'Indian Handlooms', a term that spells exquisity, ebullience and enunciate a multifarious equip of excogitating designs, both ethnic and modernistic. Providing livelihood to 90 million people, the level of artistry and intricacy achieved by Indian handloom fabrics is unparalleled and beyond the scope of modern machinery, preserving its heritage and culture.


With a long tradition of excellence in its craftsmanship, Indian handloom is said to have dated back to the ancient ages. The earliest Indian fragment of cloth (before the Christian era) with a hansa (swan) design was excavated from a site near Cairo. Later excavations from Harappan sites revealed a scrap of coarse madder dyed cloth and a terracotta spindle whorls which evidenced their expertise over handlooms, Indian handlooms, to be more specific.


The turning point of Indian handlooms and its weavers is said to be Indias independence i.e. 15th of august, 1947. The Charkha acted as a symbol of national regeneration, as propagated by Mahatma Gandhi, and the focus on the weavers of Indian handlooms during the Indian freedom movement was largely responsible for the breakthrough. And at the dawn of independence, Indian handloom industry became the largest cottage industry of the country, a point of recognition which is still maintained.


Indian handlooms cater to the needs of a diverse cultural ethos ranging from exquisite fabrics to popular items of mass production for daily use. A village without a weaver is a myth in the Indian scenario; millions of looms across the country are busy producing the traditional beauty of a precious heritage called Indian handlooms.

Undoubtedly cotton gave the splendid weavers of Indian handloom their resplendent expression but silk and woolen cloths also originated during the pre-Vedic era, endemic to India. In the world of handlooms there are muslin of Chanderi, silk brocades of Varanasi, the ikats from Andhra and Orissa, the tie and dye from Rajasthan and Gujrat, the phulkari and khes of Punjab, jacquards from Uttar Pradesh, the phenek, tongam and bottle designs from Assam and Manipur, and lots more.


Indian handloom continues to be craft oriented, even though it was circumscribed by a limited choice of processing and technology. The Indian handloom industry mainly exports fabrics, bed spreads and covers, quilts, shams, pillow covers, curtains, towels, table linen, cushions and pads, tapestries and upholsteries, carpets, etc, the whole lot needed in making a house a home.


Looking back, the story of the Indian handlooms in the last fifty years is one of patient nurturing of an industry which touches upon the livelihood of millions of Indians. Little efforts were given to develop the Indian handloom sector during the first half of the present industry. The handloom weavers were pitted against modern textile mills. Their ingenuity and skill contributed to their success in preserving the long tradition of excellence of Indian handlooms.


And in today's date Indian handlooms are going global in a big way and have found support in the designer community. "Handlooms represent not just an industry but the cultural heritage of India. It needs to chart out a road &sec=article&uinfo=<%=server.URLEncode(2413)%>" target="_new">map for itself. Designers can play a major role in promoting handlooms. However, so far we have not been able to utilize our own resources to cope up with the changing lifestyles and aspirations. The handloom industry and the fashion designers should work in coordination to initiate yet another 'swadeshi' movement," Rathi Vinay Jha said at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week held in the capital recently.

A rich and resilient media of ethnic expression, Indian handloom is given is due respect by the government too. National awards are given every year to master weavers in recognition of their excellence and contribution. An expression which deserves to be respected and preserved, Indian handlooms today finds place in the national and traditional design vocabularies of the world.



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