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India on a Fabric


India is like a tapestry. The tapestry has a wonderful design of unique tales to tell. It has a lot to tell of the colourful traditions that have been rooted from the very inception of the Indus valley civilization. The fabrics and yarns come alive with the myth and mysticism of the lore's that have formed the very basis of the Indian society at large.  Every thread has a vivid account to narrate on the dynamic cultures of the country.

Olden handlooms

The textile industry of India began to mature during the Mughal Era. Saris and shawls all intricately designed in real gold and silver threads adorned the royalty and elite. As soon as the Mughal era saw its decline, the industry headed towards its doom. When the Brits invaded India, the textile and handloom industry, came to a complete standstill. The inexpensive machine made textiles brought about an abrupt end of the handmade textiles in the country. Even today, several efforts are being made to resurrect the textile industry by giving incentives to artisans and weavers.

A journey

As Safari Plus takes an insight into the handloom industry of the country you will learn of the vibrancy of colours, the bounce of fabrics and a story of every society that resides within the county. Just in case you do plan on shopping for your loved ones don't forget to pick up one of these fabrics or drapes.

Jammu Kashmir: The north of the sub continent is walled by the mighty Himalayas. Hence wool is a common feature in the northern parts of the country.  In Jammu and Kashmir, we come across an array of shawls woven intricately with floral motifs called Pashmina. Pashmina, is one of the most expensive materials. It is available in two varieties. One that is obtained from the mountain goat in the wild, and the other is obtained from the domesticated variety. The former variety is extremely soft in origin and of superior quality. Recently, celebrated designers have incorporated the Pashmina into the making of Salwar Suits, and trendy Kurtis.

Punjab: Phulkari is another very colourful fabric. The art of Phulkari originated in the 19th century. The hand spun fabric involves elaborate embroidery of flowers. A typical Phulkari sometimes translates to a literal flower garden. This is available in drapes as well as dress materials.

Uttar Pradesh: Benarasi Sari's originating from Banaras in Uttar Pradesh, have been the pride of India for the longest time. The fabric comprises of a dramatic play of colours, motifs, brocade and use of real gold and silver threads. Adorned by every royal in the country, this drape has found mention in the diaries of an 18th century English merchant too. Uttar Pradesh is also known for its Lucknowi Chikenkari work. Wonderful floral and geometric patterns are created using back stitch, chain stitch, and hem stitch. These designs are created on chiffon, silk, and cotton. The art of Chikenkari was introduced by Empress Nur Jahan of the Mughal Era.

Madhya Pradesh: The heart of India which is Madhya Pradesh is well known for its Maheshwari silk. The Maheshwari fabric has been patronized by Ahilya Bai (the ruler of Malwa). The drapes woven are of pure silk, and are known for the sheen, elasticity, and strength. Colours are the main highlights of this fabric. You will find the sari in an array of colours such as grape green, deep purples, shocking pinks, magentas, deep browns, light violets, and many more. Zari is lavishly used on the borders of the drapes. The body of the sari is done with little motifs of peacocks, moon-stars, mangoes, flowers and flowerpots.

West Bengal: West Bengal too cannot be left behind. The Kantha work is an eminent feature of this region. There is a dramatic use of colourful threads in the running stitch on silk. A good Kantha weave makes a fantastic stole or an even more elegant sari. An interesting Kantha will have a pictoral script of traditional folklores traditionally embroidered onto silk. Tant Saris or Bengali cotton saris are also very famous. In early days it used to be hand woven but now its has taken over by machine woven. They have bright colors with decorative border. Tussar silk and Matka silk is widely used in this region.

Rajasthan: The state is known for Bandhni. The art of tie and dye has been a very ancient art form. Small portions of the cloth are tied to form a unique pattern. After a natural dye has been applied on to the cloth, the tied portions are opened out to unveil a wonderful pattern. Silk, and chiffon are predominantly used for the making of Bandhni. Rajasthan is known as a colourful sates owing to the use of bright colouration on the fabrics.

Gujarat: Yet another lively state that comes alive with colour and light. Their fabrics too have wonderful designs embroidered along with tiny mirrors (abhla) A typical Gujarati Chaniya and choli with detailed mirror work can be spotted during the Navratri Festival. The Patola Saris too cannot be missed. The Gujaratis weave colourful silken threads, forming geometric patterns against a while backdrop. As white is a sign of purity, a typical Gujarati bride is traditionally draped in a Patola.

Maharashtra: Paithni is a weave patronized by the Mahrastrian Royal women of Paithan. The silk weaves have geometrically inclined motifs of mangoes, flowers, peacocks, and even parrots. A typical Paithni involves the use of real Gold thread. Silver is generally not used in the making of this fabric. The Paithni drapes are expensive and very few good Paithani Sari weavers are left nowadays. A Paithni weave involves colours of joy such as bright yellows, deep reds, brighter blues, and even dark greens.

Andhra Pradesh: Andhra is known for its Kalamkari work. This is an art form, which is also incorporated on textiles. The Kalamkari worker work under the patronage of the temples in Andhra region. On the other hand, the Banjara's or the nomads of this region makes interesting textiles using cowry shells too. The cowry shell Odhnis are hot selling in this part of the country.

Karnataka: Silk rearing is very common in the southern parts of the sub continent. This is owing to the excessive growth and presence of mulberry trees that is ideal for silk rearing. Karnataka is known for its Kangeevaram Silk Sari's. Zari is liberally woven in with the silken threads to form exquisite borders. The motifs used in the Palav of the sari are inspired by the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Each sari takes almost 10 to 12 days to prepare.

Kerela: The plain white Karaikudi sarees, with gold bands on the border are a typical of Kerela. It is learned that a typical Karaikudi is finished in silk. The cotton variations are available too. Sometimes floral motifs of gold or silver threads are incorporated in the making of these saris. These saris are processed on the traditional looms with the yarn count of 100 for the wrap and weft is also used.


While the above mentioned are the most celebrated fabrics of this region, there is a lot more that one could find within a state itself. Today India is emerging as one of the largest textile manufacturers. One can find practically any material artfully woven to suit your purpose.

By: Heer P Kothari  & Parul Kesari


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