A textile label produced for Madras Import Co., Madras, its illustration taken from Ravi Varma's Angad Shishtai. In the Sanskrit epic, Ramayana, Rama sends Angad, son of Bali, as a diplomatic emissary to Ravana with a final offer of truce. Ravana however did not give any credence to Angad, not even offering him a seat, which was a deliberate slight to him, and indirectly to Rama, given his status as a visiting emissary. In response, Angad decided to make a show of his strength by extending his tail, coiling it into a cylindrical throne upon which he seated himself, hovering above the rest of the court. In other versions of this story, it is Hanuman and not Angad who plays this role.
Textile trade labels, also referred to as ‘tickets’ and ‘tikas’ remain a less popularly known, though entirely fascinating, by-product of Indo-British trade and cultural history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These trade labels formed an integral part of the publicity campaigns of both British and Indian mills of the period, and featured imagery that ranged from the mythological to the political. Customarily rectangular in format and marked by borders that usually carried the names of the mills or their agents, they were directly attached to cloth or pasted on the bales of cotton cloth being shipped. Every bale of yarn and cloth coming into India from England carried these labels or trademarks; and soon indigenous mills began to employ the same method of marketing their wares.