India is a land of variety - the most diverse country in the world, with thousands of dialects, religions, cultures, deities, a smorgasbord of cuisines and tastes, and countless festivals and traditions. Interestingly, all of these have found their way by manifesting in daily life and culture, like the clothes people wear in different regions. Did you know that not just the outfits, but even the fabric used to make them are unique to each state of India? No?
Well, then let’s go on a fabric tour of India! We’ve listed a few of our favourites below.
Surat is aptly known as the textile hub of India, famous for cotton mills, Zari craft, and polyester. Surat’s produces 9 million metres of fabric per year, which accounts for 60% of the total polyester cloth production in India! This is why it’s now increasing polyester exports.
Image Credit: wedmegood
Banarasi sarees come from Varanasi (also called Banaras). These sarees are rich and opulent, known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, and its fine silk embroidery. Banarasi silk has its roots steeped in the rich cultural heritage of the region, with mentions in the Mahabharata and in Buddhist scriptures, as well.
This is a handwoven silken saree from the town of Paithan in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The effort involved to weave a Paithani saree is said to be so intensive, and results in a fabric of such unparalleled beauty, that it was said to clothe the royals, once upon a time.
Image credit: NY Times
Block painting on fabric probably originated in China around 4000 years ago, but reached its highest form of visual expression in early Indian civilization in Jaipur. These patterns were used for centuries for everyday use in local communities until the ’70s when they were replaced by machine-printed, synthetic fabrics. The tiny, stylized floral motifs (locally called buti) and geometrics — usually in indigo blues, vibrant reds and stark blacks — are quite distinctive from the designs that were made for the Moghul courts or for export to other parts of Asia or Europe.
Image Credit: blingsparkle
The jewel of Kerala, the simple but elegant Kasavu saree is an off-white plain 100% unbleached cotton saree with gold zari borders, famously worn by women of the Malayali community during Onam. The saree features kara designs at the bottom, and occasionally, peacock and temple designs on the pallu.
Fun fact: Bandhani dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization in 4000 BC! Derived from the Sanskrit word 'banda', it is woven by the Khatri community of Gujarat, with tie dye elements in colours like yellow, red, blue, green and black.
It has a long history ‘tied’ up with Bandhej - the traditional tie and dye technique used to produce the beautiful sarees in this region. Bandhej is one of the oldest forms of fashion textile dating back to the years 590-647 (when women wore Bandhej as a sign of luck).
Image credit: Ayush Kejriwal
Kalamkari (which literally means 'qalam' or pen, and 'kari' or craftsmanship in Persian), uses pen art from Andhra Pradesh to tell epic Hinndu mythology stories, and often features Hindu goddesses or deities.
There are, of course, quite a few more fabrics that are woven in different parts of the country. At Miatela, we take great pride in our rich Indian heritage, and vast swathes of original fabrics. For a subscription fee, we deliver samples of cloth and fabric right to your doorstep. So, if you're a designer or retailer, don't forget to get in touch!