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Splendour of Indian Textiles
The manufacture and use of various forms of fine textile varieties in India can be traced back to the Indus Valley period. Textiles were the major attraction that formed the bulk of the trade with Western and Eastern countries. Roman documents mention the export of silk from India to Europe around the sixth century A.D.
In India, the word tradition embraces life like in no other place. Textiles herald seasons, festivals and celebrate life itself. Keen embroideries and intricate prints, varied textures and kaleidoscopic colours clearly define the variety of the diverse region that they represent in India. Detailed and different, they range from exquisite florals to geometric lines and angles, from the simple and often very ethically sophisticated, to the delicate and labour-intensive.
Here are combinations of the old and the new: the sparkle of Swarovski blends with the richness of Indian fabrics. All culminating in five exclusive interpretations showcased here: the legendary Jamawar, the geometric Puan, the glided Tanchoi, the Leheria and the fine Ikat.
Jamawar: Legendary Stitches

Nature seems to have left its handprint on the Jamawar of Kashmir. Leaves, flowers and birds are intricately embroidered and lovingly woven on a soft, alluring and caressing surface.

Each Jamawar has its own story to tell: one of elegance and opulence, of days gone by when princes, nobles and nawahs wore cloaks of this fine weave. With a pashmina base, Jamawar shawls were woven with the softest touch in the gentlest fabric, all under an expert eye - Ruby red paisleys, against a backdrop of creamy white and finely embroidered birds placed in pale grey. Now, as then, this attire is a fashion statement that seems to say it all: unique and precious.

Leheria: Colours of Life

Textiles in India are interwoven with the lives of its inhabitants. The rugged vitality of the sands of Rajasthan, the people and the clothes they wear, make for harmoniously contrasting fabrics of life.

In the desert own of Sanganer, the young and the old dress in vibrating blends of colours, with block-printed patterns, renowned for over two centuries. The sanganeri print usually features floral sprays, spaced on a white, blue or yellow ground of fine cotton. Flowers such as iris, lily, narcissus, rose and carnation, favoured greatly by the Mughal emperors, brought sensitive expression to the work of Sanganer printer and continues to be popular with today's designers. India has also inspired the West with its tradition of block-printing, of beautifully coloured and delicately worked cotton fabrics such as chintz.

Another traditional art of printing, Leheria, that is tie and dye textiles made by knotting the material and dipping it in colour to form delightful striped patterns, has caught the world's attention.

Puan: The Drape of Seven States
All seven states of northeast India are indeed exotic. For the people here, traditional textiles are not just fashion but status symbol. Animal and human figures are woven into perfect geometric shapes. The colours used are also symbolically significant. Natural fabrics of cotton and silk are embellished with rich vegetable dyes that come alive with shapes such as the swastika, an ancient symbol of the sun and the wheel of life; the spiral, a link between the earth and the divine or just lines as straight as fleeting arrows.
Text by Write Media & Aparno Batra
Photographs by Hemant Khandelwat
The warp and weft of Indian traditions
The speciality weave of each region is based on the geographical location, climatic conditions, cultural influences, etc. While the art of weaving and dyeing cotton was well developed in the 1st century, the silk weaving came later by the 4th and 5th century. Woven silk formed a major portion of exports then.
Silk Weaves

Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) silk weaves - brocades: An extra weft of gold thread runs across the warp with the motifs picked up in silk thread and jewel like colours worked in the style of minakari in jewellery.

Another variety of gold brocade has warp and weft of gold thread with patterns worked in silk and gold thread. Normally the background material is woven in silver zari and the patterns in gold. This is known as Ganga-Yamuna, Ganga standing for the gold thread and Yamuna for the silver.

The pure silk brocades are very intricate with silk thread used for creating the patterns.

Baluchar weaves of West Bengal: These are plain woven fabric brocaded with untwisted silk thread developed in Murshidabad. The speciality is the large pallav, with a large pattern radiating from the centre. The body of the saree carries zari buttas. The designs from the miniature paintings are used for the pallav design. The weavers of Varanasi have excelled in creating textiles of this variety.
Tanchoi weaves of Gujarat: These textiles are based on satin weaving. The base is satin and the extra weft floats are merged into the fabric.
Paithani weaves used in pallavs of silk sarees of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh: The paithani technique, where the warp is zari thread with coloured thread for the weft. This technique is used in the pallav of the silk sarees.
Kancheepuram weaves of Tamil Nadu: The silk sarees are woven with fine silk with contrasting border and pallav woven with a variety of zari motifs such as rudraksham, malli moggu, gopuram, etc. There are other areas in Tamil Nadu that are famous for their silk weaves such as Dharmavaram, Arm. Tanjore is famous for the all over gold woven sarees used for temples.
Patola: These weaves are practised in various regions with slight variations based on local taste. In Patola weaving the warp and weft threads are tied and dyed before it is woven. The warp thread is first stretched on the loom and the design is marked on this. Areas are tied and dyed. The tie and dye process is done in various colours from lighter to darker colour shade. The weft threads are fixed on a prepared frame placed at an angle and the same process is carried out. The weft threads are thrown over the warp and woven using long bamboo needles to hold the design. Sometimes only the warp or weft is tie-dyed; it is known as single Patola.
Double Ikat: This technique is followed in Rajkot and Patan, Gujarat.
Pochampally sarees: Andhra Pradesh is famous for these. These are woven with geometrical patterns, which are usually made with only the weft tie-dyed. Chirala in Andhra Pradesh is another centre famous for Patola weaving.
Vichitrapuri sarees: Orissa is famous for these. In addition to the Patola technique, these have extra warp weaves of natural silk. Apart from the usual geometrical patterns, complicated temple designs are woven in the pallav.
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