Pardon our dust while we update this corner of the website.

Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection
March 12, 2017 - July 9, 2017
Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection
March 12, 2017 - July 9, 2017
Exquisite “flower work” textiles of Punjab

Discover the beauty and cultural significance of phulkari, ornately embroidered textiles from Punjab, a region straddling Pakistan and India. In addition to stunning examples from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, this exhibition features traditional phulkaris from the Museum’s collection and high-fashion ensembles by one of India’s leading designers, Manish Malhotra.


Exhibition Trailer

Exhibition Tour with Curator Darielle Mason

What Is Phulkari?

Phulkari, meaning “flower work,” is a labor-intensive textile made of vibrant silk embroidery on a plain-woven cotton cloth. Deeply rooted in Punjabi life before the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan (which split the Punjab region), this tradition has become a powerful symbol of Punjabi cultural identity.

Sainchi Phulkari (detail)
Sainchi Phulkari (detail)
Artist/maker unknown, Punjabi
[More Details]
Usually worn by women as large shawls on special occasions, phulkaris were also made as blankets or as furniture covers or hangings. Women of many religious groups—Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs (who consider the Punjab their holy land)—stitched phulkaris, with young girls learning needlework from older female relatives and friends. They often created the embroideries for their dowry, which they brought to their new homes when they married.

Some phulkaris depict animals and village scenes, while others display complex geometric patterns in bold colors conveying good fortune and social status. Whether figural or geometric, all are rich in symbolism: after the 1947 Partition, phulkari textiles became an important symbol for the new nation of Pakistan.

Over the past half century, phulkari techniques and patterns have experienced a revival, especially as a commercial art. As an emblem of pre-Partition village life, phulkaris have been celebrated in popular music and videos. More recently, this folk tradition has entered the realm of high fashion through designers such as Manish Malhotra, who recently created a phulkari-based couture collection.


This exhibition is made possible by Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, The Coby Foundation, Ltd., and The Stella Kramrisch Indian and Himalayan Art Fund.


Darielle Mason, The Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Dilys E. Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles, Philadelphia Museum of Art; and
 Dr. Cristin McKnight Sethi, Assistant Professor, ‎The George Washington University, Washington, DC


Joan Spain Gallery, first floor, Perelman Building