1800 - 2000

Sanskriti Museum of Indian Textiles

Sanskriti Museums

The genesis of the Sanskriti Museum of Indian Textiles is rooted in what started as a small private collection built over the last three decades by Shri O.P. Jain, the founder president of Sanskriti Pratishthan. Prof. Jyotindra Jain then joined him in conceptualising  and curating the exhibits in the Museum galleries. In all, the museum has 450 pieces of traditional Indian textiles in its collection. 

Indian Textile Traditions
It is not by chance that the people of ancient India expressed their philosophical ideas by using textile terminology. A Vedic poet visualized the phenomenon of day and night in the image of two immortal girls of different complexions weaving a fabric. It seems only appropriate that the people whose early perceptions of the nature of the universe were expressed figuratively in terms of weaving should have created such rich and glorious traditions of textiles over the centuries. The genesis of the Sanskriti Museum of Indian Textiles is rooted in what started as a small private collection built over the last three decades by Shri O.P. Jain, the founder president of Sanskriti Pratishthan. Prof. Jyotindra Jain then joined him in conceptualising  and curating the exhibits in the Museum galleries. The unique feature of this collection is that it stems from one individual’s aesthetic and cultural vision, which makes it a harmonious, unified whole.  
The museum intends to serve as a typological resource for the study of Indian textile traditions. It moves away from the ‘masterpiece’ culture as much as from creating an exhaustive inventory of textile genres, as is often the case with many museums of the kind. Its objective is to display representative examples of important traditions of Indian textiles, and to create a pool of information around these that could eventually serve as an academic resource for study and research. In all, the museum has 450 pieces of traditional Indian textiles in its collection. The entry to the Museum is through a room that throws light on cotton and silk, indigo and madder as the basic materials of Indian textiles. The rest of the galleries show representative examples of genres and sub-genres of ritual textiles, embroideries, resist-dyed fabrics, and brocades and related techniques. Each section and sub-section is introduced by a detailed text informing the visitor about its history, typology, materials and techniques and cultural significance. This is supplemented by individual captions accompanying each displayed object.

Canopy or Wall Hanging

Elaborately embroidered canopy apparently comes from a Vaishnava shrine or a Vaishnava household. The floral motifs in the borders and the central medallion have a definite kinship with the embroidery of the Ahir cattle herders of Kutch. .

On the other hand, the rendering of raas, the circle dance of Krishna and his milkmaid companions appears to be a highly individualistic work of a person within the Ahir community. The netting effect created in the limbs and costumes of the figures, with open chain stitch too appears to be individualistic.

Phulkari Chaddar, Shawl

Darshan dwara, or ‘the gate from which one sees God’ in sainchi style from eastern Punjab, used for offering to the temples or gurudwaras (Sikh holy shrines) after the fulfillment of a wish. Darshan dwara is a gate at a religious place of worship that offers a clear view of the deity. The Phulkari has a typical red background with a series of large four peaked gates in mustard threads. The gate motif was probably derived from the covered veranda which surrounded the temple.
This shawl is an example of phulkari (floral work) embroidery done in floss silk, using darning stitch over coarse cotton cloth by counting threads of the ground material. Generally meant to be a women's shoulder cloth or shawl , phulkari pieces of this particular class were meant for offering at gurudwaras, sikh places of worship.

Diamond motifs in coloured threads decorate the gates, placed horizontally, parallel to each other. Between them are images of ladies in colourful traditional costumes, and birds, giving the impression of passing through a crowded street. The roofs of the gates are worked in multicoloured diamond patterns and the triangular space between the selvedge and the gate roofs are decorated with smaller gates.

Wall Hanging

This Chakla, coverlet or hanging, is profusely embroidered with silk threads in a range of stitches over magenta and deep blue satin pieces. The deep blue satin strips on the left and right have the motif of two women churning butter flanked by equestrian figures whereas the strips on the top and bottom have a bunch of flowers flanked by elephant riders, lions, peacocks, etc. The central square has a floral medallion in the center around which one sees raas or circle dance of gopis. In the interstices are equestrian figures, floral motifs, deer, peacocks, monkeys, lions, etc.
Such pieces are used in well-to-do Kathi homes as single wall-hangings or as part of a large pachhitpati, large back-wall hanging.

