January 1, 2010



Dance State:
Bharat Natyam Tamil Nadu
Karma Madhya Pradesh
Bihu Assam
Laho Meghalaya
Bhangra Punjab
Mohiniattam Kerala
Chhau Bihar, orissa, W. Bengal and Jharkhand Mando Goa
Garhwali Uttaranchal Manipuri Manipur
Garba Gujarat Nati Himachal Pradesh
Hattari Karnataka Nat-Natin Bihar
Kathak North India Odissi Orissa
Kathakali Kerala Rauf Jammu & Kashmir
Kutchipudi Andhra Pradesh Yakshagan Karnataka
Khantumm Mizoram



Known throughout the world as ikat, a derivative of the Malay word mengikat, meaning to tie or to bind, this technique entails binding (resisting) and dyeing the wraps or wefts before weaving.

Ikat of Orissa

The women of Orissa dress in saris of blue, red and magenta and other deep colors, with ikat (known as bandha in Orissa) patterning. The textile that is traditionally the pride of this area is the saktapar sari, with its double ikat chequerboard pattern and brocaded border of rudraksha bead compositions. Cloth is woven on pitlooms in Orissa.The layout of the textile design takes the form of horizontal stripes, and motifs are mainly floral or of fish and animals, rarely geometrical.

Ikats of Andhra Pradesh

Ikat weaving (known as chitka in Andhra Pradesh) is now flourishing in Pochampali. Double and single ikat saris of the patola patterns of Gujarat are woven and much of the yardage is devoted to ikat patterns taken frm Orissa, Japan and even Central Asia. Much of the yardage is aimed at export trade.


Bandhana and bandha are Sanskrit words meaning to tie. The term bandhani refers both to the technique and to the finished cloth. Rajasthan and Gujarat are famous for their production of fine and prolific bandhani. Coarser bandhani is worked in Sind and Madhya Pradesh. A bandhani sari that is traditionally worn for Gujarati weddings, and one that has become increasingly popular, is the garchola. This is patterned with a gridwork of small bandhani squares of yellow dots against a bright red background, with motifs of lotus flowers, dancing women and elephants.

In the early twentieth century the Marwaris, merchants of Rajasthan and dominant business community of India, wore as their distinguishing mark elaborately tied, brightly colored striped turbans.These turbans were made by the Leherie technique ( leheria in Hindi literally means waves ).This process continues to be practiced in the dyeing quarters of the Rajasthani towns of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udipur and Nathadwara.


Mashru cloth is one of the most visually simple and striking of all Indian textiles. It has a shiny, satiny surface and is usually striped in pattern and woven in bright colours. Mashru is a wrap-faced textile, made with a silk wrap (now usually artificial silk) and a cotton weft lie almost invisibly beneath the surface of the fabric. In Arabic, ‘mashru’ means ‘permitted’.

During the nineteenth century, there were many centres of mashru production, both in the north-mainly in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Agra and Varanasi – and in the south, at Hyderabad, Tiruchirappali, Mysore and Madras. It is now concentrated between Bhuj and Mandvi in Kutch, at Patan in north Gujarat and also at Ajamgadh in Uttar Pradesh.

It is used as material for blouses, skirts and pyjamas, and to edge garments and pieces of embroidery.


The products of the patola loom are predominantly sari lengths, which are among the most famous textiles in the world. These double ikat textiles were woven in Patan, Surat and other centres. Cheaper patola imitations are woven in single ikat at Rajkot, Saurashtra, and in both single and double ikat in Andhra Pradesh in the south. Fine patola in the `vagh-na-kunjar` (elephant- and- tiger) design were particularly popular.

Brocade Weaving

The Gujarat region is generally considered the home of silk and brocade weaving in India.Brocades are textiles woven with warp and weft threads of different colors and often of different materials. Until recent times Gujarat produced `kinkhab` brocades, motifs small in scale, of flowers, animals, birds and human figures were set out in regular horizontal rows, against a purple, red or green back ground. The Gujarati kinkhab was used for furnishing cloth or as skirt lengths.

The Brocades of Varanasi

The town known by its ancient religious name as Kasi, by its present Sanskritized name of Varanasi (formerly Benares) is known for its brocades. The Benaras brocades are woven in silk, with profuse use of metal threads on the pallavs and the field of the sari. The weavers are muslims and are called karigar, which means artist. The brocades are woven in workshops known as karkhanahs. The Zari thread known as kalabattun, consists of finely drawn gold, silver or base metal thread, wound round a silk thread. According to the local legend, Varanasi was one of the centers to which brocade weaving was brought after a great fire in Gujarat in 1300.

