Textile tour of India J, K, L

Textile tour of India J, K, L

We continue our textile tour of India through @theindianheritagehut with J, K, L

J for Jamdani

Jamdani is a discontinuous weft technique of weaving, and can be defined as the art of fine ‘Parsi Gara' done on the loom.

The uniqueness of Jamdani lies in its rich motifs, which are all intricately added by hand. A Jamdani weaver can have between 100 to 300 different discontinuous weft threads laid out before her as she weaves. She picks the right thread and interweaves each weft by hand through thousands of warp threads. This process is so time intensive that on a usual day, an artisan can weave only between a quarter and one inch of fabric. That translates to a year if we're looking at a handwoven Jamdani sari. Hence, Jamdani is touted as the most advanced hand weaving technique in the world. No wonder the traditional art of weaving Jamdani was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.

Sulaiman, a 9th-century Arab traveller, wrote of cotton fabrics made in the kingdom of Rahmi (erstwhile undivided Bengal) which were so fine they could pass through a signet ring. Around the 12th century, Islamic influences introduced countless motifs and colours to this beautiful fabric. The distinct technique, of a discontinuous weft, created motif-rich fabrics that bore poetic names like Shabnam (morning dew), Ab-i-rawan (flowing water) and Baftnama (woven wind). It was during the Mughal emperor Akbar's reign that the art blossomed into its most exquisite form—the flowered muslin, Jamdani (‘Jam’ meaning flower and ‘dani’ meaning vase).

K for Kalamkari

The word Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where ‘kalam‘ means pen and ‘kari‘ refers to craftsmanship. 

This colorful art dates back to more than 3000 B.C. According to the historians, fabric samples depicting Kalamkari art were found at the archeological sites of Mohenjo-daro. During the Mughal era, this art got recognition. Mughals promoted this art in the Golconda and Coromandel province where skillful craftsmen, known as Qualamkars, used to practice this art. Under the Golconda sultanate, this art flourished at Machilipatnam in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh and further was promoted during the 18th century, as a decorative design on clothing by Britishers in India.

The process of making Kalamkari involves 23 steps including the natural process of bleaching the fabric, softening it, sun drying, preparing natural dyes, hand painting, air drying and washing. The Kalamkars use ‘tamarind twig’ as pen, to sketch beautiful motifs from Indian mythology; designs of peacock, lotus; and scenes from the Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.


There are two identifiable styles of Kalamkari art in India – Srikalahasti style and Machilipatnam style. In the Machilipatnam style of Kalamkari, motifs are essentially printed with hand-carved traditional blocks with intricate detailing painted by hands. On the other hand, Srikalahasti style of painting draws inspiration from Hindu mythology describing scenes from epics and folklore. This style holds a strong religious connection because of its origin in the temples.

L for Lucknawi chikan

Chikankari literally means embroidery, 

This art form is believed to be introduced by Mughals. There are several interesting stories related to the origin of this embroidery. As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthenes, a Greek traveler, mentioned the soft muslin used by Indians. A traveler who was passing by Lucknow asked a poor peasant for water. In return for the hospitality, love & service he received, he taught the peasant the art of Chikankari so that he could earn a living and never be hungry ever.

Another tale tells the story of Noorjahan, queen of King Jahangir introducing this Persian art in the 17th century, herself deemed to be a brilliant embroideress. She and King Jehangir established several workshops to perfect this art in India.

The process begins with block printing on a fabric, where an expert embroiderer then stitches the pattern over it. From Tepchi — one of the simplest form of Chikankari designed in a linear manner, to Bakhiya- a stitch known for its double back and shadow work, and from Hool — a fine, detached eyelet stitch, to Zanzeera- a very small, delicately handcrafted chain stitch worked with one thread; Chikankari has morphed into various styles and patterns, including many offshoots of age-old patterns. The exquisite designs are mostly inspired by Mughal art and architecture, while the cloth used varies from cotton, muslin, to chiffon and georgette. The patterns and motifs are generally floral and geometric, with some designs created in a mesh pattern.

Lucknawi chikankari

Text Credits,,,

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