THE TEXTILES OF INDIA

Textiles are not just a pleasure to look at, they are a marvel to be experienced with all five senses.

– Reiko Sudo

For ages, India has charmed, inspired and drawn fabric fanatics from far off corners of the globe. Take look at an Indian home, and you’ll see the many manners textiles are used in, from carpets and cushion covers to tea cosies and wine bags. Cloth has always taken centre stage in Indian attire – the people have aced the art of wrapping it in countless ways. And the styles continue to evolve.

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A Peep into the Past

The history of Indian textiles dates back to the Indus Valley civilisation, where cotton and silk were spun. Texts like the Rig Veda and Ramayana describe the fabrics of their times. India traded with other parts of the world through the Silk Route. The world began to take notice of the beauty. Alexander the Great penned his admiration for Indian muslins and embroidery. Marco Polo wrote about seeing some of loveliest fabrics here. Exceptional artistry could be found in cloth adorning temples. During the Mughal period, the wealthy indulged in the finest silks and satins. Banaras made brilliant brocades. Later, the Europeans carried Indian textiles back to their continent, where they were highly valued. The majesty of India’s past is still alive in its textiles today.

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Fabulous Fibres

Silk is among the few fabrics that boast of such an intriguing history. India, along with China, creates most of the world’s silk. Silk is called paat in the east, pattu in the south and resham in the north. With its gleaming fibres, it creates an air of splendour and festivity. In home decor and fashion, silk is used to create pieces that are gorgeous as well as durable. India has a variety of silks like pure silk, Banaras silk, Paithani brocade, Chanderi, Tussar silk and Ghicha.

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This country has been spinning cotton for thousands of years. Cotton’s lovely feathery feel makes it a summer staple. Artisans enjoy blending cotton with other textiles to create saris, tapestries, bed sheets, cushion covers and scarves. There are over twenty kinds of cottons like Muslin, Chanderi, Mangalagiri cotton, Madras cotton and plain cottons. Khadi, a classic handspun Indian cotton, has the wonderful ability to keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

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India’s woollen weaves attract people from across the world. Kashmir’s Pashmina shawls are adored for their soft texture and elaborate Sonzi embroidery. Its woollen rugs, carpets and tapestries are results of wonderful workmanship. Jute is another popular Indian fabric. It’s robust and eco-friendly. Indian craftsmen use its golden lustrous fibres to create rugs, doormats, curtains, lampshades, and handicrafts. Jute’s rustic, earthy charm makes it a sought after textile in home decor.

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Desi Designs

India’s women folk take delight in embroidering stories of their landscapes and life onto cloth. You’ll find striking geometric designs in regions like Saurashtra, vivid nature-inspired motif work in Punjab, white satin stitched work the Ganga valley, texture-focused thread work in Karnataka, and embroidery that makes carpets look “right” on either side in Kashmir. Appliqué work with mirrors, glass, beads, wood, and wires is common in clothing, tablemats, lampshades and accessories. The ancient craft of block printing is still widely done by hand. The designs vary across the country – plants, animals, birds, tribal patterns, geometric shapes, elaborate patterns as well as delicate ones.

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Wrapping Up

Its sheer variety of textures and patterns sets India’s textiles apart from the rest…they are as diverse as the people and landscapes. Each weave holds together tales, melodies and faiths rooted in centuries of culture. That’s why the textiles of India are a treasure to the world.

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Tarusa: Mix of heritage and lifestyle

Embroidery at Tarusa

Embroidery at Tarusa

It is so easy for us to romanticize about living in a village surrounded by pristine locations, drinking the matka wala paani and sleeping under the stars.

It’s all very good to crave for the ‘simplicity’ and the easy pace of living. Can we find it in our minds and hearts first? Look within rather than outside.

Is the village life really such a good life at all? The day to day struggles and general lack of facilities can be unnerving from whatever very little I have seen.

A trip to a remote village and even a small town can give one an idea of how diverse the country is and how wide the divide. We are strangers in our own country.