Wall Hanging, Spread or Cover

The large silk thread embroidery showing concentric circles and squares depicting a mandala or a yantra is almost entirely done in chain stitch in the typical idiom of Kutch, Gujarat. In all probability, this 19th century piece represents an abstract form of adhaidvipa, two-and-a-half continents of human habitations as conceived in Jaina cosmography.

In the Jain diagram of adhaidvipa,the central circle represents the continent of Jambudvipa, in the center of which is the mythical Mount Meru, also common to Hindu Cosmography. Jambudvipa is surrounded by several continents and oceans- each in the form of a widening circle. Each circle is alternated by an ocean. Except for the central two and half continents of human habitation, the rest of the continents such as Dhataki and Mannshottara are inhabited by non-humans.

The textile is an intricately embroidered chakla or wall hanging done in dense ari or mochi embroidery, a type of chain stitch done with the help of an ari or awl, a hooked needle where the thread is introduced from below. This technique was used by the mochis or cobblers for stitching and embroidery on leather and was adopted and perfected in Gujarat on textiles used by the ladies of the nomadic communities.

Wall Hanging

This wall hanging-cum-coverlet is remarkable for its neat workmanship. The spaces between the four corner motifs and the central medallion are filled with symmetrically arranged flower and bud motifs.

It was common to execute raised work embroidery, as in this piece, by placing a piece of cardboard cut in the shape of each ornamental element of a motif and covering it with zari thread embroidery to lend it volume.

Temple Hanging

The Digambara Jain panel depicts two important Jain concepts, namely (at the bottom) a tirthankara's mother watching the 16 auspicious dreams before his birth, and (on top) Samavasarana (celestial preaching hall) for the tirthankara to preach the universe after attaining enlightenment.

According to Jain belief, Samavasarana is created by gods after his omniscience. The construction comprises three concentric circles in the center of which the jina sits to preach. The hall is reachable by four gateways installed at four main cardinal points. In most painted versions one notices depiction of predator and prey such as a snake and mongoose, cow and lion, gull and fish, etc., to show that all beings come to listen to the jina leaving behind their traditional animosity.

The dream images are(clockwise): elephant, bull, lion, Sridevi, pair of garlands, moon, sun, pair of fish, full vase, celestial lake, agitated ocean, lion-throne, vimana, palace of cobra, heap of jewels and smokeless fire.

The Gujarati inscription below reads: "Dedicated by DoshiMaganlalAmichand to the Digambara Jaina temple of Lakroda in V.S. 1988”(1931 AD)

Temple Hanging

The hanging, belonging to the Digambara Jaina sect, depicts a temple dedicated to Parshvanatha, the 23rdtirthankara of the Jainas. The green silk borders and the central ground are embellished by creeper motifs embroidered in silver wire and spangles.
The Gujarati inscription below reads: "Dedicated by KotadiaManekchand in memory of his late wife Punjibai to the Digambara Jaina temple of Lakroda in vs. 1985” (1928 AD)

The tirthankara's image in the center of the temple is shown flanked by a devotee bringing offerings on the left and another in the posture of veneration.

Sacred Textile

This unique ritual piece is a rare example of embroidery done by Jain nuns. The charanachinhas or the feet marks of their guru are placed in the center. The lotus medallion in the center of each foot-mark indicates the holy status of the guru. As indicated by the devanagari inscription above the feet-mark, the piece belongs to the early 19thcentury and was embroidered by a Shwetambara Jain nun. Such textiles acted as objects of worship or were used for wrapping sacred objects or books.

Sacred Textile

This large piece with red, yellow and white satin silk background is embroidered with silver-gilt flat wire, inlay work, and couching. The 19th century cosmographic piece represents, in all probability, the Jaina conception of heavenly regions and mansions, in which eternal rejoicing awaits gods and liberated humans.

In each of the six compartments two evolved beings in princely attire are shown carrying different emblems, standing inside a celestial abode. On top of each of the abodes are musicians playing instruments. Each of the abodes is surrounded by images of men, women, birds and other animals as well as vehicles such as carts, vimanas, and palanquins. The depictions at the top probably indicate the human world, those in the middle the animal world, and those at the bottom the celestial world.


