Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro have unearthed bone needles and wooden spindles, clearly suggesting that homespun cotton was used to make garments. In fact, fragments of woven cotton have also been discovered from these sites.
Historically renowned for it’s textiles, India’s woven love story dates back several centuries. The first mention of textiles in India can be found in Rig-Veda (a collection of Sanskrit hymns about Hindu Gods) that was written between 1300 and 1000 BC by Aryans. Even ancient epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata talk about Indian fabrics and weaving. Plenty of evidence on ancient Indian textiles or weaves is available in the form of sculptures belonging to the Mauryan and Gupta age along with Buddhist scripts and murals at Ajanta caves. Interestingly, even today, every part of the country weaves a different creative story, each different region weaving a distinctly different pattern. If the world famous Pashmina and Shahtoosh shawls come from villages of Jammu and Kashmir; the villages of Madhya Pradesh are famous for Chanderi and Maheshwari pattern. Tamil Nadu is synonym for a weave named as Madras Checks whereas other parts like Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are popular for the beautiful and now trending Ikat pattern. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are famous for elaborate Brocades. Other weaves like Jamdani and Taant have their roots in West Bengal.
In essence, weaving as a process involves interlacing of two threads at right angles to form a cloth or fabric. The threads that run horizontally are the weft, while those that run from top to bottom form the warp. Cloth is woven on a rudimentary contraption most often made of wood called a loom.
Pashmina: Made from fine Cashmere fabric, they have the softest texture and detailed embroidered designs on them.
Shahtoosh: This material is actually so fine that it can easily pass through a finger ring. Being of immense fine quality makes it quite expensive.
Chanderi: This fabric is ideal for summers. They are usually adorned with traditional designs, wide/ narrow border (in case of sarees) and perfect balance of contrasting colours.
Maheshwari: This pattern that draws it’s inspiration from the town’s fort is geometric in design. The latter half of the cloth usually carries a 5-stripe pattern (3 coloured and 2 white).
Madras Checks: A combination of horizontal and vertical stripes in different colours that makes for a visual treat.
Ikat: Resist-dyeing pattern gives a distinct look to this fabric. Uniformity of pattern along with spaces at regular intervals gives a very artistic look to the fabric.
Brocades: Embossed pattern made with or without gold/ silver threads adds a royal touch to the fabric.
Jamdani: Rich in floral, geometric and ancient motifs, this fabric is mostly made of cotton.
Taant: Light and airy fabric, which makes it ideal for hot summers. The best part about all these fabrics is their durability quotient that makes them popular.