Fashion adopts itself according to the changing times and thoughts of the society, but it also repeats itself. In other words, one can say fashion is something that never goes out of the equation. The sense of fashion defines your caste, creed and nationality, an easy way to distinguish people. If we take the example of India, it has rolled its textiles and yarns in the world from ancient times. The first evidence of the Indian looms was detected in Egypt after that, the finely woven and dyed cotton fabric was found in the Indus Valley civilization. The Veda’s also talk about the gold fabric and the different weaving styles practised by the people, they called it “Varna Sutra”. It is also mentioned in the later Samhitas and Brahmanas. The traditional handloom we see today traces its roots from the oldest forms of weaving, even the Buddhist scriptures talk about weaving practice of the ancient Indian people. To cherish this tradition and culture of the bygone era, India post illustrated Textiles on stamps. It is a long practised tradition in India, to weave colour of nature, tradition and thought in this fine silk thread to execute beautiful fabrics, these weaves and looms are one of most excellent masterpieces known in this land.
Indian states possess their own style, design and technique of weaving. According to many gazettes and archives records, India has been the oldest cotton producer in the world. It was famous in the world for its craftsmanship in cotton weaving and dyeing, it has established a stronghold for itself.
There are many types of textiles and handlooms in India that have been manufactured and improvised for centuries. It’s fascinating to explore them all, but a few well know fabrics and yarns are loved all over the world and exported at a larger scale by the Indian markets.
Few these are illustrated by the India post on stamps to patent their name and technique to a geographical region. Let us know more about this fascinating textile on stamps.
The different textile of India part I
a) Banaras Silk: This craft of weaving skill specifically the weaving of Banaras skill is still in fashion and in tremendous demand. This skill, from the holy city of Banaras (Varanasi), is also known as Kin-Khab which literally means ‘Cloth of Gold’ or ‘Shivnagari’. This exquisite fabric is appreciated all over the world for its wraps and weft threads of different colours. Its design is woven with the threads of gold and silver mainly for weaving saris. This luxury textile of North India received the patronage of kings. It was said Emperor Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan favoured this silk. It is a debate among art historians that the garments wore by the Emperor Jahangir in his Zodiac coinage specifically in the Leo type coin can be brocades from Banaras. To recognise the booming industry India Post issued a stamp in 2009.
b) Pashmina Silk: The most famous textile of India was Kashmiri shawl, but the diamond amongst it was ‘Pashmina’, it is Cashmere wool of the highest grade. This shawl is also known as soft gold in Kashmiri. It comes from the four distinct breeds of the Cashmere goat from the different regions of Kashmir. Pashmina shawls are hand spun and woven. This shawl of Kashmir was the mainstay of the Kashmir valley’s economy from approx 1600 to 1860, over 250 years. This luxury textile was patronized by Mughal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra dynasties that ruled Kashmir. It brought more capital than the whole state revenue at its peak in 1861. In the above image, a commemorative stamp issued by India Post issued in 2009 depicts this amazing brocade.
c) Apa Tan Weave: This textile is a tribal group situated in the magnificent Zora Valley of Arunachal Pradesh. These people make beautiful and traditional hand weaves from a simple reed loom. The weaving is performed on a semi-curved bamboo tube set which is indigenous in every household of this tribe. This weave consists of simple and straight designs; the ordinary Tanii cloth gets its effects from the use of a broadband’s alternating with narrow lines. Its weaves are generally based in blue-green colours with beautiful border work on top and bottom. In 2009, India Post released a set of Stamp depicting this soft and beautiful textile of Apa Tan Weave.
The different textile of India part II
a) Kalamkari silk: One of the most exuberant crafts of weaving. Its term means pen-work called ‘Kalamkari’. The features of its designs look like painting and printing. This silk originated in Andhra Pradesh, it belongs to two distinct schools of textiles. The Masulipatnam which was patronized by Muslim rulers, another was Sri Kalashasti developed in the Hindu temples.
b) Patan Patola: Among the entire legendary heritage textiles there are very few rich and high prized textiles as Patola. This textile follows the Ikkat technique of weaving. Patola also has social and religious significance and is worn at the time of important ceremonies. Patan was the ancient capital of Gujarat and it was also the centre of Patola weaving for many centuries with its distinctive style.
c) Kanchipuram Silk: Classical Indian texts like Rig Veda and Atharva Veda talk about weavers throwing Tan (loom) and are called ‘tanti’. The Sangam classics also record the weaving of silk called Kanchipuram. This silk got its name from the Nagaram (city) of Kanchipuram which was once under the rule of the powerful Mauryan kings and was the capital city of many South Indian dynasties. The association of such a great royal lineage gave it a prominence that the weavers would enjoy.
