Indian Handloom – Tour of India [Updated 2020]

Indian Handloom

The Indian Handloom industry is one of the oldest industries in the history of human civilization. Like air, food, water, and housing, the availability of sufficient cloth is the prime necessity of life. The clothing stands first in the list of necessary articles of man as soon as he appears on the great stage of the world.

A newly born baby is immediately wrapped in a clean and soft cloth, in order to protect it from rough weather. A piece of cloth protects it as a shell protects a glittering or shining pearl. In fact, its clothing is its nearest, best, and “movable” shelter. In this way, the textile industry has paramount importance in our life. Indian Handloom weaving, Indian handloom sarees, and Indian handloom cotton sarees are a major part of our Indian culture.

As a kid, I always used to be so excited when we were given class projects regarding different fabrics and indian handlooms. We had a whole chapter in the context of Indian Fabrics. Today, when I am all grown up, I always find myself a sucker for Indian handlooms & handwoven sarees. In my opinion, if someone asks me to define Indian Culture, I’ll always say — “Indian Culture has so much to offer, it’s a single tree that has so many different fruits on its multiple branches, yet we have so little time to grab them all.”

In primal age, man could not have gone without clothing, and civilization itself begins with the clothing. Weaving is the most important use of all artistic craft. 1/5th of the working world is engaged in weaving and its various branches. Modem culture is no less indebted to the noble and dignified art, which has been professed from a king to and the ordinary man in different ages of history.

Apart from providing one among the essential needs of the citizenry, alongside a large contribution to GDP and export, this Industry provides direct and indirect employment to lakhs of people in the rural and urban areas. Indian Handloom Industry is one of the most important employment providers after agriculture in India. This sector provides employment to 43.31 lakh persons engaged on about 23.77 lakh Indian handlooms, of which 10% are from scheduled castes,18% belong to the scheduled tribes, and 45% belong to other backward classes.

Production in the Indian handloom Industry sector recorded a figure of 7116 million sq. meters in the year 2013-14. During 2014-15, production in the Indian handloom Industry sector is reported to be 3547 million sq. Meters (April-September-2014). This sector contributes nearly 15% of the material produced within the country and also contributes to the export earnings of the country. Ninety-five per cent of the world’s hand-woven fabric comes from India. It has been sustained by transferring skills from one generation to a different. The strength of the sector lies in its uniqueness, flexibility of production, openness to innovations, adaptability to the suppliers’ requirement and the wealth of its tradition.

Indian Handloom Industry: A Boon to Hand Weavers

Handweaving has been the basic activity of human society since time immemorial in which utility and aesthetics are blended together. It is said that “one who works with one’s hands is a labourer; one who works with one’s hands and the brain is a craftsman and one who works with one’s hands and heart is an artist.” Indian Handloom sarees weavers are indeed a band of creative artists in the sense that they pour their entire souls into the job.

The weavers not only weave with yam, but their ‘deep feelings and emotions are also woven in the texture’. Apart from being a source of livelihood Indian handloom cotton sarees weaving is woven into the very cultural heritage of Indian Society. Indian handloom industry of textile is as old as humanity itself from time immemorial the Indian handloom industry has been playing a vital role in the Indian economy, Indian Handloom weaving still constitutes the largest handicraft industry in India, providing means of livelihood to the millions of the people.

Indian Handloom sarees has been a tradition and a craft handed down from generation to generation. Historically, Indian handloom weaving sarees, especially of cotton fabrics, has been the most important non-agricultural productive activity in the country. Apart from cultivation handloom weaving provides the highest employment to the rural people. Handloom weaving is by far the largest and the most important cottage industry next only to agriculture; both in terms of employment and value of output.

The “hand-woven” fabric is symbolic of man’s endeavour to bring beauty and grace into a life, which is otherwise severely constrained by the standardisation and the consequent monotony. With 10 million people in India, today, directly and indirectly, working to provide an essential item, combine traditional beauty with quality.’

Mechanism & Categorization

The motion of the handloom cotton sarees is operated by skillful human hands of a Indian handloom weaving artist, without using any source of energy like electricity, water, air, or sun to drive the motion of the loom. Fabric is woven on a handloom by the interlacing of warp, that runs length-wise and weft or filling, that runs width-wise.

Warp threads are raised and lowered by manual shedding motion to make a shed. Then, through this shed, the shuttle is passed carrying across the weft thread which is beaten against the woven fabric by the movable comb-like frame or reed. When the huddle is shifted, the 2 sets of warp reverse position, binding the weft into the material and opening another shed. The loom is the basic equipment used for hand weaving.

Broadly speaking, supported their structure and technique of working, the handloom is classified into four main groups namely primitive looms, pit looms, frame looms, and semi-automatic looms.