This square wrapper studded with several floral and figural motifs is worked mainly in indigo blue and madder red threads with additional use of pink in the flowers of the creeper surrounding the piece. The motifs are embroidered in chatai (grass-mat) stitch or running stitch and katiya stitch which is a variant of chatai stitch but with a slight slanting or swirling movement. The quilted white background is done in kantha stitch which, due to its movement, creates a rippled effect.
The arrangement of motifs- a central floral medallion with two diagonal corners having kalka motifs and the rest of the two corners having two elephants placed at right angles to each other forming a triangular space- leaves the rest of the ground for horses, figures and peacocks. Limited palette of colors distinguishes the piece from other multi-chrome variety.

Floor Spread for Mealtime

This kanthamay have served as dastarkhas, a collective family mealtime floor spread as indicated by its narrow width and more than normal length. The two horizontal borders running along the edges appear to be woven but actually these too are embroidered in the so-called weave pattern. The varied range of flowers makes the piece a floral dictionary. Additionally, there are motifs of fruits such as bananas, peas, mango, etc. as well as household goods such as a kettle or a nutcracker.

The kantha comes from a Muslim family as indicated by embroidered inscriptions of Islamic names such as Sadra Rehman, Abdul Rehman, Mohammed-Atif Rehman, etc.


The subtle effect of using the madder and indigo threads from old saris is well illustrated in this example. The geometric precision of this piece is all the more remarkable when considering the free-hand nature of the embroidery combining the chatai or grass-mat stitch and the running stitch. The stark simplicity of the geometry, colours and motifs makes the piece very distinguished and unique.

The embroiderer has used geometric motifs in such a way that their permutations and combinations create an illusion of multiple designs as is often seen in Islamic tiles and glazed ceramic flooring, walls and domes.

Floor Spread

Framed within multiple borders embroidered in weave-pattern resembling typical Bengal white cotton sari borders is a white rectangular field- a playground for the embroiderer to unleash a world of imaginary and mythical figures. Firstly, the rectangle is marked by an unconventional central floral medallion with an attempt to create an optical illusion of floral petals radiating from its center. A remarkable feature of the kantha is how the embroiderer has, here and there, used bands embroidered in weave patterns to act as space dividers to separate the water and land areas.

Each of the four corners of the rectangle has kalaka or an ornate paisley motif. The rest of the space is filled with figures of horses and elephants in procession, peacocks, seagulls, fish, prawns, flowers and plants, etc.

The most distinguishing feature of the kantha is the presence of prey-predator motifs, for example, peacock and snake, or fish and seagull.

Coverlet or Asana, Seat

Framed within several embroidered bands of weave-pattern as well as wavy floral creepers is the central rectangle studded with human and animal figures. The interstices are filled with floral motifs.

The predominance of human figures indicates that the piece has come from a Hindu family.

The center of the rectangle has the conventional floral medallion surrounded by figures of men engaged in sports, equestrian figures and dandies showing off their umbrellas- a mark of the urbanized elite of the late 19th century.


This kantha is distinguished by its minute background quilting work done in the so-called kantha stitch which creates dense rippled effect on account of the very character of this stitch, i.e. the spaces between the stitches are broader than the length of the stitch itself. The large and radiating floral discs which fill up the field are done in blue and red thread embroidery using mainly the chatai or grass-mat stitch and occasionally the katiya or slightly swirling chatai stitch.

The medallions are further outlined with several outlines done in blue running stitch. The interstices between the prominent medallions are filled with smaller kinetic discs resembling children’s paper windmills.

Rumal, Coverlet

This exquisitely embroidered colourful circular rumal depicts the rasleela of Krishna, in which he replicates himself numerous times so that each gopi or milkmaid thinks he is dancing with her alone, forming a circle around an image of Krishna in the centre. The theme of rasmandala is frequently seen on Chamba rumals. The embroidery is done in multicoloured silken threads in running and darn stitch on a white cotton base. A bright red trimming around the thalposh (plate-cover) gives it a refine and rich effect.

Using silk thread in running stitch in the outline and darn stitch in fillings, the embroider works on counted threads of the fine hand-spun and hand woven cotton ground in such a way that the embroidery looks the same on either side.

The composition is intricate and the figures embroidered are in bright, traditional costumes. The outer periphery of the central figures is surrounded by elements of beauty in nature- peacocks, scrolling flowers and the pine trees- which so often inspired the embroiders of this region.

Rumal, Coverlet

The Rumal is embroidered with verses from the Bhagavad Gita surrounding Vishnu, seated on a lotus at the center along with his consort Lakshmi. The initial printing in blue ink is still visible at places.

