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Ready Pattern Design & Trends Blog

The Rich Legacy of Indian Textiles - An Untold Story

by Michelle Frances

June 3, 2020 17:14 label 6 minutes read label Leave a comment

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Are you ready for an enthralling journey through by-lanes of Indian textiles? Textile printing and weaving date back to Neolithic cultures. India has no shortage of kinds of textiles. Today I offer you a curated virtual journey through this treasure trove.

Paint a picture of unknown stories

Textile designing does not go without narratives. Wondering about the importance of the handicraft tradition? Knock your brains. You get to know a lot about a place’s culture, from people’s choice of textiles. Let’s have a look: 

  • If you know what Jamdani is and love adorning it, you are a true textile connoisseur. The soaring popularity of this form of textile weaving is due to the Mughal emperors and their imperial warrants. Artisans from Bangladesh, have, through the years, made use of their impeccable precision. They have been creating one of the most delicate muslins in the world. Every weft and warp have some hidden story.
  • Heard of something called “khipus”? The Inca Civilization used these knotted strings to convey messages.
  • Tapestries have often commanded a special place in recording histories. Be it Bible verses or first-hand reports from battlefields; tapestries carry them all. 
  • When I search for nearer horizons, our country is pregnant with textile woven stories. Textiles characterize the glory of our country, right from the Indus Valley Civilisation. Even the Mahabharat has select verses dedicated to the plethora of Indian textiles. Sanskrit literature and the murals in the Ajanta caves are proud testimonies of bountiful textile lad culture.

Let’s count the colours in the rainbow!

India is a flourishing hub for the textile industry. Will it stimulate your nerve for interest, when I say that each different variety of textile, has a story behind it? Right from the story of origin to the way the artistes weave out masterpieces from them, you get to unravel the mystery in every scaffold. 

You will hear of many styles like Block printing, Dabu printing, Batik, Arjakh, Bandhni, Leheriya, etc. I would love introducing some forms, which fascinate yet fails to get the attention they deserve.

  • Kalamkari: The literal translation goes like, “the art of drawing with a pen”. Ancient India saw storytellers, artists and musicians travelling distances. They used to draw the episodes of Hindu mythology later, with colours derived out of natural extracts. The art has now evolved to encompass intricate animal and floral patterns and freehand abstracts. Does it surprise you to know that the efforts take months and even years 

Factfinder: DWARKA or Development of Weavers and Rural Artisans in Kalamkari is a brainchild of Anita Reddy. It is a paradise for people like me who finds everything in Kalamkari, irresistible.

  • Varak gold and silver leaf printing: Years of tradition stand behind this form. Known as Chandi ki Chhapai, in colloquial terms, it is a very meticulous and delicate style of embellishing the fabrics and the clothes. Flatter and sheet-like gold and silver plates constitute the varak style.

Factfinder: Varak style of printing is almost doomed to extinction now. Some of the finest craftsmen of our country can craft the style on sarees and dupattas of Chanderi style. Varak was printed on tents, flags and other insignias of power, earlier, to attest the valour and prestige of the owner.

  • Bagh printing: Let me suggest something very natural. The Bagh style of textile printing traces origins to the Bagh region in Madhya Pradesh. Natural colours characterize the fabric. How do you think it comes out? A blend of corroded fillings of iron, alizarin and alum, does the wonders.  

This is not an end to the list of surprises! The artisans wash the fabric in the river water, many a time after the printing process is complete. The subtle lustre only comes, after sunlight dries the material well.

It saddens me to point out that the artisans are now having to find other markets for earning. The only reason responsible is the changing demand graph. These crafts have economic, aesthetic and social contributions to the country. So, why this apathy? The reasons are many, but that’s a tale for the sunnier days. Are you a proud child of this country? You do have the responsibility of adding a shine to the handicraft landscape. Ask me how? Yes, by deciding to buy more of these textile products.

About the author

Michelle Frances

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