Many artisans contribute to the fabric(s) of India. Communities of farmers, dyers, weavers, embroiders, printmakers—scattered across the country—are involved day in and day out. The next time you’re in any of these destinations, unravel this deserving layer to our local heritage, to learn where some of your most cherished outfits come from. By Rashima Nagpal
Kalamkari, Andhra Pradesh
Kalamkari, literally meaning painting with a pen (kalam), is a 3,000-year-old art form that is prominently practised in pockets of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The process of producing a Kalamkari fabric involves no less than 23 steps—from bleaching to hand-drawing the prints. Originally born as an organic way of story-telling, the earthy fabric evokes a sense of nostalgia. Look for an Andhra Pradesh State Emporium near you to find some original Kalamkari.
A tradition intrinsic to the folklore of Punjab, Phulkari is more than just a type of embroidered textile. Literally meaning flower work, it carries the essence of the region in ways more than one. On one hand, Phulkari work is redolent of femininity and how it evolved in undivided Punjab in the 19th century, and on the other, the craft became a tool for promoting local economy during the colonial times. Today seen in multiple avatars, from vibrant table cloths to dupattas, Phulkari continues to be practised in local clusters found in cities such as Rajpura, Patiala, Chandigarh, Amritsar, and more. You’ll come across various wholesale retailers of the fabric in major markets across the state.
Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh
A tasteful combination of zari weaved into pure cotton or silk, Chanderi as a fabric of India is now produced in over 3,000 looms across the country. But it first got popular in central India, around the time of the Bundela kingdom. Madhya Pradesh continues to be at the heart of its production. The town of Chanderi, as the name suggests, is particularly the flag bearer of this weaving tradition; over 60 per cent of the town’s population earns its livelihood through weaving. To preserve its heritage, project Chanderiyaan works closely with the local artisans to help them survive better in the age of cutting-edge technology. Support them directly and buy yourself some Chanderi here.
Kashmir’s Pashmina needs no introduction. It’s a fine story of something pastoral in origin becoming priceless, and how. The ancient trade routes between India and Central Asia are said to have played a major role in its popularity. The wool comes from the hairy undercoat of a breed of goat (Changthangi) usually found in Ladakh. The rest of the process—from spinning to dyeing to weaving—is largely undertaken by the folks in Kashmir. For a first-hand experience, you can easily find artisans engulfed in the Pashmina in the bylanes of Old Srinagar. Buy it from an iconic and authentic source such as Pashmkaar.