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The Royal Hunt – Shikaargah

With a famed lineage dating back to the 18th century, Shikaar (hunting) gah (place) is a cultural coalescence of Persian, European and Mughal influences. Often mistaken to be a weaving technique, Shikaargah, a magnificent visual display of scenic floral and animal motifs is in fact a traditional design pattern.

Before making its way onto textiles, elements of the Shikaargah scene could be found in medieval Persian decorative arts to miniature paintings and architecture of the Mughal period. Conventionally inspired by the hunt of Mughal kings – a typical scene depicts royals on horseback and elephants chasing deer and tigers.

Overtime, subtle variations of peak caps on hunters for British soldiers and hunting scenes merging with familiar Banarasi motifs came to play. Peacocks, parrots combined with foliage, traditional floral booti/bootas, fruits and themes such as tree of life and paisleys, all formed a part of the Banarasi Shikaargah.

The adaptation of the scene on 6 yards of fabric led to its own interpretations as we see today. While the traditional exuberant pattern covered the body spilling over to the borders and pallu of the saree, sparse variations illustrate the scene only on the borders and pallu in repeat patterns. Another version with woven animals and hunters in a floral lattice or a diagonal layout continues to be hugely admired. With a complex brocade weaving pattern, Banarasi Shikaargah remains associated with the finest silks, luxurious tones of zari, soft resham and intricate hints of Meenakari.

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