Primitive Looms:

The Primitive looms are all looms where the weft is threaded by hand for interlacing the warp ends. These also include vertical looms like a number of the woollen blanket looms, durrie looms, newar looms and tape looms.

Pit Looms:

Two types of Pit Looms are in operation:

  1. Throw-Shuttle Pit Looms:

Until the invention of the fly-shuttle slays in England within the 18th century, the throw-shuttle pit loom was the foremost commonly used loom.

  1. Fly-Shuttle Pit Looms:

The fly shuttle pit loom produces three to fourfold more cloth than the throw-shuttle one and it’s all the benefits of a throw-shuttle pit loom except the weaving of intricate extra weft patterns. This loom has enabled the indian handloom industry to capture a neighbourhood of the market steadily with hand-woven products like colour bed sheets, towels, handkerchiefs, door curtains, bedcovers, quilt cloth, colour shirting cloth, napkins, etc.

Frame Looms:

Frame looms are useful for the production of designing various fabrics like bed sheets, heavy furnishings, towels, dress material, striped and check the material, bed covers, gauze cloth, etc. as in Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, etc. These are the same looms which are woven on the frame loom are ordinary saris with plain border, saris with extra warp and cross border designs.

Semi-automatic Looms:

There are two sorts of semi-automatic looms, namely, sley motion type and treadle type. The sley motion type is that the one during which all primary and other motions are affected by the movement of the slay apart from picking which is completed separately by hand.

Fabrics of India: A Textile Tour on the Map of India

indian handloom | handloom weavers | handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
Source: Craftsvilla

Mother Nature has so much to offer and it has always been biased when it comes to bestowing with all that’s traditionally alluring to India. As the legacies pass by, Indian fabrics are throwing shades and putting a spell on the people around the world. So many fabrics having their own features can enthrall anybody who digs deeper into them. Indian Handloom Sarees Fabrics are of the things that India takes pride to show off to other countries around the globe.

Every state of India has its own unique fabric that defines the richness of culture & heritage of India.


Khadi indian handloom | handloom weavers

The word that directly associates us with Mahatma Gandhi and his appeal to wear Khadi boycotting all the western culture influence upon Indians during the Independence. Khadi Indian Handloom Sarees is a handspun, hand-woven natural fibre cloth. Also known as khaddar during the British era, depict purely India or one say it’s a swadeshi fabric.

Fibers are spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha. It is a versatile fabric. India, in the current scenario, is again striving to lower down the western influence upon our nation and contribute to the “Make in India” movement. Manufacturing Khadi within India and to welcome it wholeheartedly by the citizens of our country will efficiently contribute to Swadeshi Movement Gandhi introduced back then.

Kalamkari- Andhra Pradesh

Kalamkari- Andhra Pradesh indian handloom | handloom weavers
wiki: A kalamkari artist at work.

Kalamkari may be a sort of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile. There are two distinctive sorts of kalamkari art in India — the Srikalahasti style and therefore the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti sort of kalamkari is completed employing a pen for freehand drawing of pattern and filling within the colors, is entirely hand worked. Machilipatnam sort of Kalamkari work involves vegetable Dyed block-painting of a cloth.

Chikankari- Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Chikankari- Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh indian handloom | handloom weavers
wiki: Front view of Chikan embroidery being done over temporary block printed pattern

Chikankari is an art, which ends up within the transformation of the plainest cotton and organdie into flowing yards of magic. The word ‘Chikan’ steps from a Persian word derived from ‘Chic’, which mentioned the ‘Jali’ work done on marble or wood. Chikankari may be a long running or darning stitch worked with six strands on the proper side of the material appropriated four threads and learning one. Other sorts of embroidery are backstitch, chainstitch, bakhiya, jail work, etc.

Sambalpuri- Odisha

Sambalpuri- Odisha indian handloom | handloom weavers
wiki: An intricate Ikkat weave of Sambalpuri sari

Sambalpuri are often a typical handwoven ikat wherein the warp and thus the weft is tie-dyed before weaving. The fabric incorporates of traditional motifs embossed like shankha (shell), chakra (wheel), phula (flower) into them. In this technique, the threads are first tie-dyed and later woven into a cloth, with the whole process taking many weeks.

Pashmina- Jammu & Kashmir

Pashmina- Jammu & Kashmir indian handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
wiki: Kashmiri Pashmina Shawl with hand-embroidery using needle and silk

Pashmina is formed from fineness of the cream coloured goat’s wool having intricate embroidery. Pashmina meaning soft gold in Kashmiri, some designed are hand block printed and people blocks sometimes go back to quite 100 years. It takes a week to get a single shawl of pashmina. Hand embroidery is completed on the shawl which takes longer to form it an outcome . The tedious work makes it one of the costliest fabric.

