The textiles Haat (Market)


The cultural prosperity and diversity India is reflected beautifully in the richness of its textiles. The founder of a celebrated retail store in India describes it this way, ” Traditional textiles and crafts have a soul, a story to tell in the form of narratives if the iconography of a culture and its people.”

Below you find in random order a short list and description of some of these traditional weaves courtesy of the magazine Klick which I was fortunate to stumble upon during my recent travels in India-

Paithali– This weave was patronized by the Nizam of Ahmednagar (1500-1700 A.D) and flourished under his rule. The Mughal era saw the introduction of new motifs and the Peshwa of Pune revived it further by relocating the weavers to Yeola, a small town near Shirdi in Maharashtra. During the British rule, the weave lost its glory and struggled to survive until the government undertook its revival. The weaving for this saree is done with silk yarn. Paithani is about its woven motifs and not just size and color but each details determines the time it requires to weave. Basic Paithani can be woven in eight-ten days, while most intricate and detailed motif borders can take upto two years to weave!

Bandhani– Bandhani or Bandhej is a technique used to create surface ornamentation on a fabric. It is a method where fabric is tied with mustard seeds and dyed in color to get prints. The origin of Bandhani has not been very clear. It is said that the craft was practiced in India some 5,000 years ago and imported by traders who visited Indonesia and Japan.

Blockprint– Hand block printing was used extensively to manuscript the teachings of Buddha in China in 868 A.D. However scholars say that the art was predominant in India in the 12th Century. Rajasthan and Gujrat picked up this art form and strated creating them on textiles. Block printing has spread to different parts of India and are given different names and consist of different motifs such as block prints in Rajasthan consist of animals, birds, human figures and Gods…

Phulkari– Phulkari which means flower work, is a form of embroidery from Punjab, that is mostly done by the women of the house.Phulkari traces its origin to the 15th century Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Sahib who wrote that a worthy woman knows how to embroider her own blouse. With the change and shift in the roles of the modern day woman this craft is ceasing to exist as a home craft as the skill of the phulkari is no longer being transferred to daughters of the current generation. Designers and art promoters in India are now working to find ways to contemporise and preserve crafts such as phulkari.

Chikankari-Chikankari as it is known today is a reflection of a craft that has witnessed centuries of evolution in the hands of its patrons. Noor Jahan, the famous queen of Mughal emperor Jahangir, took an inclination towards this craft in the 16th century.Some historians opine that chikankari is a Persian craft brought to the Mughal court of Emperor Jahangir by Noor Jahan. Today, Chikankari finds a prominent presence in Lucknow and other parts of Uttar Pradesh. Every Chikankari piece is a brew of several stitches. The most common motifs used are that of creepers and flowers.

Kalamkari– The art of Kalamkari derives its name from the two words, Kalam (pen) and Kari (work). It is said that the Moghuls patronized this art and helped the artisans develop newer motifs and designs on fabric. Masulipatnam and Srikalahasti emerged as the two big centers for this art. While Srikalahasti retained the hand painted aesthetics of the art, Masulipatnam turned to block printing for Kalamkari. The process of hand painted Kalamkari is a laborious one. It takes about two to three months to complete one design. It is interesting to note that the motifs in Kalamkari can be classified into distinct Hindu and Islamic influences.

Kanjeevaram– Kanjeevaram silk is the most popular textile of Tamil Nadu, and origintaes from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Historically, King Uttama Chola settled the Pattu Sele weavers from Andhra in four specially located parts of Kanchipuram in the 10th century, and King Thirumalai Nayak brought weavers from Saurashtra to be settled in Madurai in the 16th century. The Kanjeevaram silk sarees revolve around pin stripes, checks and temple architecture of Tamil Nadu. Much like the other hand woven textiles in India, Kanjeevaram too faces the problem of sustenance. Though the silk is extremely popular in India, handloom sarees have been replaced by power loom ones though there is currently an effort being put into preserving this ancient craft.

Kasavu-Kerala- The origins can be traced back to the pre-Hindu Buddhist- Jain culture that once flourished in Kerala and other parts of South India. The classic Kasavu border is created using gold threads. Simple line designs known as “kara” are found at the bottom of the saree and designs of peacocks and temples sometimes decorate the pallu.The traditional body of this saree is cream, white cotton or in sandalwood color, and is hand-woven. Traditionally married women opt for colors like red for the blouse and unmarried girls wear green blouses. The fabric that was initially woven by only specialized weavers for the royal family now has approximately 2,00,000 weavers in Kerala.

Kantha– Bengal- Kantha refers to a baby’s quilt which was in the past made by using simple running stitches on an old cotton saree. The threads of worn-out sarees were extracted for embroidery and the sarees recycled by the women to make kanthas, especially for children. In a research report by a NGO called Institute of International Social Development,” The earliest mention of Bengal Kantha was made some five hundred years ago.” The motifs and stitches of Kantha embroidery are inspired by nature. Common motifs are the Tree of Life, Lotus, Paisley, floral, moon and sun.

Madhubani Painting– Bihar- Madhubani painting or Maithil art, has its roots from the small village of Madhubani in Bihar. It was handed down the generations by the women of the household, who drew it on the walls and floors of their mud huts. The paintings depicted gods, goddesses, and tantric motifs along with male and female forms which were drawn using natural dyes or rice powder. According to a researcher on this art,” An attempt to popularize Maithil art requires an explanation of the art in the local context which also highlights the role and voices of women in Maithil society.”



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