The tale of Indian textiles is one of the oldest in the world, with a rich history. Archaeological studies indicate that the people who belonged to the Harappan civilization were well versed in the art of weaving and spinning cotton. References to this have been found in Vedic literary texts. There has also been mention of the textile trade of Indian goods, during the early centuries. Cotton and silk were some of the most wanted fabrics around the world. Cotton pieces were exported to Egypt extensively, while Indian silks were traded to other western countries. India’s textiles were extremely well-known, to the point that, just the word, ‘Indian textiles’ became synonymous with the ‘cotton.’ Luxurious and breathtaking fabrics were showcased in the king’s courts and in places of religious worship. To this day, global trade systems are moulded by the export of Indian fabrics.
Due to the variation in climates in the Indian subcontinent, it provided a variety of plant fibres and natural dyes for harvesters, weavers and artisans to cultivate these crops. Over the years, each region of the subcontinent grew their own specialities based on the resources at hand - the golden silks of Assam, the fine cotton of Bengal, the red dyes of south-east India. The two most common fabrics that are linked to Indian textiles are cotton and silk. Cotton plants are found in many regions of the Indian subcontinent. The silk is obtained from the wild silk moths that are found in the central and North-Eastern parts of the country. When it comes to dyes, the most common are green, yellow, red, black, blue, and violet. These dyes are acquired from plants and minerals.
Patterns are created through the use of mordants, otherwise known as dye fixatives. When the mordant is drawn or stamped on by wooden blocks, the dye is applied to the surface of the fabric only in the areas in which the wooden blocks are placed. However, the patterns only appear after the cloth has been washed. Batik is also another form of resist dyeing. This method of dyeing uses substances such as wax or mud. These materials inhibit the application of a dye. After these aids are used, the surface is submerged in a hot dye bath. The colour then appears when it is brought in contact with air.
Kalamkari, which directly translates into ‘pen-worked’ , consists of a process that contains multiple steps to create designs. The cloth is hardened with the use of astringents and buffalo milk, and it is then laid out in the sun. Another process of creating patterns is through the art of weaving. For instance, brocade is a form of weaving that involves a raised pattern on a woven fabric. Ikat is another common form of weaving in India, wherein warped or weft threads are bound and resist-dyed. Embroidery refers to needlework patterns that are sewn onto the fabric. We then come to the art of carpet weaving. This particular sector of Indian textiles is attributed to the Mughal empire. Some of the first carpets that were made in India were either flat or tapestry-woven. Through the influence of Persian artisans, pile-woven carpets gained more popularity. The most common materials used for carpets are cotton and wool and silk for the pile-woven carpets, however, for the finer carpets, pashmina wool is used.
Q1. Which market is the biggest in India with respect to textiles?
In India, the largest textile market is the Diamond city - Surat. It is one of the oldest, most well-known establishments in the Indian subcontinent. Big corporations from all around the world invest in these industries for the production of yarn, embroidery, weaving, and wholesale retailing.
Q2. Which fabric has the biggest export value in India?
As of today, cotton stands to be the fabric that is the most outsourced to other countries. Ready-made clothes made out of cotton hold the biggest value when it comes to Indian textile exports.
Q3. What is the importance of the textile industry in India?
Apart from its impeccable trade value, the textile industry in India also accounts for the direct employment of up to 35 million people. In the manufacturing sector, the textile industry provides for about 14% of value-addition.
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