1701 - 1991

Textile Traditions in India

Indian Museum, Kolkata

Savour the intricate techniques and designs of Saris, Shawls, Skirts and Kurtas from the collection of Indian Museum, Kolkata

The Rich Regional Diversity
The present exhibition is an endeavour to represent our glorious textile traditions from our rich collection of textiles from different regions and diverse communities of the Indian subcontinent. India has evidence of madder dyed textiles found at Mohenjo-daro about 5000 years ago, which proves that the people had both the knowledge as well as the art of dyeing fabric. India produces a wide variety of textile fabrics that seem to have been derived from the local contours of the countryside. Cotton is woven all over India and each region has its own distinctive character ranging from materials, designs, colours, etc. The muslins are spun with hand spindles, not spinning wheels. The elaborate style in cotton weaving is Jamdani. Small shuttles filled with coloured, gold, or silver thread are passed through the wrap as required for the basic weave.   
Silk has an ancient tradition and it enjoys a significant status because of its use at rituals. The best- known Varanasi product is the brocade covered with embroidered designs in gold and silver. The Baluchari, woven in silk, is another important textile from Murshidabad in West Bengal which flourished under the patronage of the royalty and nobility. In woollen material, the most coveted is pashmina, made out of wool from the pashmina goat. 
Famous shawls from Kashmir is one of India's best woollen products, both loom-weft and needle work done on delicate woollen fabrics with gold and silver threads. The mirror-work of Kathiawar is intricate, lavish and multi-coloured. High up in the Nilgiri hills of Andhra Pradesh, the Toda women evolved a very rich style of embroidery distinctly of their own. The embroidery work of the Lamboidies, a gypsy community of Karnataka needs special mention for their use of mirror work, applique work and cowries in the clothes. The block prints of Rajasthan are applied in many colours and designs which represent local tastes and needs. 

Silk Sari

Purple colored silk sari having wavy and floral designs made with the thread of gold and silk.

Baluchari Sari

Purple coloured Baluchari sari, worked in green, purple and off-white silk thread. The pallu or anchala is profusely decorated with floral, kalka designs and designs of two European gentle men, holding a flower in their hands. The ground is decorated with multi coloured buta designs all over the body.

Silk Sari

Patola sari with betel leaf motif.

Benarasi Sari

Benarasi sari, having purple ground, decorated with golden zari work all over the body.

Baluchari Sari

Dark maroon, loom embroidered, Baluchari sari presents fully decorated with small floral butas while the border decorated with lotus and creeper design and the pallu or anchal decorated with nine rows of kalka designs in white silk thread.

Benarasi Sari

Red Benarasi sari decorated with flower design all over the body with golden Jari border.

Nilambari Sari

Nilambari sari, having embroidered kalka motif in the corners and floral designs all over the body.

Cuttaki Sari

Loom embroidered Cuttaki sari, anchal or pallu decorated with orange, red, blue and yellow coloured designs while the ground is white. The border is decorated with temple design.

Angchha (Open Cloth)

Printed angchha, decorated with floral designs in dark maroon colour.


Brocades in thread of gold on red ground presents tree motif.

Lehangah (Skirt)

Embroidered silk skirt or Lehangah, decorated with floral and human figures with multicolour silk threads.


Shawl, embroidered with multicoloured silk threads and golden zari work. Floral designs and kalka motif are present.


Multicoloured woven and embroidered shawl, with floral designs on multicoloured base.


Shawl decorated with flowering plants, kalka motifs on maroon background. The shawl has seven borders, broad and narrow, and one circular design in the center. Four corners have kalka motifs.

Woven Textile

Multicoloured woven textile decorated with floral motif.

Putkuli (Piece of Cotton Cloth)

It is a long piece of off-white cotton cloth, having woven geometric designs at one end along with red stripes. The other end has only one black and one red stripe. It is used by the Toda male.


It is a red coloured cloth, decorated with embroidery and applique work. A strip of cloth, decorated with mirror work and thick embroidery is attached at one end of the cloth. A row of tinsel is stitched to the strip of the embroidered cloth. Two metal bells with cotton fringes are attached to the cloth. It is used for bridal ceremony by the Lamboidies women.

Red Choga

Red choga decorated with wavy, floral designs in golden zari. Loom embroidery is present all over the body.

Blouse for Female

It is a blouse, made of red and blue cotton cloth. It is open at the back while the front is beautifully decorated with applique and embroidered work. A few pieces of mirror are stitched on the blouse for decoration. A part of cotton thread is present near the back side of the neck and another pair near the open waist on the back side of the blouse. It is used by the Lamboidies female in wedding ceremony.


It is petticoat, made of cotton cloth. The upper end i.e the waist of the petticoat has beautifully embroidered cotton piece with padding. The embroidery work is done with yellow, green, red, blue and white cotton thread. The middle part of the petticoat is made of printed cotton cloth while the lower border is decorated with embroidery work as well as applique work. It is used by the Lamboidies women.

Bridal Dress, Skirt

It is a skirt, made of red printed cloth. A thickly embroidered and padded band is present at the upper part, i.e. in the waist of the skirt. Just below the band, the skirt is decorated with embroidery as well as applique work. The lower border of the skirt is also decorated with the same embroidery and applique work. Metal pieces with cotton balls are hung from the lower end of the skirt. The jingle bells are also present. It is used by the Lamboidies women.


Cap, floral and kalka motif are embroidered with zari thread.


Cap, shows red, yellow and green silk cloth covered on the body, decorated with spangles and zari.


Silver and jori-embroidered crown with kalka, floral and creeper motifs.

Indian Museum Kolkata
Credits: Story

Sponsoring Institution: Indian Museum, Kolkata

Chief Co-Ordinator: Dr. Jayanta Sengupta

Exhibition prepared by:
Dr. Mita Chakrabarty
Dr. Nita Sengupta

Photographs by: Museum Photography Unit

Credits: All media
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