Tales of traditional Indian Textiles! – North

Introduction

After the introduction, it is now time to start our journey. Let’s start in the midst of northern and most beautiful states of India – the land of valleys, hills, flowers and wide spread green spaces.

Jammu & Kashmir

In addition to its serene beauty, Jammu & Kashmir is also known to the world for its diverse textile range. From fleecy soft textured woolens, matchless weaving, hand-woven carpets of finest warp and weft to hand embroidered shawls, J&K has it all.

The embroidery of Kashmir, known as kasida, is world-famous and has developed as a fine art. Varied, rich in color, elaborate in detail and exquisite in execution, the kasida patterns are freely drawn and never fail to amaze. The finest kasida work is particularly embroidered on shawls and sarees.

Parsi Design
Kasiad work from Jammu

The classical Kashmiri shawl – Pashmina is made from the fleece of central Asian species of Mountain goats. The challenges in acquiring this fleece under harsh and extremely cold winters make pashmina shawls extremely expensive. Kashmiri shawls are also known as kani shawls and jamarwars. These shawls are woven in the twill-tapestry technique and the weft threads alone form a pattern.

We cannot talk about Kashmir and ignore Kashmiri Carpets. The most popular varieties include namda, felt rug, the chain-stitch rug which resembles the gabba carpet and pile carpets i.e., kalins. The art of carpet making was imported from Persia. The Persian influence on these carpets is now mixed with local variations. The amount of effort and skill in making these beauties is immense. The knotting and weaving of carpet is an important aspect. This determines its durability, value and design. Basically, more the knots per square inch, greater is its value and durability.

The famous Kashmiri chain-stitch which covers maximum embroidery can be seen on wool, silk and cotton. This stitch is unique because it is done by a hook rather than a needle. This hand stitch adorns bags, screens and cushion covers.

Himachal Pradesh

The state of scenic mountain towns is known for the Pahadi handkerchiefs that enjoy a special place among the textiles of the area. Handkerchiefs are produced in the Chamba, Kangra, Mandi, Bilaspur and Kulu areas of the state. Originally the art came to Chamba from Basohli and slowly grew and spread all over the region. These square or oblong handkerchiefs are embroidered all over with silken threads and depict scenes from the life of Lord Krishna and the Puranas. Some of them depict classical Ragas and Raginis of India.

4x5 original
Chamba Rumal from Himachal Pradesh

Embroidery plays an all-important role in the textile landscape in this region. Be it   Thapada – a large embroidered shawl, Kohana – a wall hanging, pillow covers, blouses, caps from Kulu, Sirmair, Kinnair and Lahaul regions are all finely embroidered. Beautiful patch work quilts, rag dolls and elephants are also made in this area.

Dyeing and printing of fabrics has been a traditional craft in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This work is done traditionally by the Farahada and the Chhiba people. The long knee length gown worn by the Gaddi women known as Juan chadiyan and their Chola (a white woolen garment) are good examples of the dyeing and printing done her

Punjab

Along with the wide spread green and yellow swaying fields, the state of Punjab is also known for a few age old traditional artistic embroidery styles. Phulkari of Punjab is known worldwide for its exquisite finery, texture and bright colors. Reference of Phulkari has been found not only in folk songs but also Vedas, Mahabharat and Guru Granth Sahib. In its present form, Phulkari has been popular since the 15th century. In the early days, techniques and patterns of Phulkari were transmitted by word of mouth, therefore lending unique flavor to each regional group.

Phulkari literally means ‘flower work’ was invariably stitched on a plain cotton fabric (khaddar) whose thread was manually spinned, loomed and dyed with natural pigments. Its quality was evaluated according to the fineness and regularity of its surface. Simple and sparse Phulkari embroidered garments are worn for everyday use. Use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse hand-woven cotton cloth with colored silken threads characterizes Phulkari. Historically geometrical patterns were embroidered on the Phulkaris. Over the centuries, innumerable alluring, interesting designs and patterns have been created by skilful manipulation of the darn stitch.

Phulkari embroidery from Punjab
Phulkari Embroidered from Punjab

Other embroidery forms include fully covered Bagh (garden) and Adha Bagh (half garden) embroideries. These heavily embroidered garments are worn for special occasions. Where Phulkari embroidery ornaments the cloth, in case of Bagh, the embroidery covers entire garment and the base cloth is not visible. The end portion of pallav of Phulkari have separate panels of exquisite workmanship of striking designs. Phulkari, Bagh and Adha Bagh dupattas, sarees, suits and shawls represent Punjab’s vibrant and colorful spirit and culture.

Covered with bold, harmonic and imaginative color patterns of cotton Khes, once a requisite as a coverlet while sleeping is now fading from the limelight.

Sign off

Following the textiles from hills of North of India, the next part of this series will shed light on the textiles from the heart of India.

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