Inspiring Handloom Heritage!
From the softest pashminas to the finest kanjeevaram silks, India offers as vast a variety of handlooms as its extensive length and breadth. Gargi Bansod takes you on a tour of these beautiful weaves found across the country.
A peek into India’s vast variety of handlooms
There’s a reason Indian weddings look so vibrant and eclectic! It is because of the beautiful amalgamation of unique handlooms from different regions of the country. We have the muga silk from Assam, patola from Gujarat, chanderi from Madhya Pradesh and phulkari from Punjab, giving each Indian outfit a characteristic of its own. While there is a distinction in the craft and artistry, at the same time, there is also a smooth blend of techniques and styles between regions. Even though contemporary designs and new techniques have taken over the handloom industry, traditional weaves still hold their own and continue to create a marketplace for themselves across the world. We take a look at some of the finest varieties from each region.
PASHMINA OF JAMMU & KASHMIR
Derived from the wool of a special strain of sheep, the changthangi, Pashmina shawls are a mark of pride. These handwoven warm shawls have delicate hand embroidery in bold colours, giving them a distinctive look.
PHULKARI OF PUNJAB
Brought to us by the migrant Jat people, the Pulkari, meaning flower work, style of embroidery has been etched in the culture of Punjab. What makes this embroidery stand out is the use of horizontal, vertical and diagonal darn stitches on the wrong side of the cloth with coloured silken thread, resulting in a creative geometric grid.
TIBETAN HANDLOOMS OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
While the handlooms of Himachal Pradesh are influenced by the indigenous Rajputana style, expressing the rich art and creativity of the region, a major influence is from the refugees who came here from Tibet, making Tibetan handlooms easily available in the markets of Shimla, Dharamshala, Manali and McLeodganj.
PANJA OF HARYANA
With Panipat nicknamed as the ‘City of Weavers’, it makes Haryana the hub for traditional Indian textiles. Panja weaving, a craft mainly used to
make dhurries, meaning light woven rugs used as floor covering, is the highlight of this region. The craft gets its name from a metallic claw-like tool called panja in the local dialect which is used to beat and set the threads in the warp.
PANKHI OF UTTARAKHAND
The most cherished handloom of Uttarakhand is the pankhi, which is a long, woolen shawl made by traditional weaving methods. These are made out of special rabbit wool called Angora wool.
CHIKAN OF UTTAR PRADESH
Incorporating approximately 36 different stitching techniques, the Lucknowi chikan is the most elegant form of embroidery from Uttar Pradesh. While traditionally it was done on muslin cloth with white thread on white fabric, today it can be seen on cottons, crepes and chiffon in an array of pastel colours.
KOSA OF CHATTISGARH
A type of tussar silk, the Kosa weave patterns from Chhattisgarh are block printed, painted or embroidered. Kosa silk is valued for its purity and texture and is drawn from cocoons especially grown on Arjun, Saja or Sal trees.
BANDHEJ OF RAJASTHAN
The bandhej and chunari prints are the most popular offerings of this region where artisans use wooden blocks for printing for one and tie & dye technique for the other, respectively.
PATOLA OF GUJARAT
This state is a treat for handloom lovers! While it is mostly famous for its patola print, an exclusive tie and dye technique with intricate weaving, Gujarat also offers handlooms with block prints using vegetable dyes, and its popular Kutch embroidery as well.
CHANDERI OF MADHYA PRADESH
Home to the delicate chanderi silk and maheshwari saris, Madhya Pradesh offers simple yet elegant handlooms. The speciality of chanderi saris is that silk is used as the warp and cotton for the weft to weave them, making it a perfect blend of comfort and elegance.
BOMKAI OF ORISSA
This bright coloured dyed weave has thread-work ornament borders that they use to make saris. The contrasting use of material and colours makes this a unique handloom.
TUSSAR SILK OF BIHAR
India is the only country which offers all four varieties of silk, one being the tussar silk from Bihar, a variety of hand-woven cotton mulmuls, a textured fabric weaved by giving a low-twist to silk yarns.
