A laborious craft with hand block printing done on both sides of the fabric, the name ajrakh has many stories. Be it a king’s wish to keep his bedspread for one more day (‘aaj ke din rakh’) or finding its etymology in Sanskrit (A-jharat) and Arabic (Azrak), Ajrakh finds its roots in present day Sindh.
In the 11th century, a battle was fought for a woven textile. King Kumarapala of Solanki Dynasty used to offer daily prayers adorned in Patola fabric. This fabric was bought from Jalna, Maharashtra. However, the king of Jalna was known to send used Patola fabric to other kingdoms. When King Kumarapala became aware of this mallicious practice, he waged a war on the king of Jalna and won. His triumph led to the migration of 700 Patola weaver families from Jalna to Patan.
Tangaliya is a 700 year old handwoven craft from the Saurashtra region of Surendernagar, Gujarat. It is a distinguished weaving teachnique which follows the traditional methods carried by generations. Origin of Tangaliya can be traced back to 14th century when a man from Bharwad community fell in love with a girl from Vankar caste. Despite the opposition from both sides, they got married. So, the families asked the couple to leave the village. The village elders gave them a wooden stick and decided that they will weave products and sell them to the Bharwad community to earn a living. In the local dialect, dang means wooden and sia means to go and so their children were called Dangasia. The couple settled outside the border of the two villages where their children began the exquisite technique of dana weaving.
Rogan Art originated in present day Persia. The craft travelled to Nirona Village in Kutch, Gujarat around 400 years ago. The word ‘Rogan’ translates to oil based. Considered an ancient textile art, the process of Rogan art is as unique as its name.
Lippan means mud washing and Kaam means work in the Gujarati language. Lippan work started as a way to decorate walls of bhunga (mud house) in Kutch, Gujarat. The aesthetics were way different than what they are today. Motifs and designs were made in thick bold lines of clay.
The perpetual wars between the Mughals and the Marathas during the 16th and 17th century led some artisans from the Chippa community in Gujarat, Punjab and Sindh region to igrate. They settled in Rajathan and began the development of Sanganer block printing under the patronage of the royal family of Jaipur. The craft is said to be five centuries old, born out of a small village named Sanganer, located near southern Jaipur.
It is said that Bagru and Dabu hand block printing began around 450 years ago in a small village in Rajasthan. When the Chippa community travelled from Sawai Madhopur, Alwar and settled in Bagru, they started pacticing this craft. The place began to be called as Chippa Mohalla where Chippa translates to ‘to print’ in Gujarati and ‘to dye and leave in sun’ in Nepali. Their proximity to a water body (Sanjaria riverside) led to ease in access of clay which is one of the main raw materials required for this art.
Many communities migrated to Kutch over the centuries. With them, they brought various skills and craft cultures of their native places like Central Asia, Perisa, Turkey, Pakistan, Sindh. This is true especially for the hand embroiderers of present day Kutch.
Madhubani art originated in Mithila region in North Bihar. Dated back to the times of Ramayana, Madhubani paintings came into being when Raja Janak asked the women of his kingdom to decorate their houses for his daughter Sita’s wedding to Lord Rama. The women painted pictures pertaining to the themes of fertility, celebration of nature and gods. It is believed that this tradition continued and murals were drawn on clay walls of village homes.
Sujani embroidery originated in the late 1920s in Bhusra, Bihar. This craft is said to be practiced by Rajput women in their free time for personal use. They weren’t allowed to go out of their house and Sujani became a means of expression for them. Historically, it began as a form of quilting to create blankets for new born babies. Old pieces of cloth were sewn together where even the threads were pulled out from the loose ends of the fabric. This was done to envelope the baby in the soft embrace of a mother.
