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Indian Weaving and Textile Traditions

India has a rich and diverse weaving tradition. One can find different types of handlooms across the country, which produce a variety of fabric. Most of the traditional textile traditions use handspun yarn. India is known for fabrics made out of silk, cotton and wool. Silk and cotton weaving predominates the Indian weaving tradition, though wool is also used for weaving in many parts of the country.

Silk: The Rich Textile of India

India is known for its silk fabrics since ancient times. The present day silk weaving tradition revolves around the sari, the ethnic dress that is worn in most parts of the country. Silk is said to be the queen of textiles because of its shine and the glamour associated with it. The combination of the two has lead to the creation of a myriad of traditional sari styles, with each region lending its unique flavour to Indian ethnicity. The finest silk saris are produced in centers from all over India. Silk saris are often created with zari (fabric woven with thin gold and silver wires) work on them. The main silk weaving centers are Banaras, Surat, Chander, Murshidabad, Mysore, Assam, Kanchepuram, Tanjore, Dharmavaram etc


Indians have known weaving of material from cotton since 5000 years. The traditional Indian cotton weaving revolves around 'Khadi'. Khadi is a cloth woven by hand using handspun yarn only. Fine cotton fabrics are also referred as Muslin. India has been famous for its ultra fine Muslins in the past. As handspun yarn is used in making Khadi, this activity is mainly carried out in the rural areas of the country. Cotton weaving is the heart and soul of Indian textiles. There are 23 different varieties of cotton found in India and there are about 4 million handlooms producing cotton fabric. Cotton is used in producing a wide range of items like: sari, bed spreads , covers, napkins, cushion covers , shirts, summer wear, table spreads , etc.

Cotton fabric is very popular in a tropical country like India, because of the soft twist imparted by the hand, maintains the hairiness of the yarn to an extent, which gives maximum comfort. Handlooms producing Khadi weave cotton in such a way that the interlacing of threads provides maximum passage of air to the body, thus creating a cooling effect, making Khadi an ideal summer wear.

Status of Indian Textile:

The present day textile tradition of India is not only the reflection of our rich past but also caters to the modern day requirements of the common man. Though some of the traditional textiles cater only to the needs of the upper crust of the society, there is a huge demand for utilitarian items such as bed covers, sheets, cushions, curtains, bags, table mats, home furnishings etc. There is a glut of such items in the domestic market.

Indian textile and allied products are not only popular in India but also abroad. The export of craft items associated with traditional textiles is on the rise. The export of hand printed (including batik, block printed, tie and dye etc) items touched a high of Rs 870.08 crores in 1997-98. Decorated textiles (embroidery, crochet and appliqué work) from India are also popular in foreign countries. The export of such products reached a peak at Rs 1030.89 crores in 1996-97. The export of woolen shawls reached a peak of Rs 40.02 crores in 1997-98. Shawls from Kashmir and Himachal pradesh predominate this section. The export of zari and zari items reached a peak of Rs 91.34 crores in 1997-98. A variety of brocades from India are available to the foreign buyer.

Epilogue to Indian Textile

The contemporary textile craft tradition of India is not only rural and traditional in ethos, but it is also capable of meeting the challenges of modern times. Along with earning valuable foreign exchange, this craft tradition has achieved the status of a highly organized small and medium-scale industry.

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