The former princely state of Chamba in Himachal Pradesh was renowned for its typical embroidery worked in floss silk threads in darning stitch so as to appear as mirror-image on the reverse side of the fine cotton cloth. To attain perfect symmetry, the embroidery was done by counting warp and weft threads.
Proverbially known as Chamba Rumal, most of these kerchiefs were used as coverlets for various utilities.

Toran, Door Frieze

The custom of hanging a toran, door frieze, over the door lintel is quite common in Western India, particularly in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

This particular piece is made of densely studded glass bead embroidery comprising a horizontal frieze below which there is a row of seven conical pendants. Above the bead frieze there is an additional patchwork cloth frieze. The beaded frieze has seven motifs (from left to right) a chariot, a plant, two girls churning butter, Ganesha, and then repeat of the three motifs before Ganesha in reverse order. The pendants have (from left to right) a tree, a plant, two girls churning butter, a peacock, Ganesha, a tree, and assorted figures.

Chakla, Wall-hanging

This chakla, wall hanging from the Kathi community of Saurashtra, Gujarat, combines glass-bead embroidery (in the central square) with applique work and pipings (in the borders). The imagery in the piece includes a figure of the goddess Lakshmi flanked by two devotees in the upper part of the central square while the lower half has a large savaj (lion).

The glass-beads used in the embroidery are of Italian imports into Gujarat, traceable to the middle of the 18thcentury and onwards. Glass-bead embroidery is common to many cultures where the pattern is created by using one bead per stitch whereas in Gujarati bead embroidery three beads per stitch are used. The latter creates a closely knit texture which is unique to the region.

Wall Hanging

This is a fine example of the floating interlacing stitch prevalent in the western parts of the Indian subcontinent. The piece is from Kutch, Gujarat, where the stitch is known as bavaliya, 'spider web', as opposed to hurmitch, as it is known in Sindh.

At its best, the Sindhi work is generally of superior quality in terms of stitch work, motifs and composition. However, the two streams of embroidery are intrinsically interconnected as Sindh and Kutch in Gujarat and the region of Barmer in Rajasthan have shared common cultural traditions over centuries.

Odhni, Veil-Cloth

The neat and regular stitch work of this odhni produces an effect that mimics the fine tie-dyed patterns similar to bandhani of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The central motif of two pathways crossing at right angles evokes the 'Garden of Paradise' or the char-bagh motif of the Islamic architectural tradition. The central theme is surrounded by varied motifs and the width on either side has an embroidered piece to enhance the look, when the lady holds the odhni around her face.
This is one of the rarest of rare pieces of its kind.

The central circle simulates the fountain which is connected in four directions with the water channel as depicted by multi-coloured chevrons. Geometric motifs have been used to beautify the garden with stitches in various shades of green, red and white threads.

Dhranio, Coverlet

This is a cover, placed over a pile of mattresses when stacked, typically used by the farmers and nomads of Gujarat. One end has been left plain to allow the cloth to be securely tucked behind the mattresses. Mineral use of mirror pieces and the prominent white sunburst motifs lend the piece a luminosity rarely seen in Indian embroidery.

This textile has been worked in such a way that the negative or left-out space of the white ground itself forms a design motif. The interlacing stitch shared with Sindhi is extensively used.

Chakla, Wall Hanging

The delicate interlacing stitch that predominates is typically Sindhi where it is called hurmitch, but it is also practiced in Kutch, where it is called bavaliya.

This multi-purpose piece of embroidery serves as a coverlet, a wall-hanging or an envelope. Its geometric patterning and the area of origin, i.e. Sindh, indicates that it came from an Islamic family. The delicate interlacing stitch that predominates is typically Sindhi where it is called hurmitch, but is also practiced in Kutch, where it is called bavalia (cobweb) stitch - on account of its criss-cross movement as in a cobweb.

A profusion of mirror work enhances the embroidered chakla.

Bhitiya/Besan, Wall Hanging/ Coverlet

This wall hanging-cum-coverlet has a central rectangle filled with a variety of ornate geometric motifs with two densely embroidered floral panels- one on top and another at the bottom.One typical feature of floss-silk Kathi embroidery is the creation of lozenges with long-running stitch. When such lozenges are alternated with vertical and horizontal stitches they create and illusion of light and dark shades.

The prominent geometrically stylised floral motif occuring in the borders and the cross-bands of the central rectangle, known as kol-phul is typical of embroideries of several communities of Kathiawad (Saurashtra).

