This is part of our series The Great Indian Textile Trail
Read about Andhra Pradesh here
Sanjay Leela Bhansali may well have done a gigantic favour to the indigenous textile industry of Gujarat by showcasing them with such careless grandeur, the way only he can, in his 1999 film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. This is not to say that Gujarati textiles and their riveting colours have not been famous before the release of this film. Rather, the movie picked the best of the state, made our favourite stars don those clothes, displayed it on the big screen, and instantly made us all want to buy those Bandhanis and Dhamadkas. Thanks to its cult classic status, we still marvel at Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai’s clothes whenever the song Dholi Taro Dhol Baje plays around us. Like most people of this generation, my fascination for Gujarat, garbha and those vibrant, colourful clothes began with this film.
With a rich cultural history, traces of heritage everywhere and traditions that have lasted centuries, Gujarat is one of the most interesting states to visit in India. The state produces a wide range of textiles that are intricately linked to its past; and generations upon generations of acculturation has meant that this legacy still thrives in this western Indian state. Needless to say, a textile trail through this land is sure to leave you awestruck and with excess baggage at the airport.
While there is a wide range of textiles that Gujarat produces, the following are the most popular ones:
Also known as bandhani, this famous tie-and-dye work is one of the most common and sought after textiles in any collector’s wardrobe. It is characterised by geometric patterns that appear on vibrant colours. These patterns are achieved by pinching and pushing small portions of the fabric into small points, and knotting and twisting them with the help of thread. The fabric is then dyed in different shades of colour, thereby leaving the knotted parts uncoloured. The cost of this fabric is dependent on several factors including the quality of the cloth and the number of times it has been tied and dyed.
To witness the making of this interesting fabric, you need to make a trip to the many textile workshops in the Kutch area, mainly in Mandvi and Bhuj, and to Jamnagar in Saurashtra; and you won’t be one bit disappointed.
Where to buy: From Ahmedabad to Surat, many markets in Gujarat famously stock up the bandhej work. However, to get the authentic ones with the experience of witnessing them being made, you can head to the many stores in Kutch such as Kutch Bandhej, Kala Bandhej, Radhika, etc. Garvi Gurjari, the Gujarat state emporium located in several parts of the country, also stocks the fabric, as do fairs such as Dilli Haat.
Did you know that the Patola silk double ikkat saree is one of the most expensive handspun fabrics in the country? The wonders of Patan, where this fabric comes to life, neither start or end there. The region and its crafts are intimately, and quite intricately, linked to cultural traditions, history and mythology. Manier times, it takes over six months to a year to make a single patola saree. The cloth produced here is held in high regard by both Jains and Hindus alike, who prefer donning it for special occasions. Patola is a unique work which depicts the richness and finesse of Gujarat’s weaver community. The designs on a Patola saree vary slightly depending on the market it is catered to – Muslim Vohra community, Maharashtrian Brahmins, etc.
Where to buy: To buy authentic Patola sarees, you can go to the Gujarat state emporiums across the country. However, for a more wholesome experience, it is worth the trip to walk along the kuchcha roads of Patan to see the weavers make this masterpiece and to buy the sarees at a more affordable price. Many stores in Surat sell clothing made out of velvet Patola designs.
The Varghi community makes the Matani cloth for various ritualistic purposes. Also known as Matani Pachedi, the designs are made by employing various techniques including block printing and painting. The art form itself is dedicated to Goddess Durga, and hence the design is dominated by motifs of Durga in her various forms and avatars and depicts a narrative story. Due to its block printing technique, this art form is also called the Kalamkari Matani Pachedi, similar to the Kalamkari in Pedana, Andhra Pradesh.
Where to buy: The Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad is a great place explore the Matani tradition. Many stores in Ahmedabad also stock this cloth, as do the Garvi Gurjari emporiums.
The Dhamadka and Ajrakhpur areas of Kutch are famous for their hand block printing technique called Ajrakh. The soft cotton cloth is first dyed in a single colour, after which several hand-carved blocks are used to print beautiful designs on it. The Matani Pachedi is also a form of Ajrakh printing. The Saudagiri prints from Ahmedabad and the Batik prints from Bhuj also come under the umbrella of Ajrakh.
Where to buy: The best places to buy Ajrakh prints are the places where they are made at. Ahmedabad has many centrally-located stores that sell the textile. Gujarat emporiums are also a great bet!
Gujarat is well known for the various embroidery works that come in vibrant colours. Each style is a distinct combination of stitches, patterns and colours, and the patterns in which they are used are drawn from cultural and historical aspects. Ari and soof from Banaskantha, Kathipa, Mahajan, and Kanbi, and Rabadi from Saurashtra and Ahir, Mutwa and Neran from the Kutch region are among the most popular ones. The embroidery work comes mostly in the form of dupattas, ghaghra cholis, curtain clothes, pillow covers, table clothes, etc.
Where to buy: At this point, it is evident that the one-stop shop to directly witness the making of and buying handlooms and Gujarati textiles is Kutch. The region is vibrant and lively and is home to many artisans, workshops and stores that sell these crafts. The Gujarat emporiums are a great place to buy these works. Dilli Haat and Surajkund Mela have stalls selling these works as well.