Traditional Textiles of India

India has a rich heritage of traditional textiles. Each region in India has different culture and tradition due to the climatic condition of the particular region, the lifestyle of a particular community, available resources and daily needs. Therefore it shows diversity in craft practices of people living in that region such as textile craft, pottery, leather crafts, woodwork, metal crafts and many more.

These crafts are the daily practices of the people and every craft has its unique process, significant motifs and colours.

Since ancient times India is known for its age-old textile tradition. As a student of Fashion design, one should have knowledge about traditional textiles as they are very good examples of creativity, innovation and design development. This will help in creating a base for developing new designs and become a source of inspiration for creating new designs. Here the traditional textiles have been classified as the technique used such as, embroidery, weaving, printing, painting etc.

Embroidered Textiles

Kashida of Kashmir

Kashida is embroidery from Kashmir and practised by men. It is done on cotton, silk or wool. The embroidery threads used for Kashida are wool or silk depending on the product. The main stitches used are darning stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch and chain stitch. The motifs used in Kashida are inspired from the rich flora and fauna of the region. Such as birds like kingfishers; flowers, butterflies, maple leaves, almonds, cherries, grapes and plums. There are three styles of embroidery followed in Kashmir.

Kashmiri embroidery is primarily done on shawls and regional garments like Phiran. Chain stitch embroidery is done on woollen floor rugs called Gabbas and Namdas. Today Kashida is also used to decorate household items like Kurtis, bed covers, cushion covers, lamp-shades, bags and other accessories such as purses, key-chains.

Phulkari of Punjab

Phulkari is an embroidery style from Punjab.

The material used for Phulkari is handspun and handwoven; Khaddar that is dyed in red, rust, brown, blue and darker shades. Soft untwisted silk thread, ‘Pat’ is used for embroidery. The colours of the thread are red, green, golden yellow, orange, blue, etc.

Phulkari is darning stitch, which is done from the reverse side of the fabric. It is done by counting the yarn. No tracing is done for a motif. There are different types of Phulkari such as Bagh, Chope, Sainchi, Darshan Dwar etc.

Phulkari is an important part of the bridal trousseau and is worn as a veil or wrap by women on special occasions like, “Karva Chauth”. Presently, Phulkari is being done on bed linen and apparel like tops, tunics, skirts etc.

Chamba Rumal

The Chamba Rumal embroidery is from Himachal Pradesh. Chamba was known for the most pictorial needlework. The embroidery is tried out on two types of unbleached cotton cloth: lightweight, delicate muslin or handspun, hand-woven, coarser khaddar. Untwisted, dyed silk threads ‘Pat’ in bright colours like red, yellow, green, blue, crimson and purple are used for the embroidery.

The embroidery uses double satin stitch which at the same time fills in the motif on both sides of the fabric, making it reversible. The motifs used are inspired from Pahari paintings depicting Lord Krishna and his playful antics, flora and fauna, tiger, goat, deer, horse, peacock, parrot; flowers, shrubs and plants, willow and cypress trees; and musical instruments like sitar, veena, etc.

Embroideries from Gujarat

The embroidery of Gujarat is colourful and vibrant practised by different communities of the state. The most popular embroidery styles originated from Kutch and Kathiawar region of Gujarat. The embroidery is done with multi-coloured threads, usually cotton or silk embroidery threads.

Different stitches are used depending on the style of embroidery, namely chain stitch, herringbone stitch, satin stitch, interlace stitch, buttonhole stitch and darning stitch. There is also use of mirrors that are fixed on the fabric with an embroidery stitch.

Another technique used in Gujarat is appliqué where scraps of fabric are cut into a form and stitched onto the base fabric. The different types of embroidery are shown in the images below:

Parsi Embroidery

As the name suggests, Parsi embroidery is practised by the Parsi community. The material used for Parsi embroidery is silk fabric in bright red, purple, blue, magenta and black colour. The embroidery is done with silk threads in light pastel colours like off-white, pink and cream. The stitch used in Parsi embroidery is satin stitch and its variations to fill-in motifs.