Bochlo, Child's Cap

This cap of a young Rabari girl has been extended back to cover her hair. The open chain-stitch embroidered motifs are further outlined with dots of white running stitch at places. The cap has been put together by joining fragments of an older cap with machine stitching of pipings and salvages.
Such caps were conventionally worn by young Rabari girls at a fair or on festive occasions.

The stylized peacock, parrot, flower and elephant motifs are typical of Kutchy Rabari embroidery.


This coverlet is in the idiom of Sujani embroidery, a form of women's domestic stitch-work of Bihar. Because of the quilted background, the genre of Sujani invokes kantha embroidery of Bengal but the stitch work is at variance from the latter. In Bengal, the kantha motifs are embroidered in chatai stitch (running stitch), katya stitch (running stitch moving in swirls) and weave-stitch (textile pattern stitch), whereas in Sujani, the outline of motifs is generally done in herringbone stitch.

The Sujani depicts the theme of Krishna and gopis, his milkmaid companions. Hearing the spell-binding sound of Krishna's flute, the gopis are shown rushing towards him. Krishna is shown seated on the kadamba tree and the gopis are shown flocking around him.

Odhni, Veil-Cloth

When oil of safflower, castor or linseed is heated over fire for more than twelve hours and cast into cold water, it produces a thick residue called roghan, which may be mixed with oxides or coloured pigments. With a stylus, the artisan then draws out from this residue a fine thread which is applied to the cloth to create a raised pattern.

Today, Nirona in Kutch is the only place where this work is done.

Using roghan work, the artisans of Kutch traditionally produced coverlets, wall hangings and canopies, skirt pieces and veil cloths which created the effect of embroidery while being less labour-intensive and thereafter cheaper.

The roghan-workers carefully work out a quarter of rectangular fabric in thick roghan outline, which when folded from the middle, first vertically along its edges and then horizontally, effectively stamps the design on the remaining three-fourths of the cloth.

Pata, Sacred Hanging

This pigment-painted cloth panel depicts Mount Shatrunjaya, the most sacred place of pilgrimage of the Shwetambara Jain community. Most often, such panels are described as ‘maps’ but in reality these are idealized depictions of the sacred places rather than realistic maps. For this reason, they serve as objects of worship. Every year, on the day of the Kartik Purnima of the Hindu calendar, the Jains commence pilgrimage to their sacred places, after the gap of four months of monsoon when pilgrimages are banned. Those who cannot undertake such a pilgrimage on account of illness or old age, worship such painted panels displayed in Jain temples of their locality.

Pata, Sacred Hanging

According to Jaina tradition, places associated with tirthankara's birth, enlightenment, and nirvana are sacred and therefore worthy of pilgrimage. Ideally all Jainas conduct such pilgrimages from time to time but if, for any reason, a person could not visit a place of pilgrimage, he or she went to a nearby temple where painted panels of sacred pilgrim centres were displayed. The panel depicts Mount Shatrunjaya, the sacred place of pilgrimage of the Shwetambara Jains.

This elaborate but idealized depiction of the Mount Shatrunjaya is less of a location map and more of representation of the sacred geography of the place. The main spots emphasized in the visual depiction include the hill-top temples dedicated to Adinatha or Rishabhnatha, the first tirthankara, the various routes followed by the pilgrims to circumambulate the hill, the river Shetrunji, and the other sacred spots such as Panch Pandavni Gufa, Rayan tree shrine, or Angarsha Pir.
Such panels are displayed, for worship and such a darshan of the pata brings to the devotee the same religious merit as actual pilgrimage.

Pichhavai, Sacred Hanging

Nathdwara is an important shrine of the Vaishnavite sect in western India. The worship of Krishna as Shrinathji at Nathdwara has been immensely popular and considered sacred by the Vallabhacharya sect atleast since the 17th century. The shrine is especially elaborate and resembles the worldly dwelling of the deity. The painted picchavai hung in Vallabhacharya shrines is the most important textile of these temples and thus elaborate and distinctive. The hanging is meant to reflect different festivals, seasons, and the daily routine of the deity and is changed accordingly from time to time. The painting is done on thick coarse cotton cloth treated to avoid bleeding of colours. This picchavai depicts the theme of annakuta or offering of food to Shrinathji which is seen placed in the lower foreground. Priests are shown performing aarti and singing in his praise and the devotees seem to accompany them in their devotion to the Lord. The elaborately colourful picchavai is framed with blocks in which smaller representations of Shrinathji are painted, each decked in different festive costumes, whether it is in the vibrant colours of Holi, the festivities of Janmashtami, or the ever-popular Raas-Leela, the ritual dance of Krishna and the cow-herdswomen.