It is said that weaving is practiced in Himachal Pradesh for around 5000 years. Till the 1830s, decorations to Kullu weaving was restricted to variations in twill weave, checks, and plaids and were devoid of motifs. But, when the weavers of Rupa village in Kinnaur faced persecution by the local king, things changed. They fled to Kullu and introduced their style of weaving to Kulluvi artisans. This led to the development of extra weft motifs in Kullu weaving. Intricate Kinnauri motifs were enlarged and simplified over time to form the bright bold patterns for which Kullu became famous. In this way, Kinnauri weaving is the predecessor of Kulluvi weaving.
Chamba Rumal is a form of embroidery that originated in the state of Himachal Pradesh during the 17th century. The royal ladies of Chamba valley created embroidered pieces to be bestowed as ceremonial coverings, wedding dowries, important gifts, etc. Gradually, other sections of the society started following this tradition. This rumal began to be presented as a sign of goodwill by the bride’s and groom’s families.
In the 15th century, the women of Punjab started practicing Phulkari embroidery. Phul means flower and kari means flower. This textile art is a celebration of womanhood. A woman is a creator of next generations, thus to mark the auspicious occasion of birth of a girl child, her mother or grandmother starts embroidering a Phulkari. The textile is made as per the characters of the woman, grows along with her over the years and is gifted during her wedding.
Applique artisans belong to a community that migrated from Pakistan during the war of 1971 and settled in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Presently most of the applique work is done in Barmer District of Western Rajasthan. The Marwari communities create the most prestigious Rajasthani applique work. Another story is that this craft travelled from Arabia or Middle East to India through trade interaction.
Chikankari is a traditional and elegant embroidery style from Lucknow, India. Whether it was discovered in the 3rd century BC by Megasthenes or in the 17th century during the Mughal era by Noor Jahan, Chikankari solely represents Awadhi culture. After the demise of Nur Jahan, the King of Awadh, Nasir-ud-Din Haidar revived the craft in the 1830s by offering chikankari products as expensive gifts to the Britishers and displaying them at darbaars. The cave paintings at Bagh and Ajanta share a number of motifs, patterns, and compositions with this craft.
Gond Painting is mainly done in Patangarh Village in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh. The Dravidian word "Kond," which means "green mountain," is the source of the term "Gond", one of the biggest tribes in India. Historically, this tribal group created paintings and carvings on the walls of caves that date back more than 1400 years, many of which are from the Mesolithic Period. The Gonds believed that looking at lucky pictures gave them good fortune. As a result, they painted designs, tattoos, and pictures on the walls and floors of their homes. This folk art was a medium to preserve and communicate the tribal community's historical knowledge, culture and lessons.
In the Indian subcontinent, khes is a thin cotton blanket used as winter wraps. It was during the Mughal era that it evolved as a cotton blanket. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Punjab region of undivided India has historically been recognised for producing Khes and a variety of coarse cotton textiles by hand. A single khes can have multiple end uses like floor covering, bed covering, blanket, shawl, etc.
Kantha’s origin can be traced back to the households of rural women in undivided Bengal. It began as a medium to make quilts, spreads and covers for new born babies. Old sarees were layered and binded together using running stitches from threads taken out from the saree itself. Once the base was binded, stories related to personal events, folklores, and religious tales were embroidered on top. It is a women’s art, a domestic skill that developed over time. The skill was handed down from mothers to daughetrs.
Khesh weaving originated in Birbhum, West Bengal. It is a sustainable practice where old saree scraps or discraded sarees are used create woven products. According to Birbhum’s traditional weavers who learned the craft from their fathers, Khesh was first practiced in Shilpa Sadan in the early 1920s. Rabindranath Tagore established this vocational training facility at Sriniketan to empower women and give a market to the local community.
The Meghwal community brought this craft to Kutch when they migrated from Rajasthan. This craft is a collaborative outcome of the relationship shared by the Maldhari nomads and the Meghwal community. When Maldhari cattle died, the Meghwals recycled the raw hides into leather, making a product of utility from waste. It is said that the leather was so durable that it could hold water. Some villages practicing this craft include Bhirandiyaro, Sumarasar, Hodka, Dhordo.