The most famous brocaded textile of Varanasi is called `kinkhab` (a Persian term) ,woven with a coarse but durable silk known as`mukta` which is heavy enough to take brocading with gold or silver thread.

A silk-and-zari-work brocade of lighter material and less heavy ornamentation is known as `pot-than` or `bafta`.

The name for brocades without any metal threadwork is `amaru`.
Varanasi sari brocades, deep colored and laden with gold thread, are the popular wedding attire for wealthy Indian brides.

Kanchipuram of Tamil Nadu

Kanchipuram produces brocaded silks of superb texture, color and lusture.Zari threads for brocading come from Surat, Gujarat. The dull raw silk yarn is washed in the waters of Kanchipuram.It is this water which gives Kanchipuram silk its lustrous sheen. The main items of production are the silk saris with the solid brocaded borders (korvai); silk yardage is produced. The IIIkal sarees of Karnataka use natural indigo for dyeing the warp yarn.Kerala has special Karalkkudi sarees of unbleached cotton with rich broad gold borders and pallus.


Paithani saris are famous for their brocade pallavs, which were woven with a weft of gold thread. So the pattern details are in silk and the metal zari threads form the background.


Himroo is a cotton warp and silk weft brocade produced at Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The silk weft only appears on the surface to form the usually floral pattern, leaving the rest of the weft hanging loose underneath.


The saris of Chanderi near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, with silk warps and cotton wefts, have stylistic similarities to those of Paithan.


Maheshwar, in south-west Madhya Pradesh, traditionally have a chequered field with reversible borders, so that the border pattern is the same on both faces of the cloth.


The `Baluchar` brocade saris of Murshidabad with their pictorial borders, were prized products.

Weaves of Assam and North-east

Short staple cotton and the wild silks known as `mugha` and `eri` are produced in Assam, and the whole of the north east is noted for its weaving, be it for the beautifully balanced, intricate patterns of the commercial cloth of Assam and Manipur, or for the diverse, often boldly patterned fabrics of the domestic looms in each of the north east states. Handloom weaving is Assam`s largest and oldest industry. In Assamese tradition, a girl was not considered marriageable until she had proved herself a significant weaver. She would weave a towel called `bihuan` and present it to her beloved. These towels are white, patterned at both ends, usually in red, with stylized forms of birds, animals, humans, flowers, foliage and geometric motifs.

Traditional Indian Embroideries

Phulkari of Punjab

The rich agricultural state of Punjab is famous for the phulkari(flower work) shawls that, worn with a tight-fitting choli and gaghra, formed the traditional costume of rural women of this region. Phulkaris were made for everyday wear.So it usually were not so densely embroidered. For ceremonial occasions, however, a special kind of phulkari known as a bagh (garden) was made, in which the whole of the ground was covered with embroidery.Motifs of flowers, birds and human figures were embroidered in soft untwisted floss silk (called pat in Punjabi) in combination of gold, yellow, white, orange or red color.Mainly darning stitch was used and running stitch or chain stitch was used for outlining the figure.
Two other type of shawls are, one is Chope in which embroidery is done in such a way that the pattern is identical on both the sides.The other is a type of bagh.called darshan dwar, which was presented to temples on the fulfillment of a wish.

Kashidakari of Kashmir

The beautiful valley of Kashmir is famous for the Kashmiri shawl.Nearly all the kashmiri shawls made today are patterned by embroidery rather than by weaving.Much of the embroidery done in the Kashmir valley is ari work.

Chamba Rumal of Himachal Pradesh

Chamba rumals were embroidered in silks of soft colors, using small double- darning stitch, so that an identical design appeared evenly on both sides of the cloth, and double running stitch was used for outlines and details.They all shared the same basic composition, comprising a floral border which enclosed a finely drawn religious scene set against a clear, unembellished and unembroidered background.

Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh

In chikankari the pattern of predominantly floral designs, is stitched using untwisted white cotton or silk (now rayon) on the surface of the fabric.Some stitches are worked on the front of the fabric, others from the back. There are six basic stitches, which are used in combination with a series of stitches for embossing flowers and leaves. Pulledwork (known in chikan work by the hindi word jali) and khatao (an appliqué and cut technique) complete the repertoire.
Kantha and Sujanis

The needlework quilts are known as kanthas in Bengal and as sujanis in Bihar. Three or four sections of sari or dhoti are laid on top of each other and then quilted. The conventional pattern of Bengal kanthas had a lotus medallion in the centre (symbolizing the universe) and four buttis, or trees at the corners. The rest of the field was then embroidered with all manner of motifs: birds, fish, animals and people, with domestic scenes.
Kasuti Embroidery

‘kasuti’ embroidery is done by Kannada speaking women in parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, who make interesting use of very simple stichery. Young girls embroider cholis and the pallavs of saris for their marriage trousseaus using different varieties of running stich. Designs are built up in squares and triangles, to form delicate patterns of stylized flowers, animals, birds and even temple carts. The designs are worked in cotton or silk thread, in colours which harmonize with the background cloth.

Applique in Gujarat is known as ‘Katab’ (a word probably derived from the English ‘cut-up’) and usually takes the form of pieces of coloured fabric stitched on to a cotton ground.

Details of human and animal representations, filled in with old cotton and silk prints, mashru, bandhani, or patola cloth, greatly enhanced the charm of the textiles.

The Rajput, Satwara and other farming and herding communities also appliquéd chaklas, torans, chandarvo (canopies), dharaniyo (quilt covers). Some of the most interesting and practical applique textiles are the jhul (ox-covers) and maffa (ox-cart tents).

Professional Embroidery of Gujarat

Mochi Embroidery - The Gujarati embroidery tradition was maintained for many years by the ‘Mochi’ embroideries of Kutch and Saurashtra, who worked for the court and for the merchant and landowning castes. The Mochis were traditionally cobblers and leather-workers by trade, who developed the art of embroidering in fine silk chain stitch, using the ‘ari’.

The ari is an adaptation of the cobbler’s awl and the Mochis would appear to have developed their methods of ari-work embroidery from the craft tradition in Sind of embroidering leather belts, shoes and bags. Until recently, the ari was being used for domestic embroidery by the Lohanas of Banni Kutch.

The centre for Mochi embroidery was Bhuj.

The Mochis produced ari work for ‘gaghra’ (skirt) pieces, ‘cholis’ (bodices), sari borders, children’s caps, ‘chaklas’ (embroidered squares) and ‘torans’ (pennanted doorway friezes). They also embroidered the devotional pichhavai hangings for temples, illustrating the Lord Krishna, as manifested at Nathadwara, Rajasthan.

The motfis usually embroidered were ‘buttis’ (flowers derived from Persian or Mughal sources) often with parakeets perched on them. These were interspersed with figures of peacocks or ‘putali’ (women), sometimes both; or, more rarely with caparisoned elephants and saddled horses.

By 1947, Mochi embroidery was virtually extinct.

Chinai Embroidery

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was a community of Chinese embroiderers living in Surat, South Gujarat, who nevertheless produced work that was completely Chinese in both design and technique. Their embroidery was known as ‘chinai’ work and they made either garment pieces and shawls embroidered with fine floss silks, or saris, cholis, children’s dresses and borders, precisely embroidered with tightly spun two-ply silk. Long narrow border strips with interconnecting motifs of birds and flowers, predominantly in white against a coloured silk background, were a favourite of the rich Parsee community, and many examples of his work can still be found in Bombay.

Natural Dyes

Natural dyes are either substantive or adjective. Substantive dyes need no mordant to fix the colour to the cloth fibre and sources include certain lichens, the bark and heartwood of trees and, most importantly, the indigo shrub, Indigofera tinctoria.

Adjective dyes require a mordant for any degree of permanency. Mordants include the metallic salts of alum, chrome, iron and tin as well as salt, vinegar, caustic soda, slaked lime, urine and the compounds or solutions of certain leaves, fruits and wood ash.

Red is achieved by combining a source material of the colouring substance alizarin with alum, the results ranging from pink to deep red. By mixing an acidic solution of iron-often just rusty scrap – with tannin or jaggery, black dye is created.

The root of Oldenlandia umbellata (commonly known as ‘chay’) was another significant dye source root-crop.

The root of the growing plant absorbed the calcium which, after processing, added a bright and almost luminous quality to the red colour.

The well-known condiment turmeric, from the perennial herb Curcuma longa, has had its uses over the centuries as a fugitive yellow dye source.

Easy to use, but not durable. Yellow colouring of a more permanent nature is achieved by mixing a boiled solution of the flowers of the myrobalan tree (of the Combretaceae family, akin to the myrtles)

with mango tree bark and an alum solution to form a mordant. A semi-fast green colour is commonly obtained by coating blue dye with the myrobalan.

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