The textile tradition of India takes one, 5,000 years
back in time. The madder dyed textile found at Mohenjodaro
proves both a knowledge of the use of mordants and competence
in the art of dyeing. Ancient Vedic literature refer
to the loom and the weaver. In northern, central and
eastern India, ancient texts speak of Banaras, Bengal,
Orissa and Madhya Pradesh having come up as famous centres
of weaving between the seventh century and second century
B.C. Buddhist literature refers to silk artefacts even
before the infant Buddha took his seven steps.
The foundations of the Indian textile trade with other
countries were laid some time in the second and first
Textiles 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.
Cotton is the soul of the handloom industry of India
today. The textiles of India may be roughly classified
as those that involve elaborate processes prior to weaving,
at the time of weaving and after the fabric is woven.
The finest textures of northern parts of the country,
are the Maheshwari and Chanderi saris of Madhya Pradesh.
Tanda and Banaras in Uttar Pradesh weave jamdani. The
tangail cottons of West Bengal, Sambalpuri and Vichitrapuri
saris of Orissa, tussar silk of Bihar, kasavumundu of
Kerala, Kancheepuram silks of Tamil Nadu, Pochampalli
telia rummals of Andhra Pradesh, all are in cotton and
The pashmina and shahtoosh shawls of Kashmir are woven
out of the fleece of the Tibetan goat. Ladakh has a
most picturesque and fascinating weaving tradition.
The natural coloured wool is woven into broad carpets,
sacks and saddle bags.
Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam and other north-eastern
states have a strong weaving tradition. Each tribe or
community has its own specific designs and motifs for
shawls and sarongs. The mekhla chadar, pung and rabha
kambang are elaborate.
Apart from usual techniques of embroidery and stitching,
that are used to make ornamental quilts, the weaver
places cotton into the fabric at regular intervals.
This is done on a fly-shuttle loom and consists of putting
equal quantities of cotton wool between parallel strips
of wet cloth.
The tradition of decorated textiles is as rich as the
woven one, with a vast range of hand block prints, tie-dyed
fabrics and embroideries.
Embroidery, or the art of working raised designs in
threads of silk, cotton, gold or silver upon the surface
of woven cloth with the help of a needle, has been known
in India from very early times.Gujarat and Rajasthan
boast a mind-boggling range in embroideries. Kantha
of Bengal, zardosi of Delhi, kasuti of Karnataka, phulkari
of Punjab, applique work and metal-wire embroidery are
some of the brilliant works in Indian embroidery.