Ikat is most well-known in India, Indonesia and Japan and even has traditions existing in various countries across Latin America and parts of Europe, owing to Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese colonialism in Southeast Asia from the 16th century. The intricacy of the double ikat technique requires the most skilled and experienced artisans, thus it is only produced in India, Indonesia and Japan, where the craft has existed for millennia.
The word ‘ikat’ is derived from the Malay-Indonesian word ‘mengikat’ which translates to ‘to tie’. Over time, ikat from India became known for its use of fine materials and production improvements. It was even considered a form of currency on the famed Silk Road. Andhra Pradesh and, subsequently, the separated state of Telangana, are celebrated as the place of birth of Indian ikat. The most distinct ikat of Andhra Pradesh is the Telia Rumal, which is charactrised by the obscure process of oil treating the yarn. The Nalgonda district, which is now part of Telangana state, has been the perpetual hub for ikat production. Ikat from Odisha (Orissa) is known as bandha and has always been a practised craft of the state.
Patan Patola is the most prominent product of double ikat from Gujarat. As it was in the 11th century, Patan, which was the capital of medieval Gujarat, is the centre of silk Patola saree production. About 70 years ago, Rashtriya Shala, a Gandhian institute in Rajkot organized a training camp and started special Patola unit to train weavers. Experts in Patan Patola provided intensive trainings. The last few decades have seen Rajkot and its neighbouring villages produce sarees similar in design to Patan Patola but in single ikat – using the technique of either warp or weft, unlike double ikat which employs the use of both. These are locally known as Rajkot Patola.
The migrant Vankar and the historical Maheshwari communities, now the native weavers of Rajkot and Surendranagar have mastered the technique of weaving musical compositions in cloth. Popat (parrot), Narikunj, Phulwadi, Chowkdi (cross), Chaabdi (Basket), Choktha, Navratna, Paanchphul, Sarvaiya, Laheriya are some of the patterns of Patola.