See the Textiles of India
Join a Responsible Tour or Plan Your Own
India’s cultural diversity is visible in its textiles. The color, the feel, and the smell of textiles catapult visitors into engagement with this ancient, multifaceted culture.
Start you research for a textile tour of India by contacting the Textile Society, which itself recently offered a tour to India and keeps up-to-date information about textiles around the world: www.textilesociety.org/events_previous.htm.
For import/export business training, contact The Learning Annex, www.learningannex.com, or the Indian-based Handloom Export Promotion Council, which provides guidance on how to obtain an import-export license and how to become an exporter: www.hometextilesonline.com.
The International Fair Trade Association focuses on ways to respect and support traditional cultures: www.fairtradefederation.com.
An affiliated volunteer service organization provides international development and aid. However, only 19 of its volunteers are working in India, and they are primarily working in health related and educational fields: www.vso.org.uk/volunteering/recruitment_areas.asp.
The Century Textiles, is one company attempting to promote fair trade and develop better models of business and industry. Contact: Century Textile, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Mumbai 400025; Tel. 011-91-22-2495-7000; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The oldest Himroo weaving workshop in India is located at Zaffaar Gate Mondaia Rd., Aurangabad, Mahrastra, India 431001; Tel. 011-91-351745 or 337830, cell 011-91-98220-29974; email@example.com. The Qurishi family runs the factory and operates the weaver’s workshop. You may stand alongside and observe the weavers and ask any questions you like. The family is warm, welcoming, and informative.
North and South Indian Tours focus on visits to various textile manufacturers. Contact: Timeless Excursions Pvt.Ltd., Ms. Renu Tawadey, Director, 215, Somdutt Chamber-ll9, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi 110066, India; Tel. 011-91-11-26174-205; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.timelessexcursions.com.
The Greek Kiwi Company, www.greenkiwi.co.nz, provides a similar focus on textiles and meeting local craftspeople.
One of the great centers of Indian textile history, Kashmir, is once again open to the Western traveler. Tours offered by Bestway Tours & Safaris attempt to go beyond the political limitations in this area and focus on the natural and man-made beauties Kashmir has to offer. Included are visits to Moghul architectural sites, the local Kashmiri bazaars, and various Buddhist stupas and monasteries. All stops include visits to local craftspeople and traditional textile manufacturers. Tel. 604-264-7378 or 800-663-0844; email@example.com.
While I was in Kashmir I made my own arrangements for touring with local merchants. I was able to visit specific areas of particular interest to me. People were warm and respectful and readily available with help in guiding me to specific local artisans. You must be prepared for sales pressures not commonly followed in Western countries; this is part of the experience. You can make your own arrangements with local craftspersons to observe and learn once you are in India.
If you are going on your own, you can find inspiration and direction at www.icr.com.au/~danaj/page1.htm.
Places to Visit
The “Calico Museum” of Ahmedabad is considered one the best textile museums in the world. It contains a rare collection of textiles from the 17th century onward. It also hosts excellent talks by the museum curator. A nearby marketplace displays traditional textiles for sale.
A specific focus (fabric manufacture, rug making, silk weaving, block printing, embroidery and tinsel work) may lead you to a specific region:
Bangalore hosts a wholesale market where you can view all the textiles of South India in one location. This is also the largest center in Asia for silk production. View the rearing and reeling of silk threads (the conversion of cocoons silk thread). This is also home to the production of fragrant sandalwood and rosewood arts and crafts. Abundant opportunities are available for observing (and smelling).
Local weavers and weavers’ guilds are easiest to contact once you are in the region. The prosperous state of Gujarat is famous for cultivation of cotton and the use of bright colors in the dying process.
Gujarat as well as Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are home to Ikat textiles, an intricate cloth produced by a technique called "resist dyeing."
Brocades are a loom embroidery created through a special method of production. There are many weaving centers in India to see this special method of weaving for yourself: in northern India, Benaras, Tanda, and Chanderi; in western India Ahmadabad, Surat, and Aurangabad; in the south Kanchipuram, Tanjore, Madurai, Selam Bangalore, and Hydrabad; and in the east Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Assam, and Meghalaya.
JONICE OWEN, a chiropractic physician, a naturopath and classically trained homeopath. She practices in Emeryville and San Francisco, Ca.