Why was August 7 chosen as National Handloom Day in India? The Swadeshi Movement in India was launched on this day in 1905 in Calcutta Town Hall to protest against the partition of Bengal (eastern part of India) by the British Government. This day and the movement are commemorated by observing National Handloom Day.
There are numerous handloom destinations in India with a centuries-old history of handlooms and their trade across the globe. The 7th of August is observed annually as The National Handloom Day, to honor this history and the artistry and hard work of thousands of handloom weavers across India. Handlooms are intricate over machine looms and take more time and effort. To protect the heritage and artistry from infringement the prestigious Geographical Indication or GI tag status is conferred to unique products, based on their true origin. Let us see some of India's most popular handloom destinations and their unique handlooms.
Tamilnadu is one of the most important handloom destinations in India. Coimbatore, Tirupur, Karur, and Erode are called the ‘Textile Valley of India'. Kanchipuram Silks and Madurai cotton are the most popular fabrics of Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram silks or Kanjivaram are one of the most expensive fabrics in the world, handwoven with Zaris using silver and gold. The heavier the fabric the better it is. They have the prestigious GI tag too. In Tamil Nadu, any auspicious occasion demands Kanjivaram silks. Every woman in India desires a Kanjivaram silk saree in their wardrobe.
After Tamil Nadu, we can not miss out on the neighboring state, Kerala. Kerala Kasavu is known across the world today, used by both men and women. The handloom of Balaramapuram owns the GI tag. These fabrics are simple with unmatched elegance. The natural hues and texture and gold borders make this a classic symbol of Kerala's rich heritage and culture. Note that the popular painting of Raja Ravi Varma, the ‘Kerala Royal Lady' portrays how Kasavus are regal and significant in Kerala's culture. Kerala is definitely one of the significant handloom destinations in India.
When we talk of handloom destinations in India, can we ever leave Benaras? Yes, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is heaven to handloom lovers. Benaras brocades are to die for. The rich art of weaving was patronized by the Mughals. Emperor Akbar encouraged exploring the art which led to a combusting plethora of colors, patterns, motifs, and yarns. The brocades are heavy and gorgeous silk fabric with gold, silver, or meenakari (colored) zari embellishments making them absolutely royal. The ‘Benaras brocade' is truly worthy of the GI tag they possess.
Talking of royalty, one can not forget to mention Chanderis of Madhya Pradesh. Chanderi is lightweight weaves with sheer texture. Different motifs in a Chanderi fabric are handwoven using different needles. The luxuriousness of the Chanderi silk of Madhya Pradesh made it the drapes of the Maharajas (Kings and Queens). The art of weaving Chanderi developed in the 11th century. However, the Rig Veda (1200 BC) has the mention of Chanderi. Chanderi is a small town in Madhya Pradesh. This state at the center of the country is one of the major handloom destinations in India where one must buy the GI tagged Chanderis from.
West Bengal's variety of handlooms make it one of the most prominent handloom destinations in India. Textile and weaves of Bengal date back to ancient times and was patronized by the Mughals in the 15th century. Tant is woven using handspun yarn of local cotton. This soft lightweight mulmul or muslin fabric is traded for ages. The motifs are identification for a saree. The Tant of Shantipur and Dhaniakhali in West Bengal own the GI tag. Dhakai sarees are world-famous. Then there are the rich and regal Baluchari of Bishnupur too with a GI tag. These are rich silk sarees with intricately woven mythological scenes on them. Bengal is also the second-highest producer of Tussar in India. Murshidabad silks are popular Bengal silks.
The Muga silks of Saualkuchi make Assam one of the prettiest handloom destinations in India. This GI-tagged silk fabric is spun from silkworms that feed on Soalu plants. They are well known for their sturdiness and sophisticated gold hue. The strength and polish of the fabric do not fade with years and so can be passed on for generations.
Picture Courtesy: https://assam.gov.in/
Orissa or Odisha
In my opinion, the state of Orissa has the maximum number of weaves in the country. So it must be pretty much on top of the list of handloom destinations in India. Sambalpuri Ikat, Bomkais, and Kotpads are my personal favorite and are all proud owners of the GI tag. There are innumerable types of weaves here. Berhampuri, Pasapali, Dongria, and Bichitrapuri are some of the wonders of Orissa. The list can continue.
Handloom lovers can never leave out Rajasthan from the list of handloom destinations in India. Rajasthan produces some of the best cotton fabrics in India. The unique most are the Kota Daria. Silk and/or cotton and even mixed threads are woven into squared check patterns. They make extremely lightweight, comfortable, and elegant drapes.
This heaven on earth is not just a top tourist destination but also one of the most expensive handloom destinations in India. Pashmina is one of India's most expensive handlooms. Pashmina is made from Pashm or threads obtained from hairs of pashmina goats or Changthang of the Ladakh region. Kashmiri women use their nimble fingers to prepare the spun. Yarn-making machines do not make a proper pashmina. Even though it is yet to receive the GI tag, it is one of my personal favorites.
Now is the best time for buying local and supporting our very own artisans. Handlooms are unique and every piece reflects a story.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.