Other themes of picchavai include Nandamahotsava (birthday of Krishna), Danalila (taking of the toll from the gopis), SharadaPurnima (autumn moon), etc.

Men's Shoulder Cloth

Kalamkariis at its finest when the entire work (including design outlines) is hand-painted using the kalam, a bamboo stick padded with hair or cotton and tied with string on one end, so as to hold and regulate the flow of dye from it. However, this example as well as other kalamkari pieces displayed in the Museum, are produced by a combination of techniques such as block printing and pigment painting.

The coverlet is block-printed and partially dye-painted. The interstices are exquisitely printed with a diaper of intricate floral creepers. The square field is framed within bands of chevron pattern on all sides.

Pieces of this nature, especially with prominence of paisley motifs were, in all probability, made in Machilipatnam for export to Iran.

The inner white square field has a floral medallion having paisley-shaped petals in the center and a quarter of such a medallion is placed in each of the four corners

The upper and lower ends have two end-panels with a row of large paisley motifs. The spaces between these are fine hand-painted kalamkari fern-like motifs.

Door Curtain

This cotton door curtain, resist-dyed, block-printed, and partially hand-painted, has a large, stylized motif of a cypress tree issuing from a vase resting on the pinnacle of an ornate rockery mound. The tree, placed under a fluted arch is filled with ornate floral motif and is flanked with two smaller cypresses. The vase is flanked by two peacocks. The spaces between these motifs are filled with floral creepers, and a dense forest inhabited by deer and tigers.

In its overall conception of design, the curtain, with its central arch and vertical format has resemblance with Islamic prayer mats as well as the architecture of mosques.

Dastarkhan, Floor Spread

The word ‘Dastarkhan’ or floor spread, which is meant for having meals on, originated in the palaces of Iran, and the tradition was, in all probability, brought to India by the Turks and Mughals. This exceptionally fine and rich floor spread in deep madder red was meant to be used during meal times or banquets and is deeply influenced by Persian motifs, typical of the Machilipatnam kalamkari textiles.
The central roundel is decorated with intricate floral patterns. The madder red field is spread with floral motifs, and the calligraphy along the border asks for a blessing upon those at the table, being a prayer for plenty.

Dastarkhan, Floor Spread

Before the development of synthetic dyes, fabrics were dyed in natural dyes extracted from vegetable and mineral sources, which, unlike their chemical counterparts, penetrated the fabric through a lengthy process of beating, washing and sun-drying. Using the technique of resist-dyeing and resist-printing with blocks, the printer has created a glowing madder-dyed square field in the center, surrounded by borders having floral creepers on white ground using indigo, madder, pomegranate and other natural dye-stuffs.

Odhni, Veil-Cloth

The manufacture of this type of bandhani fabric, with a total absence of figurative elements, can be traced to the Muslim Khatri community in Kutch, specifically to the town of Abdasa.

The region of Kutch in Gujarat is renowned for its fine tie-and-dye work. Practiced by both Muslim and Hindu dyers, the work done for the veil-cloths of the Memon, Sonara and Khatri communities is distinctly finer. When chiffon or satin was used for this work, the tying of dots was done by double-folding the material to save labour. Black and red dyes were the most popular among these communities. The gold thread woven band was limited to only that portion which was visible while wearing. This too was a cost-saving device.

Patola,Shoulder cloth

Of the three major genres of Indian ikat textiles, namely those of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, the latter, known as patola, are renowned for their double ikat technique in which the warp and the weft are so resist-dye that when woven, the elements of the pattern in both yarn systems align with each other to produce the motifs in full sharpness (and not in half-tone as is often the case with the ikats of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

This unique patola is a version of the nari-kunjar(woman-elephant) motif. Here the main field of the shoulder cloth is patterned with large elephant motifs each placed within a square compartment. In a howda placed over the elephant are seated a mahout and two riders. the warp of the piece is tie-dyed by folding it in the centre to save labour. This makes the half of the patola to appear as mirror-image of the other half.
The piece is rather unique and perhaps one of the couple of pieces of the kind that are in any collection anywhere in the world.


