India is possibly best described as a piece of fabric. Countless threads colored in a myriad majestic shades, woven together, made of the same yarn that tugs at each of our hearts and makes us ‘Indian’. Fine, intricate and beautiful in places, often soft but always durable when it matter the most. So, let us take you on a quick tour of some of the best Indian handloom fabrics and weaving arts, each unique in their own way but all of them special and decidedly ‘Indian’!
1. Chanderi Silk- Madhya Pradesh
One of the oldest-surviving handloom traditions of India, Chanderi silk-weaving originated in the Malwa region anywhere between the 2nd and 7th centuries and much later, enjoyed its heyday under Mughal rule. it was during this period that Chanderi weaving was first used to make sarees. Funny that it has now become almost synonymous with Chanderi sarees. These sarees, amongst the finest in India, are renowned for their gold & silver brocade work and fine embroidery.
Being a versatile fabric, contemporary Indian designers have created western & fusion wear using Chanderi silk. You can get your hands on a modern day Chanderi outfit like this one, along with suave bandhej items on AProjekt.
2. Eri Silk- North East India
Also known as Endi or Errandi silk, Eri is one of the most versatile types of silks in the world. Soft yet strong, fine yet durable, Eri silk fabric can be used to create everything from gorgeous sarees and shawls to home upholstery like cushion covers and curtains. Most importantly though, Eri silk can be often processed without killing the silkworms, which makes it eco-friendly and a favorite of Buddhist monks. Created this way, it is known as Ahimsa silk and is used by Buddhist monks for their robes, due to its non-violent nature.
3. Kalamkari- Andhra Pradesh
Getting its name from the traditional use of kalam (pen) used in creating the detailed art, kalamkari is now characterized by the use of hand-painting and/or block-printing, done in a long, detailed 23-step process. Originally, the art was used to depict tales from Hindu mythology and hence, clothes with kalamkari work often have Hindu deities in the designs. While the artform has dwindled, with the modern improvisation of creating kalamkari designs using machine-printing, kalamkari fabrics still enjoy a loyal support in many Indian households.
Kalamkari can also add a fresh twist to a regular western outfit or create a fantastic fusion with traditional Indian aesthetics. If you ‘re looking for some trendy hand-block printing and handloom outfits, head on over to Miar Designs and be pleasantly surprised!
4. Kanjeevaram Silk- Tamil Nadu
Famed for its richness and luster, Kanjeevaram silk or Kanchipuram silk is only woven in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu. Kanjeevaram silk is almost exclusively used to make sarees. These Kanjeevaram silk sarees are renowned for their quality and craftsmanship, and the designs typically draw from the religious scriptures like the Mahabharata and Ramayana along with nature & the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. Kanjeevaram silk sarees are one of the few types of sarees where gold is still used in the weaving process. Unsurprisingly, prices for these sarees can range between anything from a few thousand to a few lakhs.
5. Muga Silk- Assam
Recognized with a Geographical Indication for its significance to the state of Assam, Muga silk is that rare kind of silk fabric which is rich yet extremely durable. Often known as the ‘Golden Fibre’, Muga silk is easily washable by hand its sheen is believed to increase with every wash. No wonder that for the majority of its history, Muga silk was limited to the be used by the royal household. In fact, if the legendary traveler-writer Huen Tsang is to believed, the word ‘silk’ itself originated during the foreign trade of this Assamese fiber. Muga is now used to create everything from sarees and kurtas to traditional chadors.
6. Paithani Sarees- Maharashtra
Coming from the miniscule Paithan town of the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, Paithani sarees have made their name as one of the most opulent handloom traditions of India. Paithani sarees, generally made from silk, are characterised by an oblique square design on the borders and a heavy pallu typically depicting elements from Buddhist cave art like peacocks, parrots and floral motifs. Known for their intricate zari work, these sarees are so finely designed that the designs often look the same on both sides of the fabric.
7. Panja Weaving- Haryana
Getting its name from a fist-like metallic tool used in the weaving, Panja weaving has fast become one of the signature weaving crafts of North India, found mainly in certain regions of Haryana and Rajasthan. The Panja weaving technique mainly uses cotton and wool, and creates a soft, sturdy farbic that is typically used in making durries and rugs. These durries are characterised by beautiful ornate geometric patterns, and can be found in most traditional village homes in Haryana and Rajasthan.
8. Pochampally weaving- Telangana
Pochampally is a form of ikat weaving born in the Bhoodan Pochampally town of Telangana. In short, ikat is a type of weaving where the yarn is dyed with certain patterns, before weaving. Pochampally weaving goes a step further, dyeing horizontal and vertical yarns in different patterns and colors, creating magnificent geometric patterns. Pochampally weaving is almost exclusively used with silk fiber and to create silk sarees. Although ikat weaving has its place in many regions of India, this particular style has been perfected in the Pochampally town. And with over five thousand households practicing this weaving artform for their livelihood, Pochampally sarees received Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2005!
Indian handloom has a history as old as civilization itself. Every different regional handloom craft has taken on a unique flavor and distinct qualities that exemplify the diversity of this country. And they are quickly finding their place in the modern fashion and textile landscape. The traditional Indian textiles are fortunate to be championed by brands like Shop Mysa and Laxmi Silks. To show your appreciation for these artforms, head over to one of these brand stores and proudly pick out a truly Indian fit for yourself.