Craft traditions


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 centuries B.C.

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 silk.

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.

Decorated Fabrics

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.

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