The different textile of India part III: Handlooms
a) Kashmiri Pashmina Silk: Pashmina was first made by inhabitants of Kashmir as we read above. Here the elaboration is about the wool that they used to make the famous Kashmiri shawl. The quest for making a fine warm fabric to protect them from the harsh winter was solved by the warmest raw materials called “Pashm”. Pashm is produced by Changthangi goats (“Capra hiracus)”.The best known Kashmiri shawls produced today are made from the soft, downy undercoat that grows primarily on the neck and belly of this Himalayan mountain goat.
b) Baluchari Saree: It is an exquisite silk saree of West Bengal, it is created by highly skilled weavers having generations of experience in handloom weaving. The name derives from ‘Baluchar’ in this area near Murshidabad in the state. It is said in 16th CE few weavers of Varanasi migrated to Bengal to settle in this region. It’s known for its intrinsic design which is inspired by many mythological stories. It received patronised by the Nawabs and aristocrats of the Society during that time.
C) Bhagalpur Silk: This silk comes from the historical town of Bhagalpur coming from the southern bank of the Ganga River. Bhagalpur was renowned for manufacturing quality silk fabrics and sarees. In recent times Bhagalpur is an important hub for export and manufacturing of Mulberry, Tasar, Eri Silks, cotton and their blends. The Bha Reeled Tasar, Katiya, Gichha and Balkal yarn used in Bhagalpur Silk were developed from Tasar cocoons. Various qualities of mulberry silk yarns are – Reeled, Spun, Dupion, Noil, Matka etc.
The above mention handloom is recognized by the India Post via stamp issued in 2018. These textiles on stamps consist of GI- Geographical Indication mark to recognize the corresponding to the geographical location of the product. These marks ensure that that none other than those registered as authorised users or in the geographical area is allowed to use the popular product name.
The different textile of India part IV: Handlooms
a) Pochampally Ikat: It is a saree created in Bhoodan Pochampally, yadadri Bhuvanagiri and other districts of the Telangana states. It is a dyeing technique that involves the sequence of tying and dyeing sections with bunches of year to predetermine colours scheme prior to weaving. Thus, they tied the remaining un-dyed section and the exposed dyed portion which gives a unique pattern while the yarn is woven.
b) Tangaliya Shawl: This is weaving tradition of Tangaliya district. It consists of rolling a lump of fibres of contract colour thread along the warp as per design and joining them simultaneously to create the effect of raised dots on the surface of the fabric. Its craft is around 700 years old in the reign of Saurashtra produced in parts of Kutch and Junagarh district.
India post has issued a commemorative stamp for the above-mentioned handlooms to recognise these tradition artist crafts of India called textiles on stamps series. This stamp also consists of a GI mark to patent their authenticity.
In India, there are many other textile and handloom that are part of this colourful tradition but is quite difficult to cover all these exuberant craftsmen skills of different states. One can say each and every state of India has its own and unique form of textile and handlooms. In this blog, nearly all the textile produced in India described, also these fabrics are recognized and commemorated by India Post as a part of textiles on stamps series. In pre-independent India there were many different looms like silk, cotton and Jute which were handwoven, khadi was the most prevalent material at that point in time. Indian textile was the booming market due to the silk of Kashmir, Banara and Kanchipuram. During the British period, this ever-growing market faced many losses and heavy duties and taxes nearly broke its backbone. Therefore, there was a gradual decrease in the manufacturing of traditional fabric. In the post-independence era, the Indian Government took up many initiatives to popularize the use of these traditional textiles. In the last decade, many big fashion houses and industry have looked upon the potential of these golden textiles and the help in upholding the charm of this old tradition. Today, due to advances in technology the changes in weaving techniques and different kind of fabric came into the market. Yet, the base of these advances textiles is still the age-old traditional textile. One can say the Indian textiles are advancing today without forgetting the actual essence of its original traditional weaving.