French knots are also used. The motifs used are flowers like lily and lotus; foliage like cherry, weeping willow and pine; birds like crane and peacock, and butterflies (Fig. 11). The Parsi embroidery is done on Garas (sari) and Jhablas. It is time-consuming embroidery.


Chikankari is whitework embroidery practised in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The embroidery is done on fine white cotton fabric with untwisted white cotton or silk thread. There are three types of stitches used in Chikankari: stem stitch, herringbone stitch, bullion and French knots. The motifs used are flowers, creepers and lace-like patterns. A common style present in each piece of Chikankari is the shadow work.


Zardosi, also known as gold and silver embroidery is practised in Lucknow, Agra, Varanasi, Bareilly, Bhopal, Delhi and Chennai. The embroidery is done on different fabrics such as velvet, satin and silk with a variety of zari threads and materials like badla (the untwisted wire), salma (stiff finely twisted circular wire) gijai (twisted metallic wire), dabka (zig-zag coiled wire), sitara (small circular disc), pearls and coloured beads (Fig.13).

The different stitches used in Zardosi are chain stitch, stem stitch and satin stitch. The fabric is first stretched on a rectangular wooden frame supported on two tripods called a karchob. A hook or an awl is used to execute the embroidery. The motifs used are mainly floral and geometrical.


Kasuti embroidery is practiced in Karnataka. The embroidery is executed by women and believed to be auspicious. The embroidery is done on handwoven cloth of darker colour usually black with cotton threads in different colours like red, orange, purple, green, yellow and blue. The threads used are drawn from the old silk sari borders. The motifs are inspired from religion, architecture, flora and fauna, and objects of daily use. Some examples are star-shaped designs, tulsi pot, cradle, deer, elephant, peacock, horse and lotus (Fig. 14).


Kantha is an embroidery style that originated in West Bengal. In the past, it was used to transform old or used fabric into an embroidered textile. The embroidery was carried out on layers of old white cotton saris that are stitched together with a simple running stitch in white thread. The motifs are traced and embroidered using different coloured threads. The embroidery threads used were drawn from the old sari borders. The basic stitch used is running stitch along with satin stitch (Fig.15)

The motifs used in Kantha are lotus flowers, floral scrolls, tree of life, creepers; animal and bird forms; fish, sea monsters, mermaids, ships, submarine scenes; domestic articles like mirrors, pitcher, nutcracker, umbrella, musical instruments and human figures like gods and goddesses, horseman, fisherwoman, etc. Nowadays Kantha embroidered sarees, stoles, dupatta, blouses, accessories are available.


Sujani is an embroidery style practiced in parts of Bihar. Similar to Kantha, the embroidery was traditionally carried out on layers of old saris and converted into a quilt. In the past, Sujanis or embroidered quilts were made on the birth of a baby. The motifs are filled-in with rows of running stitch in coloured threads drawn from the old sari borders. The outlines of the motifs are done with chain stitch.

The motifs used in Sujani are flowers, plants, elephants, birds, fishes, gods and goddesses (Fig.16). The contemporary Sujanis are also representing social concerns like, women empowerment, girl child education and domestic violence. The motifs are simpler and bolder in comparison to the Kantha embroidery.

Resist Dyed Textiles

The meaning of resist is to block. Resist dyeing is a technique of colouring yarn or fabric in order to create a pattern by blocking or resisting the certain areas, so that only the unblocked areas receive colour.

Thread, wax, rice, mud paste can be used as resist materials. Traditional resist dyed textile of India can be classified in two categories:

  • Yarn resist dyed textiles
  • Cloth resist dyed textiles

Yarn Resist Dyed (Ikat textiles)

Yarn resist dyed textiles are also known as Ikat textiles. The technique in which the yarns were tied to create the pattern is called yarn resist. In this technique, yarns are first tied and then dyed according to the design before weaving. That is why it is called yarn-dyed. After dyeing the thread or resist material is removed.

These are classified under two categories:

  • Single Ikat: There are two kinds of single Ikat namely warp Ikat and weft Ikat. As the name suggests, in warp Ikat, only the warp yarns are tie-dyed and woven with plain solid coloured weft yarns and similarly and in weft Ikat, the weft yarns are tie-dyed and woven with plain warp yarns. For example Bandhas from Odisha.