I have often wondered why people come from villages to towns and live in complete squalor. One only needs to visit a few to realize that the growth prospects are so stunted that anything seems better. Then again is it our fault? We living in the cities are also facing our own set of problems. We have our own compulsions.

It is true that things change and evolution is heartless. What is irrelevant today will become extinct tomorrow. It is only right that this is how it should happen. But is the speed of change bringing us to a point where we will begin to feel disoriented as a group?

No one can answer that. It is too big a question and there are too many influences to be able to arrest or even align the march of technical growth.

The best option might be to create a harmonious balance. Rather than leave all of the old behind for the new it will be most beneficial blend. We think there is a fine line we can walk and save what is important by making it relevant. The human hand is by far the most complex machine ever invented. It can create and improvise like none other can.

If we can appreciate the simple things that make life meaningful, if we can just stop short of the point where our own inventions become our masters, if we can make an attempt to bridge the gaps that exist between our “heritages” and “lifestyle” then we can co exist in a symbiosis of energies.

Clutches with embroidery at Tarusa

Clutches with embroidery at Tarusa

So we let the embroidery become a part of our home décor also, and if the young girl wants to wear the Benarasi weave as a scarf and not a saree we are more than happy to facilitate it.

If we see acceptance of the intricate filigree motifs as a bookmark, as a wine glass charm or even as an everyday earring then we would have simply found a contemporary application of an ancient technique.

We believe that hand crafting stands for the finest quality in the world and does not need excuses. Yes there are always variances between hand crafted products but there lies the charm and not the error.

As long as we are able to preserve the essence, and that is always a challenging fine line, of the elements we deal with we at Tarusa are sure that the journey  will be both exciting and fulfilling.

India The Land Of Prayers

Stoles By Tarusa

Stoles By Tarusa

It matters not if it is the beginning of the day or the end. starting a new log or sitting for a test, whether we receive something or give something, whether we say goodbye or welcome, we pray at the beginning of each event. And if it’s a new venture then the prayer becomes ever more fervent.

So how can it be that we start a new endeavour (Tarusa) without saying our prayers! I would like to do so by sending my respects to all my teachers who loved me and supported me. They built me. Teachers who hated me (and believe me there were enough of those too) and broke me. They built me too. I would like to thank them all because in that making and unmaking, I found my World view.

As I begin a long un-chartered journey with Tarusa this year I will meet a lot of new challenges that will test my learning so far. But one learning that I hope never to let go of and which is the trigger of Tarusa is this:

Compete with self.

This is how it came to me: The first day at NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi) was a dream come true. Today so many years later the first day is clear as crystal in my head. We went to the class and the first course was “sketching” – My favourite. We were asked to sketch a few compositions, objects etc.

At the end of the day we were graded and I got a good 8/10. There were perhaps 1-2 more persons who were in that bracket and the rest were struggling with a 4, 5 maybe 6. I was enthralled.

Coming from a background of studying the way we did (boards, rankings, percentages, peaking over your shoulder to make sure others are lagging behind etc) it was an achievement that put me in the top bracket at the very beginning.

But, this is not where the lesson lies.

This continued for four weeks and we were graded again, now at the end of the course. I got an 8.5. “Not bad,” I thought to myself. I took a walk around and found that one person had got 9 but the quality of her sketches was still not as good as mine.

Potli By Tarusa

Potli By Tarusa

I was mystified and needless to say peeved. Not being a very people’s person I thought it reeked of favouritism. I marched up to the course coordinator and asked for an explanation.

In his true cryptic style (I realized later) he replied, “You have not progressed much.”

“From what,” I asked in angst.

“From your initial work” he said.

And that is it nub of it.

We can only truly compare to ourselves. We can only endeavor to better ourselves. The only measure can be the distance we cover within ourselves. The ceilings we break and the self created myths we crack. This is the only yardstick with which we can measure our success and our failure.

Fifteen years later as we (Team Tarusa) shape and work on Tarusa we hope to excel and better ourselves. And for this we seek the blessings of all our teachers.