A Mecca for textiles, India is known all over the world for its diversity and innovation in textiles. The origins of fabrics in India can be traced back to the Indus Valley civilization in the North and Keezhadi in the South. The oldest cotton found in India dates back to 4000 BC (Approx). The country is also rich in natural materials. This gave birth to many printing and dyeing techniques which are unique to a given part of the country.
Here are 10 contemporary Indian textiles that would blow your mind
1. Kalamkari: It is a cotton textile from Andhra Pradesh that is either hand painted or printed with beautiful motifs. It usually shows scenes from Hindu epics - Ramayan and Mahabharat. It was discovered by musicians and artists who wander around the country and make their livelihood from storytelling. Kalamkari art has two distinct styles - the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. Traditionally it was drawn on canvas and used natural dyes and preservatives. Later on, people started decorating their clothes with Kalamkari motifs. Silk, cotton, mulmul, and synthetic sarees are designed with kalamkari works. Today, traditional techniques are replaced by digital techniques. Motifs are printed and not painted. It had a period of decline. But now it is getting revived. Families in Andhra Pradesh who work on Kalamkari Art are getting support from the government.
Image source: https://thedesigncart.com/blogs/news/kalamkari
2. Bandhini: It is a type of tie and dye textile decorated by plucking the clothes with fingernails into many fine bindings that form a figurative design. Early evidence of Bandhani dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. Today, most of the Bandhani centers are concentrated in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sindh, and Punjab. Usually, the tying is done by hand. But in some places of Rajasthan, craftsmen wear metal rings with pointy fingers to make the pinching easier. Some of the finest varieties of Bandhani are created in Pethapur, Mandvi, Bhuj, Anjar, Jamnagar, Jetpur, Porbandar, Rajkot, Udaipur, Jaipur, Ajmer, Bikaner, and Churu.
Image source: https://knottyknitters.in/tie-and-dye-bandhani/
3. Kantha: It is an embroidered fabric from Bangladesh and the Eastern parts of India. It is used to make simple cushions which are known as Nakshi Kantha. Women used to stack old and used sarees on top of each other and layer them with Kantha stitching. This would result in light Blankets and bedspreads for children. Originally, it was a type of hand embroidery in rural India. In most cases, the whole fabric is covered with running stitches in various motifs or shapes. Geometric patterns, floral designs, animals, and birds are a few commonly used motifs.
4. Muga silk: Assam is known for sericulture. Muga silk is one of the many famous silk varieties produced in Assam. This fabric is extremely durable and has a high natural luster. It has a yellowish-golden tint and a shimmering and glossy texture. It has a very special and mind-blowing property - Its luster increases with every wash. It is used to make sarees, mekhalas, and chados. Most of the Muga silk is produced in the Brahmaputra valley.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muga_silk
5. Banarasi silk: Banarasi silk is the pride of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. It is known for its intricate brocade designs in golden and silver threads. It's very fine silk and has opulent embroideries all over it. Its special characteristic would be the intricate intertwining floral and foliate motif, Kalga and bel. But currently, this beautiful fabric is facing a downfall due to the competition from machine-made goods of Varanasi.
6. Jamdani: It is a fine muslin textile decorated with figured patterns. Originally, it was called Dhakai after the city of Dhaka which was the weaving hub of Bengal. Under the Mughal empire, the Persian word "Jamdani" was used. It is one of the most laborious and time-consuming types of handloom weaving. It is considered one of the finest varieties of Muslin.
7. Pashmina: It is a finer version of spun Cashmere, an animal hair fabric produced from Changthangi Goat. Its origin can be traced back to Harappa, during the Indus valley civilization. In the Mughal time, it was used as an indicator of rank and mobility. This fabric is known for its warmth and softness. Today, it is produced as shawls, wraps, and Stoles.
Image source: https://www.ibef.org/experience-india/products/pashmina
8. Ajrak: It is a fabric known for its unique block prints. It is commonly found in the Sindhi region of Pakistan, Ajrakhpur in the Kutch district, and the neighboring areas of Gujarat. This fabric was created during the lower Indus valley civilization when people used tree cotton to make clothes. The motif used to make block prints were influenced by the Mughals who were interested in geometric patterns. Ajrakh is considered the symbol of Sindhi culture and tradition.
9. Mangalagir: It is a fabric produced from handicraft weaving in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. It is produced by weaving with the help of pit looms combed yarn by war and weft interlacing. The main characteristic of the fabric would be the Nizam design. It is also used by devotees of the Lord Narasimha for devotional purposes as the town is his abode.
Image source: https://thedesigncart.com/blogs/news/mangalagiri
10. Patola: It is a double Ikat woven saree, usually made from silk In Patna, Gujarat. There are four distinct patterns in Patola weaving. It is usually done by the Salvi community. Parrots, elephants, dancing figures, and floral and geometric motifs are used in making Patola Sarees. In Maharashtra, it is also known as Nari Kunj. Usually, it is worn for weddings and other special occasions.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patola_sari
There are many other fabrics produced in India that are famous and have a distinguished name in the global market. But due to the easy way of production by using technology, people are shifting towards power looms. All the traditional and handloom fabrics are a heritage of our country. Many famous designers are working on reviving this traditional fabric manufacturing sector by incorporating these fabrics into their designs. We hope this would be an inspiration for all the budding designers and design aspirants to explore the traditional and contemporary side of the Indian Textile Industry.