Ryndia Silk- Meghalaya

Ryndia Silk- Meghalaya | handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
© Courtesy of Internet Sources
A dense and fine organic silk, obtained from cocoons without killing the silkworm.

Umden in Meghalaya is gaining recognition for producing the finest Ryndia in Meghalaya. This dense & organic silk once common throughout North-East is one among the sole silks extracted from cocoons without killing the silkworm. It is hence referred to as the Silk of Peace.

Ikat- Pochampally, Hyderabad

Ikat- Pochampally, Hyderabad indian handloom | handloom sarees
Its named after a  small town Pochampally in Hyderabad

This double ikat textile is understood for its geometric pattern and an intentional bleed. The process wont to do so is understood as Resist Dyeing also called ikat, wherein a number of methods are wont to prevent the dye from spreading all across the material. The place Pochampally possesses it place in UNESCO World Heritage site as a neighbourhood of iconic weaving cluster of India.

Wangkhei Phi- Manipur

Wangkhei Phi- Manipur indian handloom | handloom weavers
wiki: Wangkhei Phi is made from white cotton

Wangkhei Phi is a native costume of the women in Manipur. The word ‘phi’ means ‘cloth’ whereas, ‘wangkhei’ is the name of the village from where it is originated. Being a variation of saree, it is distinguished by the pattern of temple towers on the borders. It is woven exclusively by women in white or light shades.

Chanderi- Madhya Pradesh

Chanderi- Madhya Pradesh indian handloom | handloom sarees
wiki: A handwoven Chanderi sari

Cotton, Silk thread and Zari, these three fabrics together causes a beautiful blend that results in producing the Chanderi fabric. These include Dobby & Jacquard Looms. Most Chanderis have an upscale gold border and motifs everywhere fabric. Some have gold checks or little motifs. The yarn utilized in Chanderi fabric is of top quality and an additional fine. Because of the non-degumming feature of the raw yarn, the finished fabric produced is extremely transparent and which in consequence result in sheer texture.

Paithani- Maharashtra

Paithani- Maharashtra indian handloom | handloom sarees
wiki: Paithani Bridal Sari

Named after the Paithan town in Aurangabad, the art of weaving Paithani is 2000 years old. Paithani is a variety of saree whose fabric looks exactly the same on both sides. It is made of silk it is considered as one of the richest saris in India. Paithani is characterized by borders of oblique square design with an ornamented zari pallav and peacock border design. Traditional vines and flowers, shapes of fruits and stylized forms of birds esp peacock are used as motifs is weaved in rainbow colours.

Patola & Bandhani- Gujarat

Patola & Bandhani- Gujarat indian handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
wiki: ‘Patola’ (ritual heirloom cloth) from Gujarat, India, late 18th or early 19th century

Patola may be a double ikat woven fabric, usually made up of silk. Patola means “Queen of Silks” that are woven with great clarity and precision by the Indian handloom weaving artists. Expensive thanks to their labour intensiveness, each Patola Sari may take from six months to at least one year to be made.

Dyed in tie & dye style, the art of bandhani may be a highly skilled process. In this, the material is tied into small points with threads and when dyed, the knotted parts remain uncoloured. \ It is also referred to as Bandhej and is formed on superfine cotton, muslin, etc.

Phulkari- Punjab

Phulkari- Punjab | handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
wiki: Contemporary Phulkari design and embroidery in Patiala, Punjab (India)

Phulkari, which literally translates into ‘flower work’. With the only of tools, a needle, a silk thread and a high degree of skill the Punjabi’s are ready to create the foremost amazing flowery surface designs. Phulkari pattern revolves around a solitary stitch. Geometrical patterns are usually embroidered in Phulkari.

Sanganeri- Rajasthan

Sanganeri- Rajasthan indian handloom | handloom weavers | handloom cotton sarees
© Courtesy of Internet Sources Block printing Sanganeri

Sanganeri may be a hand-block printing technique originated from Sanganer, a village within the southern a neighborhood of Jaipur, Rajasthan Sober, low-toned colours and delicate lines creating finer designs sort of a poppy rose or lotus usually against a white background are categorised under the fabrics made in Sanganer

Kanjivaram- Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

Kanjivaram- Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu indian handloom | handloom sarees
wiki: Kanchipuram silk saris

Kanjivaram is woven from pure mulberry silk with three ply, using thick zari forming unique and complex designs within the sari. Weavers use Korvai method of weaving during which different colored yarn for body and border are interlinked.