KANTHA OF WEST BENGAL
One of the most elegant handlooms of India comes from West Bengal in the form of the Baluchari and Kantha work saris in cotton and silk. While the Balucharis reflect the rustic culture of villages, the Kantha embroidery showcases the creativity of the regional artisans.
KUCHAI SILK OF JHARKHAND
This weave of handloom is found in the Kharsawan-Kuchai region of Jharkhand, thus deriving its name.
LEPCHA OF SIKKIM
The Lepcha weaves or ‘ thara’, derived from the Lepcha tribe in Sikkim, is woven in vertical looms of small width with a backstrap. Today, cotton and woollen yarn are used together with vegetable dyes and synthetic colours to spin Lepcha yarn.
MUGA SILK OF ASSAM
Known as the Silk Heaven, Assam produces the King of Silks, Muga, a golden yellow fabric native only to this region. This rich silk is extracted from the semi-domesticated silkworm Antheraea assama.
SHINGKA OF ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Weavers from this region use indigenous organic materials for weaving apparel such as the Shingka, which is a tribal dress worn by Monpa women in the West Kameng district. It is a light red sleeveless gown with white stripes worn with a sash at the waist, woven using coarse silk thread.
PUANS OF MIZORAM
Noted for their beautiful designs and intricate embroidery, puans are like lungis or sarongs traditionally worn by the women. Mizo women weave motifs and traditional designs on their loin-looms, which are then used in shawls and shoulder bags.
ENDI SILK OF MEGHALAYA
The local women of the Meghalaya tribes carry out the weaving of the sturdy Endi silk, using back-strap or loin-looms, except the garos who also use frame-looms.
RISAI OF TRIPURA
Adorned with pride by the local women, Risai is the part of the dress that covers the upper body. Its fabric has both horizontal and vertical straight patterns of weaves, forming a striped layout, which is supplemented with varying patterns of embroidery contrasted with colours.
NAGA SHAWLS OF NAGALAND
Found mainly in red and black wool, Naga shawls are made by weaving three pieces separately and stitching them together, out of which the central stripe is more decorated than the other two.
PHANEK OF MANIPUR
Innaphi and Phanek form the traditional dress Phanek, worn like a sarong, is woven by hand in horizontal red stripes.
KALAMKARI OF ANDHRA PRADESH
With printing being native to the land, one of the most popular handlooms of Andhra Pradesh is the Kalamkari cloth, which even today, is printed with local vegetable dyes in the shades of ochre, deep blue and rose.
KANJEEVARAM OF TAMIL NADU
Adorned by almost every bride, the Kanjeevaram finest silk with contrasting borders and pallavs with a variety of zari motifs such as rudraksham, and gopuram.
PAITHANI OF MAHARASHTRA
Maharashtrian woman would want to inherit from their mother are the exquisite Paithani saris, which come in bright shades of red, green and yellow with contrasting borders and gold coin or peacock motifs.
KUNBI OF GOA
Worn by the Goan Adivasi women working in the paddy fields, the chequered pattern in vibrant hues of maroon, indigo and green give Kunbi its unique feature.
POCHAMPALLY IKAT OF TELANGANA
patterns in silk and cotton handlooms such as Pochampally, Venkatagiri, Gadwal, Narayanpet, Dharmavaram, Uppadas, making it a versatile state for handlooms.
MYSORE SILK OF KARNATAKA
Mysore silk saris with gold zari borders need no introduction. Saris from Belgaum are also quite famous for their designs.
KASAVU OF KERELA
is hard to miss people draped in the off-white Kerala saris and mundus with a kasavu or gold cotton fabrics with color or gold zari borders and a kasavu stripe on the pallav.
FOUND MAINLY IN RED AND BLACK WOOL, NAGA SHAWLS ARE MADE BY WEAVING THREE PIECES SEPARATELY AND STITCHING THEM TOGETHER.