The butter-soft pashminas and intricate needlework of Kashmir; bold, bright prints of Gujarat and Rajasthan; dazzling gold brocades of Benaras; delicate white-on-white chikankari of Lucknow; sturdy silks of South – the colour, warmth and diversity found in India is reflected in the multitude of textiles in this country. Louis Levathes captures the essence of this in her article ‘The Fabric of India’, when she mentions, “India feels, to me, like a collection of countries reflected in its textiles.”
Resplendent, intricate, and varied, India’s textile tradition is a kaleidoscope of colors and cultures. Stretched along the length and breadth of the country, every region has its own design, motif and characteristic fabric.
Here's a peek at the myriad range of textiles from across the country.
Kashmir is famous for its exquisite embroidery – pashmina and jamwar shawls and warm woolen Namdas that can make you snug as a bug in a rug.
Punjab is associated with Phulkari. Jewel colored, shimmery fabrics are embroidered with geometric designs and floral motifs and turned into saris, salwar-suits, and dupattas.
The influence of Chamba pahari painting is evident in the Chamba rumals of Himachal Pradesh. The Chamba rumals are delicately embroidered kerchiefs in subtle shades of green, yellow and ochre with themes taken from Radha and Krishna stories.
Uttar Pradesh is the land of brocades and chikankari. The dazzling gold brocades of Varanasi are the stuff that dreams are made of. The brocade or 'kinkhwab' (fabric of dreams) is created by weaving pure silk and gold strands into intricate motifs like creepers, flowers, birds, animals and human forms.
The delicate chikankari embroidery is one of the things that Lucknow is famous for. If you’re visiting Lucknow, don’t forget to buy a pretty pastel sari or salwar kameez with chikankari work.
Gujarat and Kutch are known for their mirror work embroidery. Gujarat’s arid climate and susceptibility to droughts and floods have always made agriculture here uncertain. During the summer monsoons, when the grasslands north of Bhuj become an inland sea and farming has to be abandoned, mirror work, embroidery and beadwork flourish as means of making a living.
Block prints, bandhani and leheriya are characteristic of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Rajasthanis and Gujaratis create fabrics that stand out from their harsh landscapes.
As we move towards the eastern and southern part of India, we come across a kaleidoscope of fabrics and textile arts.
by Chandana Banerjee