Silk bandhani(tie and dye) saris of this type were made for the weddings of wealthy Gujarati women. The use of human figures suggests that it was meant for use by the Hindu and Jain communities. The density of dots yellow and their fineness testify to the quality of this piece.
The red satin silk sari has a central medallion depicting rasa or circle dance performed by a group of women. The medallion is placed within a rectangle defined by ornate multiple borders and the two end-panels. The rectangle is richly filled with bird and foliage motifs in yellow tie-dye work.
The main end-panel has motif of dancing girls intercepted by floral designs. The panel ends in a running band of gold-brocade, which makes it a festive sari.

The dual length-wise borders have running alternate parrot and floral motif in the upper border and alternate elephant and lotus motif in the lower border

Rumal, Kerchief

Telia rumal kerchief executed in the ikat technique, typical of Andhra Pradesh, locally known as pagdu bandhu, or tie-dyeing. These rumals have a characteristic oily smell and lustrous finish. This is due to the yarn being soaked in an emulsion of sweet oil and alkaline earth for several days before it is dyed. The rumal is mostly used as loin cloth by the fisher community of Andhra Pradesh or worn as a head-cloth.

The rumal is a part of a new design development exercise incorporating modern life motifs such as airplanes and gramophone.

The horizontal rumal is divided into six squares comprising three vertical rows of two boxes each. Each of the two central squares are adorned with motifs of an airplane, a boat, a fish and a circular disc. This row is flanked by two vertical rows of two squares each which has a stylised gramophone motif.

Pagri, Turban

Laheria, literally ‘waves’, and therefore ‘wave pattern’, is a resist-dyed fabric in which very fine cloth material is rolled diagonally and then resisted by tightly binding threads at a small distance from one another. When dipped in dye, the reserved areas develop stripes in the ground colour. By repeating the process with or without untying the previous bindings, stripes of different colours can be obtained. If the cloth is opened after the completion of the above process and rolled again diagonally from another corner and resist-dyed by repeating this process, there will be a trellis or checked pattern. Laheria is used mainly in Rajasthan, but also in parts of Madhya Pradesh for women’s blouses and veil cloths and men’s turbans.
This particular turban cloth is dyed by warp resist technique and has gold brocaded end which appears as a crowning element on top when the turban is tied


The jamdani, or the ‘figured muslin’, traditionally woven in Bengal and parts of northern India, may be considered to be one of the finest products to come out of the Indian loom. Here, cotton fabric is brocaded with cotton and sometimes with zari thread. This particular sari is a variant of the renowned neelambari, the ‘blue sky’ genre, in which the deep blue field of the sari is embellished with white cotton and zari motifs. Some of the most imaginative and poetic designs of jamdani sari included chameli (jasmin), panna-hazar (thousand emeralds), genda-buti (marigold flowers), tirchha (diagonally striped), etc.


The town of Paithan in Maharashtra has been famous for a special kind of silk sari weaving which had gold borers and pallu having silk-brocaded motifs.
In most variants of zari brocades of India, gold or silver motifs were brocaded over the silk ground. But in the case of the pallu and borders of the Paithani sari, the ground was of gold and the decorative motifs in coloured silk thread. Motifs of geese, parrot, peacock, and stylised leaves, flowers and creepers in darkened tones of green, yellow, red and blue were popular.
In this particular example, the deep purple field of the silken sari is densely diapered with small paisley motifs, whereas the gold pallu has geometric simplification of scrolling floral creepers.


By using a loom similar to that of the jamdani weavers of Bengal and that of the zari-brocade weavers of Benaras, the weavers of Murshidabad wove a silk-brocade sari known as Baluchar after the name of a town in the region. In most cases, the ground colour of the sari was deep purple or maroon. The borders of the sari were ornamented with floral motifs, whereas the field was usually diapered with small butis. The British had established silk mills in the town of Baluchar and elsewhere in Murshidabad in the 19th century, which brought about the British colonial influence on this class of saris.
In this particular piece the large pallu has a rectangular panel depicting a series of paisley motifs surrounded by figures of sahibs and memsahibs travelling in a railway coach.

The pallu of this genre of saris was distinguished on account of the figurative motifs such as a royal smoking a hookah or a sahib and a memsahib travelling in a coach or a railway train.