  • Double Ikat: It is a more complex form of Ikats. In double Ikat, both warp and weft yarns are tie-dyed with such precision that the patterns of the warp and weft yarns match each other. For example: Patola of Patan, Gujarat, Telia Rumal of Andhra Pradesh.

Patola of Gujarat

The double Ikat weaving tradition of Gujarat is called „Patola‟. The textile is produced by the weavers of the Salvi community using expensive silk yarns. In the past, Patolas were manufactured in Patan, Khambat and Baroda in Gujarat. Today, there are only two families in Patan who continue to practice this craft. In India, Patola saris are believed to be auspicious and worn on very special occasions like weddings and festivals

The process of producing Patola is very much time consuming and laborious. The design is planned very carefully because both warp and weft yarns are tie-dyed repeatedly to get more than one colour. After the yarns are tied and dyed; the warp and weft are woven in plain weave. A sari takes almost one month to weave.

Patola textiles use intense colours like bright red, golden yellow, green, dark blue, reddish-brown, etc. The traditional Patola motifs are flowers, jewels, elephants, birds and dancing women for the Hindu and Jain communities. The Patola motifs are named as (elephant – Parrot) Nari Kunjar, Popat Bhat (lady – elephant – Parrot), Navratan Bhat (Jewel Mosaic), Phool Wali Bhat (Floral), etc.

Telia Rumal of Andhra Pradesh

The traditional Ikat textile known as Telia Rumal is from the coastal village Chirala in Andhra Pradesh. It is a square double Ikat rumal or handkerchief of fine cotton measuring 75 Oil (tel) is an important element used in the making of the rumal, it is known as telia rumal.

Traditionally the telia rumalwas produced by the weavers of the Padmasali community. The telia rumal were worn by fishermen as a turban or as a lower garment called lungi. The traditional colours used were terracotta red and black, using natural dyes. The traditional telia rumal represent a geometrical grid-like pattern with borders; in such a way that it makes small squares at the four corners.

Pochampalli Ikat / Sarees of Telangana

In the early 20th century, the weavers of telia rumal introduced the Ikat technique to the Devang and Padmasali weavers of Pochampalli, a village near Hyderabad. The Pochampalli weavers applied the technique of Ikat weaving to saris, dupattas and yardage. The Pochampalli Ikat is basically inspired from Telia rumal. The Pochampalli Ikats are found in variety of colours such as; magenta, brown, parrot green, bright golden yellow, orange, off-white, black, etc.

Bandhas from Odisha

The Ikat textiles called „bandhas‟ are from Odisha and manufactured in Cuttack, Nuapatna, Sonepur, Bargarh and Sambalpur. Both Cotton and silk Ikats are available. These textiles are distinguished by curved forms with hazy outlines. The hazy lines are created because of one set of yarns in the fabric are tie-dyed, mainly weft Ikat is done in Odisha.

The traditional motifs are shankha or conch shell, swastika, creepers, flowers like lotus, intertwined snake, fish, tortoise and elephant. The Ikat saris of Odisha are the popular clothing of the local women, and are also preferred by the modern women of India.

Fabric Resist Dyed Textiles

In the fabric resist dyeing technique, the particular areas on the fabric are tied tightly with thread or any other object to prevent it from dyeing. After dyeing thread or the objects used are removed and we get an interesting pattern created on fabric. The fabric resist dyed textiles are mainly categorized as they are produced in the region of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Bandhani of Gujarat

The tie-dye from Gujarat is called Bandhani. The meaning of bandhani is to tie. The Bandhanis are famous for its fine resist dots and intricate designs. Traditionally it is done on silk, cotton and wool. The outlines of the motifs are tied and it creates the tiny dots of animal and human figures, flowers, plants and trees. The wide ranges of products are odhanis, saris, shawls to stitched garments like kurta and skirts (Fig. 21). The main centres of Bandhani in Gujarat are Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Porbandar and Kutch.


