans and sells them online on platforms like Amazon. Talking to PTI, Chief Development Officer Shyam Bahadur Singh says the Uttar Pradesh government is working to take the industry forward.
He says Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was presented with a shawl with zari work during his trip here last year, wore it throughout the programme in appreciation of the art and its artisans.
Singh adds that work is being done on the ‘common facility center’ to help those engaged in the trade. He says artisans would be able to take raw material from this center and sell their finished products there. New artisans will also be trained at the center, the official says.
Anurag Yadav, deputy commissioner, District Industries Center, says more than 12,000 artisans are associated with the industry in Shahjahanpur. “Eligible Zari artisans have been provided a loan of Rs 11 crore. Apart from providing training to the people, tool kits have also been distributed to 700 people,” he said.
Arun Kumar Pandey, assistant general manager, Industrial Center, says artisan cards are also being provided to the beneficiaries. These card holders can set up their stalls at exhibitions in the country and abroad, he adds.
(With PTI inputs)