Indian textiles offer a rich variety in texture, colour, pattern, and embellishment. Every state in India has its unique and exceptional weaving style and each of them is influenced by the cultural and social habits of the people of the region. It is indeed a daunting task to select the ten best of Indian textiles but I’ve attempted here to provide the selection of some of the best with particular emphasis on texture and pattern.
Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa are home to what is called Double Ikkat Patola. Patola or Ikkat is a special style of weaving. Painstakingly, the warp and the weft are coloured separately and then woven to form an exquisite fabric that is vibrant with colour and design. Since the patterns used are traditional hand-me–downs, there are a only a few of them and they're used repeatedly.
This comes from the rural folk of Punjab. Dupattas and shawls are adorned with fine single-thread embroidery using darn stitching. Hand spun, hand woven, and dyed khadi cloth is used. Different regions of Punjab specialize in different patterns. Single colored silk threads are used by skilled artisans to create an effect of shade by using vertical, horizontal, and diagonal stitches. We find mention of phulkari in the Vedas and the Mahabharata. Motifs used depict wheat, barley, flowers and geometric patterns. Religious scenes are never used.
Kanchipuram, a small town in Tamil Nadu, has a large population of silk weavers. Kanjeevaram sarees from south India are made from rich and heavy silk and have a heavy zari border and pallav. Some sarees have a characteristic pyramid shaped pattern at the base and are popular as temple border sarees. In modern times two different colors are used in the warp and the weft, creating a unique blend of colors called a shot-saree. Blue and green, pink and gold, and blue and red are some well known shot color combos.
Originally from the town of Murshibad in West Bengal, Baluchari sarees are treasured for the intricate woven borders and showcase the fine artistry of East Indian artisans. The sun, moon, stars, and motifs of natural objects adorn the body of Baluchari sarees. Baluchari pattern is woven into the fabric using contrasting colors and they traditionally depict Radha and Krishna, or riders on horses, or women with hookahs. One can also find the well known kalka or paisley motif and scenes from The Ramayana on these sarees. Baluchari sarees reflect a strong Mogul esthetic influence.
The origin of Kantha work is non-commercial. The women used the well preserved parts of worn out sarees and joined them together with running stitches to make quilts, book covers, and mats. The variations to the running stitch used are many and make Kantha work fascinating. Today kantha work is done on silk and cotton sarees.
6. Bandhani Bandhani or tie-and-dye is made in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Bleached silk or cotton cloth is used. Tiny bits of cloth are pinched together and tied tightly. The cloth is then dipped in large vats of dye. The part that is tied resists the dye and a pattern of small dots is created. If more colors are required to be used, the dyed cloth is allowed to dry and the tie-and-dye process is repeated. When the cloth is dry the threads are removed, the cloth is hot-pressed. The pattern emerges as fascination array of white dots on panels of different colors. Silk sarees, colorful pagris and dupattas are made in bandhani style.
7. North Eastern textiles
Shawls from Nagaland need an acquired taste to be appreciated. The shawls are made of cotton or wool or nettle fiber. The yarn used, the pattern created, and the colors depend largely on the region and tribe of origin of the shawl. The patterns signify the position of the person wearing the shawl. But when sold outside Nagaland the shawls lose this significance and are picked up by customers for their aesthetic appeal. The Naga shawls are typically composed of red, black and white bands. Some shawls contain motifs of figures, elephants, tiger, rooster, human heads, spear and a sickle like instrument. A rough shawl used by both men and women is called ratapfe.
The traditional method of creating a hand woven silk Paithani saree is handed down from a generation of weavers to the next generation. The Paithani sarees of in Aurangabad, Maharastra have been mesmerizing women since 200 BC. The creation of traditional Paithani sarees takes anything from two months to an year. Motifs on the rich zari pallav like the peacock, mango, and lotus are taken from Ajantha caves. Thus we have the parrot, peacock, creeper and coconut patterns. Now Paithani sarees are getting bolder we also find jacquard weave incorporated with the traditional tabby weave.
Sri Kalahasti and Machilipatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh are the centers of Kalamkari work. Intricate paintings are drawn on cotton and silk fabric with a bamboo-pen or kalam dipped in natural dyes. This traditional art is said to have flourished from as far back as the 13th and 19th centuries. Narrative wall hangings that depict stories of The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, and The Shiva Purana were made and traded. Today kalamkari work is used to adorn jackets, bed covers, and even personal items.
10. Mysore Crepe
Crepe sarees are woven in the city of Mysore, exclusively by KSIC. Crepe silk is a rich yet sober fabric for the Mysore royalty. Crepe sarees are known to be handed down through generations. Silk yarn is woven in a particular manner to get a crepe fabric that has sheen and strength. The body is plain and of a single pure color. The border and pallav have patterns made from gold threads. The patterns in the border have mango, buttas, sunrise, checks, jawar, and even embroidery. To cater to the increasing demands of a fashion conscious costumer, they now produce printed crepes that have the sheen and grace of a Mysore crepe saree and the vibrancy of printed material.
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Ratna Rao is a Science graduate with MA in English literature. She worked as high school teacher for 10 years before moving on to storytelling with NGO Kathalaya. She then worked as SME for 5 years in Edurite Technologies, an e-learning company. She is creative with her language and specialises in wording content and storyboards for e-learning, creating and rewriting stories for children, text book, article and web content writing. She is based in New Delhi.
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