Poetry of the sand dunes
Leheriya designs are inspired by natural patterns made by the wind blowing across the desert sands of Rajasthan.
These textile fragments, in the dotted tie & dye and diagonally striped Leheriya, date back to the 17th century.
Motifs are usually inspired by nature, like the bird seen among the dots. The colours used in the 17th century were derived from plants and minerals.
With its flamboyant stripe and chevron patterns, Leheriya was patronised by the royalty in Rajasthan.
Extremely complex, Leheriya designs use up to nine tints, and could take a whole month to complete.
Favoured artisans were rewarded with a jagir of land or sufficient grains to feed their families.
Each royal house had its signature Leheriya patterns and colours.
The fabrics shown in the picture were used exclusively for saafas, or turban cloths, for the royal household.
On a base of Bengal muslin specially woven on narrow looms, the saafas were made in unique Leheriya patterns by artisans attached to the royal house.
While independent India no longer has royal states, the saafa continues to be an integral element of traditional Rajasthani attire. It is widely worn in the rural areas of Rajasthan.
Leheriya designs in red, yellow and orange are popularly bought for the male members of an entire wedding entourage.
The vivid pink leheriya sari is considered auspicious and is made specially for brides to wear on the occasion of the first Teej since their marriage.
The vibrant pink colour is locally named 'rani pink'. A signature colour of Rajasthan, it was a favourite with the queens of Rajasthan, hence the name ‘rani’ pink.
Today, Leheriya textiles are made in a myriad vibrant colours and patterns, and continue to be a part of a living, evolving tradition.
Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Suleiman Merchant
Artisans: Badshah Mian and family
Ground Facilitator: Charu Verma
Curation: Ruchira Verma