Through millennia, India has been celebrated and sought after for her incredible textiles. During the Roman era, khadi muslin was traded throughout Europe and later, Bengali muslin, originating in Dhaka, was traded across the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia. Chintz, printed cotton with a glazed finish, was such a craze in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries that governments there levied heavy taxes and even banned it in order to protect their domestic cloth mills. And it was when the British crippled India’s textile industry through regressive colonial policies on cultivation and manufacturing that Mahatma Gandhi used the humble spinning wheel and khadi cotton as the ultimate tool of resistance. Spinning yarn and rejecting foreign made cloth gave the colonised Indian the power to fight back the British on deeply personal terms.
To me, it is a little puzzling as to why weaves are suddenly so back in vogue, since I hadn’t ever realised they were passé! Growing up in Delhi in the 1970s and 1980s, where my mother and every aunty I knew wore handloom saris the way the current generation wears jeans and a t-shirt, weaves were neither exotic nor about making a statement. They were just all pervasive. Maheshwar, Chanderi, Benaresi, Kosa, Patola, Paithani, Sambulpuri Ikat, Bomkai, Bandhej, Tangails, Jamdani, Mangalgiri, Kanjeevarams – these are just some of the popular ones. Mrs. Gandhi was in power and set the fashion agend