It is a popular Bandhani textile from Gujarat. It is called gharchola or gharcholu, a traditional odhani for Hindu brides, which is nowadays available as a sari worn on auspicious occasions. It is available in cotton or silk is red in colour and the layout of checkerboard created with woven gold threads. Each square contains a different tie-dyed motif like dancing lady, parrot, elephant, peacock, flowering shrub and geometric forms.

Bandhej and Lehriya of Rajasthan

The tie-dyed textiles from Rajasthan are known as bandhej and are similar to the bandhani of Gujarat in terms of the production process. The fine resist dots seen in bandhej are tiny boxes called dabbi and sweetmeats termed laddu. The geometrical and floral designs are used as motifs. It is available in cotton, silk, chiffon and used as odhani for women, turban cloth for men and stitched into garments like skirt/ghaghra and bodice/choli.


The diagonal or zigzag lines are created by wrap-resist technique. The fabric is diagonally rolled into a tight rope and tied with thread at regular intervals to obtain stripes on dyeing. The fabric may be rolled again and re-tied to add another colour in the Laheriya pattern. After dyeing, the fabric is opened and the diagonal white and different light coloured lines are created on a darker background. Lehriyas are used as Saris, and headcloth or safa by men, worn on special occasions like festivals and weddings

Painted and Printed Textiles

India has a rich heritage in the art of decorating textiles by weaving, painting, printing and dyeing from nearly 5000 years. The traditional way of getting a pattern on to woven fabric was mainly done by painting with a brush or kalam and printing using wooden blocks.

Painted Textiles

Painted textiles can be classified into two categories according to the colouring groups used. They are:


The fabrics are painted using pigments, which are obtained from minerals or plants and by applying direct method of painting. These painted textiles were traditionally in the form of scrolls. They depicted themes from various religious stories or based on Hindu, Jain and Buddhist gods, goddesses, local heroes and saints. The pigment painted textiles are found in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajsthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. These are shown below with the name and images.

Mordant Painted textiles

The main example of mordant painted textiles is Kalamkari. In kalamkari, kalam means pen and kari means work. Kalamkari was used for decorative hangings in domestic and monumental structures.

The mordant painted textiles are found in Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Refer the images given below with its name.

Printed Textiles

Printing is done traditionally by wooden blocks. Printing blocks have been used in India since 3000 BC. The Indian dyer is renowned for his expertise in printing cloth, especially cotton, using wooden blocks with dyes and pigments. Block printing is practiced even today in many different geographical regions of India. The hand block printed textiles are classified here according to its region. Apart from this there are other centers also, here in this chapter we have covered these textiles.

Hand Block Printed Textiles of India

  • Rajasthan
    • Bagru print
    • Sanganeri print

  • Gujarat
    • Ajrakh
    • Rogan

  • Madhyapradesh
    • Bagh



Bagru is a small village in Rajasthan, which is known for its mud-resist block prints.

The traditional method followed for printing designs in red, maroon and black on a cream background by the Chippas of Bagru is called syahibegar. Bagru is also famous for its mud resist style of printing known as dabu printing.


The fabrics used are cotton, silk, cotton and silk blends etc. First, the fabric is processed and then printed with mordant in paste form. The printing is done by using outlines and filling blocks. The prints are then covered with a resist paste, “dabu”, made of clay and gum. After that it is dried and dyed in vegetable dye. The mud resist paste is used to resist the penetration of dyes, mainly vegetable dyes on cotton fabric as per the design. After dyeing the fabric is washed thoroughly.

The mud resists paste is washed off exposing printed motifs on a white background surrounded by the base colour. Thus the effect of dark and deep background with light coloured prints is achieved by resisting and red, maroon and black on a cream background by the Chippas of Bagru is called syahibegar. Bagru is also famous for its mud resist style of printing known as dabu printing.


