|| Decorated Fabrics||
discovery of several spindles and a piece of cotton stuck to a
silver vase revealed that spinning and weaving of cotton was known
to the Harappans nearly five million years ago. References to
weaving are found in the Vedic literature on the method of spinning
and the various materials used.
In northern, central and eastern India, ancient texts speak
of Benaras, Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh as famous centres
of weaving between the seventh century and second century BC.
References to silk artifacts can be found in ancient Buddhist
literature. In addition, there are abundant visual references that
unveil the evolution of textile designs during different periods of
foundations of the Indian textile trade with other countries began
as early as the second century BC. A hoard of block printed and
resist-dyed fabrics, mainly of Gujarati origin, found in the tombs
of Fostat, Egypt, is the proof of large-scale Indian export of
cotton textiles to the Egypt in medieval times. In the 13th century,
Indian silk was used as barter for spices from the western
countries. Towards the end of the 17th century, the British East
India Company had begun exports of Indian silks and various other
cotton fabrics to other countries. These included the famous fine Muslin
cloth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Trade of painted and printed
cottons or chintz was extensively practiced between India,
China, Java and the Philippines, long before the arrival of the
came to be associated with social and ritualistic events from very
early times. Sacred images are clothed and the texts, whether on
palm leaves or on paper, are tied in bright textile pieces. Fabrics
that use mill-spun yarn but which are hand-woven are known as
handloom. Cotton is the
soul of the handloom industry of India today. Before the
introduction of mechanized means of spinning in the early 19th
century, Indian cottons and silks were hand spun and hand woven. Khadi
became a highly popular fabric as a result of the swadeshi
movement. Today cotton is an integral part of textiles in India.
Nearly four million handlooms are engaged in weaving fabrics of
nearly 23 different varieties of cotton.
region of the subcontinent developed its own distinct textile
identity, reflected in the weave and pattern of the fabric and in
the way it was worn. Kanchipuram,
Ahmedabad, Aurangabad, Varanasi, Jaipur, Chanderi, Paithan, Gadhwal
and Kashmir were important centres of textiles from ancient times.
The finest textures of northern parts of the country are the Maheshwari
and Chanderi saris of Madhya Pradesh and jamdani
of Tanda and Benaras in Uttar Pradesh. The Benares silk saris is a
very ancient tradition. In the 19th century, Benares silk
manufacturers used vegetable and animal forms which were derivations
of the Mughal tradition. The design now widely used is a highly
stylised floral motif known as the 'Ashrafi Buti', which is based on
the old gold sovereigns.
The tangail cottons of West Bengal, Sambalpuri
and Vichitrapuri saris of Orissa, tussar silk of
Bihar, kasavumundu and karalkuda of Kerala, Kancheepuram
silks of Tamil Nadu, Pochampalli telia rummals of Andhra
Pradesh and the Irkali saris of Bijapur in Karnataka are
fascinating specimens of meticulous workmanship. The Paithani
saris, produced in Paithan near Aurangabad, are made of silk in
rich, vivid colours with gold embroidery.
They find a mention even in the Greek records dating before
Christ. Paithani is
expressed in designs like mazchar (ripples of silver), bangadi
mor (peacock inside a bangle) and dhup chaun (sunshine
and shade), which are woven on the pallu.
In the modern Paithani saris, silver threads coated
with gold are used instead of pure gold threads.
Aurangabad is also famous for the Himroo shawls which
are made of fine threads of silver and gold. The final cloth appears
as "Gold Cloth". Jamdani cottons,
traditionally woven in Tanda, Uttar Pradesh, are lightweight
patterned cloths that essentially rely on the tapestry technique.
Fine white, off-white or cream coloured cloth is woven in Kota,
Rajasthan and Palghat and Thiruvanthapuram in Kerala.
near Jaipur, is famous for the finest hand-block printing and
design, dyeing and ornamentation. The local craftsmen are experts at
crinkling, tie-dye, lahariya, mothra, quilting and
multitudinous skills of braiding, plaiting and trimming. This art is
also very well developed in other parts of Rajasthan. While the Bagru
prints are famous for floral designs in dark vegetable colours
the Barmer prints are known for their bold geometric patterns called
'ajrakh'. A later-day development is the method of embossed
printing with gold and silver called Khari. Jaisalmer
specializes is the wax resistant art printing, a technique that
creates some of the most unusual shades. The Udaipur printers take
their inspiration from the pichhwai of Nathdwara, which leave
their lance in the fold of the cloth. The Kota-dorias are
famous throughout the country for the fineness of their quality.
weaving flourished in Kashmir under the patronage of the Mughals.
The pashmina and shahtoosh shawls of Kashmir are woven
out of the fleece of the Tibetan goat. The pashmina shawl
usually comes in subtle shades of cream, beige, brown and grey,
depending on the natural colour of the fleece. They may be dyed to
produce brighter colours or livened up with embroidery. The shahtoosh
is even more delicate than the pashmina. It is so fine and
soft that it passes through a ring quite easily. Ladakh has a most
picturesque and fascinating weaving tradition. The natural coloured
wool is woven into broad carpets, sacks and saddle-bags.
is also famous for its carpets. The art of carpet weaving came
to Kashmir from Persia in the 15th century during the reign of
Sultan Zain ul_Abadin. The art got a boost in the 17th century
during the reign of Ahmed Khan the then governor of Kashmir.
Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan and Gujarat are other states where good shawls are woven.
The art of weaving jamawar or tapestry shawls rolled into
India from Turkey in the 15th century AD. Woven in shades
of cream, brown and grey interspersed with coloured threads to form
floral patterns, the best jamawars are now made in Basohli in
Himachal Pradesh. Kullu is famous for its vibrantly coloured shawls
with striking geometrical patterns. In the North East, each tribe or
community has its own specific designs and motifs for shawls and sarongs.
The mekhla chadar, pung and rabha kambang have
elaborate patterns. Tripuri
women wear a scarp, called pachra or ninon, which
reaches down just below the knee. They weave in their loin-loom a
small piece of cloth called 'Risha', which is used as their
breast garment. The Manipuri designs are based on their special
legends, traditions and beliefs.
The popular akoibi and ningthous phee are
patterned on the different designs of a snake and are used mostly in
the phanek or women's lungi.
The morang phee or the Manipuri sari is distinguished
by its border and the likli and lashing phee design.
Indian dress can be loosely divided into two categories: stitched
clothing (tunics, gowns, jackets, waistcoats, skirts and trousers)
and unstitched clothing (mantles, shawls, turbans, scarves, saris
and loin-cloths). Different
regions have become renowned for different kinds of fabric.
Masuriya is a rare cotton fabric woven in Masuriya
village in Rajasthan. Himroo
is a kind of brocaded material woven on a simple throw-shuttle. Varanasi is well known for its kinkab (brocade) with
its beldar (scroll pattern) and butidar designs. Its brocade works like chandtara, dhupchhaon, mazchar,
morgala and bulbul chasm have great demand abroad. Gujarat's nathdwara pichwai in the brocade style is
very famous. The baluchar
silk of Murshidabad district of West Bengal have unique designs.
The patola weaving involves the subtle merging of
different shades of colour. Assam
has several varieties of silk like endi, muga and pala.