Mysore Silk- Karnataka

Mysore Silk- Karnataka indian handloom | handloom sarees
wiki: Mysore Silk Saree with gold inlay

Karnataka produces over 70% of the country’s Mulberry silk that also results in the making of Mysore Silk and carrying historical importance the Mysore Silk sarees which are luxuriant, uniquely minimalistic, elegant and still stand out with of these qualities through machine-made. The sarees have the plain single colour base fabric of 100% pure silk blended with a narrow strip of gold zari border at both ends. The weaving process involves two sorts of looms — the Dobby loom and therefore the Jacquard loom.

Kinnauri Shawls- Kullu, Himachal Pradesh

kinnauri shawls indian handloom | handloom weavers
The shawls are known for their geometric designs

The geometrical patterns in Kinnauri Shawls have religious meaning and therefore the colours of the thread used for embroidery represent the vibe of nature — water (white), air (green), earth (yellow), ether (blue) and fire (red). Frame looms are mainly wont to weave the shawls and therefore the embroidery is completed by hand. The staple that’s used is Merino wool, local sheep wool and Pashmina wool.

Jamdani & Kantha- West Bengal

Jamdani West Bengal  handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
wiki: Jamdani Sari for sale

Jamdani means, “a vase of flowers”. History of this fabric dates back to the first ages, wherein mentions of the material are seen scripted in Arthashashtra written by Kautilya. The glory of this fabric also can be seen mentioned within the writings of Chinese, Italian, and Arab travellers. Basically this fabric is of unbleached cotton yarn. A part of the Indian handloom sari which matches over the shoulder is decorated with motifs called Jhalar.

Kantha indian handloom | handloom weavers
wiki: Closeup of a kantha. In the left and bottom Paar is shown, also the running stitches (white) are seen

Kantha is done on Tussar silk that belongs to Bihar, U.P with a simple running stitch along the edges. Motifs those are found in Kantha embroidery include many symbols that were derived from ancient art and acts as reflecters of nature, like the sun, the tree of life and therefore the universe.

Muga Silk- Assam

Muga Silk Assam | handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
wiki: Muga silk mekhala and chador with jaapi

Muga silk, which is especially produced by the Garo community of Assam, is obtained from the semi-domesticated multivoltine silkworm. The most significant characteristic of ‘Muga silk’ is its golden hue. Its handloomed bright yellow colour is the prerogative of Indian handloom industry and the pride of Assam. Muga Silk is a high-value fabric and is used in making of sarees,mukhalas, chaddars etc.

Kasavu- Kerala

Kasavu Kerela indian handloom |  handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
White Kerala Kasavu Saree

Kasavu belongs to ‘God’s own country, Kerala’ may be a handwoven cream coloured saree with gold border. The Indian handloom sarees are handwoven and 100% unbleached cotton. It is known for its fineness of count in weaving and is also found in a number of lovely paintings by Raja Ravi Varma. These are very popular Indian handloom cotton sarees fabric.

Bhagalpuri/Tussar Silk- Bihar

Tussar silk Bihar indian handloom | handloom weavers
wiki: Tussore silk sarees from Phulia, India.

Produced from larvae of several species of silkworms belonging to the moth genus Antheraea The yarns are weaved with silk threads of multi-colours which are reared from the Tussar cocoons. The Tussar Silk industry in Bhagalpur has about 30,000 Indian handloom industry workers working for about 25,000 Indian handlooms. They are weaved into exotic and symbolic designs and considered more textured than mulberry silk but has short fibres, which make it less durable.

Lepcha- Sikkim

Lepcha Sikkim indian  handloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees
Source: Lepcha weaves or ‘thara’ is woven in vertical looms with a backstrap.

In past, the Lepcha’s of Sikkim were said to use yarn spun out of Urtica Dioica plant to weave clothes. Today cotton and woollen yarn are used with vegetable dyes and artificial colours. The cloth woven by the women on back-strap lion-looms is traditionally used for women’s coat material. The colours used are white, red, black, yellow and green.

Kunbi- Goa

Kumbi Goa indian hhandloom cotton sarees | handloom sarees

Kunbi maybe a cotton chequered handwoven & Indian handloom sarees in red and white with a sturdy weave ok to be worn for farming. It is almost-extensive traditional saris worn by Goan tribal Kunbi women before the advent of the Portuguese in the 16th century. It has a dobby border, which is essentially a silken flat inset. Recently, designer Wendel Rodricks promoted the material during a Fashion Week.

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2 thoughts on “Indian Handloom – Tour of India [Updated 2020]

  1. Pooja Joshi says:

    Very creative writing..
    Thanks for the information of Indian culture.
    Keep posting..???

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