The motifs are inspired by the 17th century Persian motifs and are classified into the following five categories:

  • Single motifs like flowers, leaves and buds. Some examples are suraj ka phool, chakri, anguthi, gende ka phool.
  • Entwined tendrils that include all over jaal of leaves, flowers and buds.
  • Trellis patterns include jaalis from the Mughul period.
  • Figurative designs that include animal and human figures such as elephant, deer, lion, peacock, dancing women, warrior men, etc.
  • Geometric designs include waves (lehariya), chess (chaupad), Fortress wall projections (kangura), lines (dhariya), dots (bindi), etc. (Fig.31)

Sanganeri Print

Sanganer near Jaipur is a large centre for printing on fabrics. Many block printing and screen printing units are located here. The technique used by the printers in Sanganer is simpler than Bagru. The bright vibrant colours are printed on a white, off the white or light colour background.

Firstly the outlines are printed with fine blocks and then varied colours are filled in with other sets of blocks. For each colour, a separate block is required. The motifs seen in Sanganer prints are floral, animal and bird, food motifs such as Pataasi, laddu, revdi, kairi, mirchi. (Fig.32)



Ajrakh, a resist-and mordant-dyed, block printed cotton fabric, is recognized by its bold geometric repeats with a centre field and crossborders. It was traditionally practiced in Sindh, Pakistan then brought to Kutch in Gujarat. Barmer, Rajasthan is also a centre for Ajrakh printing


Ajrakh printing is labour intensive and sequential process. There are ten to fourteen different stages to get the final fabric. Firstly the impurities are removed, then the fabric is bleached and softened followed by washing and drying. After that the scoured fabric is immersed in cold solution of myrobalan and dried in the sun. Then the printing of outline is done using the paste of gum Arabic and lime and the fabric is again dried under the sun.

After that the printing with black colour is done on myrobalan treated fabric. The black colour is prepared by fermenting the iron scraps, jaggery and gram flour. Then the small red areas are printed with alum. After that it is the dyeing stage where the fabric is dyed with indigo followed by washing and drying. Then the fabric is boiled in the alizarine solution and all the areas except blue are again resisted. The second dyeing with indigo and then dyed with alizarine. Finally the Ajrakh printed fabric is ready. (Fig.33& 34)

The popular Ajrakh motifs are kankharek (dates), riyaal (coins), char sitara (star-shaped), manek mohar (circular gems), champakali (flower buds of champa tree), athaans (eight-petal of lotus) etc.

Rogan Printing

The word “Rogan” is the Persian word; it means “oil-based painting”. This art form is believed to be one of the oldest forms of direct style of printing. In this style of printing method neither brushes nor blocks are used for printing. It is practiced in the Nirona village of Kutch. The rogan printed fabric was used for skirts and odhanis by women.

The raised effect is achieved by the application of the thickened oil and the pigment on the thick hand woven fabric. Castor oil was used as the main ingredient for the rogan and the colours were obtained from different minerals. The motifs found in rogan printing are influenced by Persian motifs; include geometrical patterns, Islamic calligraphy and floral vegetable patterns. (Fig.35)

Madhya Pradesh


Bagh is a small village famous for its hand-block printed textiles. The Bagh-printed textiles are famous for their simple outline motifs in black and red. The bagh printing is done mainly on cotton, silk or cotton blend fabric such as, Chanderi or Maheshwari. The designs of bagh prints cover floral and geometrical compositions using black and red alternatively on white background. The motifs of the bagh print include floral, mango, patterns like dana chameli, genda phul, ambi buta, etc.

Woven Textiles

Weaving is a craft that dates back to the beginning of human history and is known as one of the oldest surviving crafts in the world. Weaving initially was an activity associated only with family. Every household produced their own cloth.

Handloom sector is the second largest sector after Agriculture in India. Design, colour and texture play an important role in woven textiles. This is mainly done on simple handloom with the variation in the weave such as plain, twill, satin or more complicated tapestry, and/or by the used of extra weft and warp yarns to create simple or complex textile. Each region in India has their distinct woven textile. Here the woven textiles have been classified according to their end use such as saris, shawls and carpets.


Banarasi Brocades

Banarasi brocade saris are from Varanasi/Banaras, a small town in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The brocaded fabrics from Banaras are measured to be one of the finest saris in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or ‘zari’. These saris are made of fine silk, decorated with intricate design

Extra warp/weft or both are woven into the fabric. It is woven with attachments like jacquard or dobby or by jala weaving. It can be silk on silk, cotton on cotton, silk on cotton, zari on silk. The brocade designs are made with extra yarns other than the ground threads.