Dhvaja, Temple Banner

The triangular dhvaja or a temple banner from north Gujarat is made of maroon satin brocaded with gold gilt silver threads depicting a shrine of the folk Goddess Bahuchara, popular all over Gujarat.
The career of this goddess began as a sati of the Charan community who rose to the status of an important goddess on account of a large following in the region. Bahuchara is considered to be the chief deity of the eunuchs from all over India.

In her iconography, the goddess is shown riding a cock flanked by her devotees.

Kothro, Quilted Dowry Bag.

This rectangular bag has an identical front and back and is devoid of embroidery. The central field is constructed of a bright, striped mashru fabric, with the details added by using pipings and patchwork. The bag is lined with cotton. A beautiful mashru fabric in vibrant hues has characteristic zigzag effect appearing in alternate ikat stripes.
The fabric is strikingly appliquéd with horizontal bands and diamond patterns along the border, the top having triangular bands of floral brocaded fabric with the design on the border as a repeat.
Mashru is a cotton and silk mixed fabric in which the silk yarn is brought on to the front surface by means of satin weave. The cloth was traditionally woven in Mandvi in Kutch and in Patan, Surat and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, as well as in the Deccan and the South.


The cap belongs to Kabirpanthis or satnamis, followers of Kabir, the 15th century saint-poet from Benaras whose compositions combined the sufi idiom with the Hindu bhakti tradition.
Heavily embroidered with gold gilt silver wire and spangles, the conical, velvet cap has a crescent moon surrounded by floral motifs and an inscription reading Sadguru Kabir Saheb (true teacher Kabir Saheb) and satnam on one side and the sun motif and floral designs with the inscription satnam on the other side of the cap.
Both as a cultural object and as an example of fine zardozi work, the cap is exemplary.

Yoke piece

This zari and spangle embroidered yoke piece or collar is mounted on abho, a loose upper garment for women of the Memon, Sonara and other Islamic communities of Kutch. The tie-dyed silken garment has a small round neck with slits opening on either side. It is this portion of the garment which is covered with a yoke piece of the kind shown here.

The yoke piece densely embroidered with silver zari, wire and spangles has the value of a necklace. When the garment itself is worn out and to be discarded, the yoke piece is removed and patched upon a new garment. In this manner, the piece is transferred from generation to generation, making it a family heirloom.


This long Kashmiri shawl has a design repertoire of long, narrow and colourful intersecting butas, paisley motifs and flowering plants. The later converge into the black center from all four directions.
The intricate patterns signify that the shawl must have been laboriously twill-woven on the loom for years, creating this truly spectacular piece.

Although seemingly chaotic, on close inspection, one realises that the craftsman has achieved a spectacular sense of balanced arrangement, playing with an astonishing number of motifs and colours while weaving.

Kani Jamawar, Shawl

This spectacular long Kashmiri shawl contains a complicated, yet perfectly balanced arrangement of the "tree of life" motif. The borders are of intricate twill or kani weave with colourful motifs, while the central black rectangle holds smaller versions of the same motif in pastel tones. Kaniis a special technique of weaving introduced in Kashmir by the Mughals in the 17thcentury. Small wooden sticks called kaniare used to weave this intricate piece.

The weaving has been meticulously regulated by a coded pattern, known as the ‘Talim’ drawn by the naqash to guide the weaver.


It was a tradition in the royal courts of the Mughals, Sikhs and even the British to use heavily embroidered Kashmiri long shawls as canopies. This piece is a fine example of that. Although not twill or kani-woven , it is a spectacular example of the more recent tradition of embroidering on pashmina. The whole madder field is sprayed with intricate butas, paisley motifs, flowering plants, geometric patterns and birds in flight, embroidered in colourful threads.

The borders are embellished with long paisley motifs placed in a horizontal line along with creepers and flowering plants.

Sui Jamawar Purmatan, Shawl

The border of the shawl is intricately embroidered with floral and creeper patterns in threads of two colours. The base of the shawl is strewn with respective embroidered floral motifs. Shawls with a particular pattern of floral designs are known as “purmatan" shawls.

Sanskriti Foundation
Credits: Story

Collection: Shri O.P.Jain, Founder, Sanskriti Pratishthan, for Sanskriti Museum of Everyday Art
Curated and written by: Dr. Jyotindra Jain
Curatorial Associate: Mrinmoy Das
Design: Surender Sejwal
Photography: Satessh Gupta and Shweta Kasliwal
Project coordinator: Shweta Kasliwal Jain

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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