A very special technique of Banaras is the „Minakari‟. In this technique an additional untwisted coloured yarns are added in the design which stands out and resembles the enameling in jewellery and hence appeares raised.

The most commonly used motifs are Keri (paisley) buta, Ganga jamuni style (half gold and half silver zari), Ari jhari (diagonal stripes) (Fig.36).


Baluchari saris are beautiful saris, produced in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. Earlier, Baluchari saris were made on jala looms which were gradually replaced by the modern jacquard attachment. In this technique, the design is drawn on a graph paper and then coloured and punched on the jacquard cards. After punching, these cards are put in order and fixed in the jacquard machine on top of the loom.

The special part of the Baluchari sari is pallu. It is divided into border and rectangular space in the center. In rectangle space, a human figure is depicted. Rows of three, five or seven ornate paisley (kalkas) are seen in the centre of the pallu, around with woven human figures (Fig.37). The motifs used in Baluchari saris are patterning of sun, moon, stars, natural motifs as well as scenes depicted from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The field of the saris is embellished with small buttis. The colours used are maroon, blue, red and dull dark terracotta were used as the base colour. Ornamentation of butidar Baluchari saris is done with extra weft motifs in off-white, white, yellow and dull orange coloured yarn.


The Jamdani saris are from West Bengal. These are made in combination of cotton, silk and cotton with silk. The technique used in creating motifs is interlocking of extra weft yarns These are woven on traditional handlooms. Floral geometric creepers, paisleys and leaves are the most common motifs of the Jamdani saris (Fig 38).


Paithani saris are produced in Paithan and Yevla villages of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. These saris are heavy silk saris which are used for wedding trousseau and festive wear. The Paithani saris are available in traditional colours in bright jewel tones such as emerald green, ruby red and yellow coloured; midnight blue coloured saris were most widely used. The traditional motifs are floral, paisleys, parrots, peacocks and lotus flowers. The pallu used to have broadband of zari. At present, the pallu band is ornamented with lotuses and peacocks woven in very bright colours. Paithani is popular in India as a precious heirloom passing on from generation to generation (Fig. 39).


Chanderi, near Gwalior, in Madhya Pradesh is famous for its woven saris. The sari is woven in a blend of cotton and degummed silk. It is almost transparent and is woven in pastel colours with small buties and a narrow gold border. The pallu generally has fine lines of zari yarn. The motifs are very simple. Some examples are gold coin (asharfi), mango, brick (eent) and rosary beads (rudraksha) in the form of small buties (Fig. 40)


The Maheshwari saris are produced in Maheshwar, a small town near Indore, Madhya Pradesh. It is a delicate woven sari. It is woven using cotton weft and silk warp. It is available in plain or tone on tone with a striped or checked border. It has three decorative bands of zari in the pallu. It is available in variety of colours, the most popular are the native haldikumkum combination (yellow and red) and sabz (vegetable) colours.

The motifs are inspired from the architectural carvings of the famous Maheshwar‟s Ahilya Fort.

The architectural carvings done on the fort walls such as Kangura (chevron) and Chatai (mat) have inspired the patterns for borders of Maheshwari Saris.


Kanjeevaram saris are produced in the town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. It is one of the most expensive saris and thus used for all special occasions. The sari is woven in pure mulberry silk and gold zari on hand operated pit-looms. The colours used are mustard, deep green, maroon, etc. The motifs are inspired from the nature and forms of temple architecture. Some examples are peacock, parrot, rosary beads, bird‟s eye, kalash, temple designs, scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagwad Gita etc. (Fig.42)

Apart from the saris there are many other beautiful handwoven textiles, can be classified as shawls and carpets. Such as kinnaur and shawls, Pashmina shawl from kasmir, mekhla chaddar. The different types of woven carpets are knotted carpets, needle felt carpets, and hand-tufted carpets as well as rugs and durries. Woven carpets are produced in Kashmir, Mirzapur, Bhadohi, Jaipur and Agra. Woven durries are produced in Jodhpur, Hoshiarpur, Bhatinda and Warangal in India.

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