When we think of India, along with its history and culture, one thing that we can never miss is it’s rich and vibrant handloom industry. Indian hand-woven fabrics are known world-wide since ages. There are mentions of poets of Mughal durbar comparing Indian muslins to ‘baft hawa’ (woven air), ‘abe rawan’ (running water) and also as ‘Shabnam’ (morning dew).

The handloom industry of India, is one of the oldest and largest cottage industries in India. The Indian textile and clothing industry one of the mainstays of national economy and is the second largest income generating sector after the agriculture.

With its long tradition of excellent craftsmanship, Indian handloom industry is a great representative of the vibrant Indian culture while also preserving it. The artists involved in the handloom process are appreciated globally for their meticulous hand spinning, weaving and printing elegance. Almost every state of the country offers a unique handloom product.

On the occasion of National Handloom Day on 7th August, we are bringing you this special post, as our small effort to promote and create awareness about the rich industry of Indian Handloom. Come along as we take you through traveling through the county’s textiles.

Handloom weaving in process. Photo taken in Darjeeling Handloom center.

Contents of this Post:

  • What is Handloom?
  • History of Indian Handloom.
  • Importance of Indian Handloom.
  • National Handloom Day – 7th August.
  • Indian States and their Handlooms.

What is Handloom?

Many a times mistaken with the Indian handicrafts; handloom actually refers to wooden frames of various kinds that are used by skilled artisans to weave fabrics. These fabrics are usually woven from natural fibers like that of cotton, silk, jute, wool, etc.

The Indian handloom is a cottage industry, where generally the complete family is involved on the production of cloth and all its stages right from spinning the yard, coloring to weaving the loom. The fabric that is produced is also referred to as handloom.

The tools used in the process are made from wood, sometimes bamboo and they are run manually without any electricity. Hence, this is the most eco- friendly method of producing clothes.

Handloom weaving in process. Photo taken in Darjeeling Handloom center.

History of Indian Handloom

Early Days

Dating back to the Indus valley civilization, Indian handloom and its fabrics were exported even in the ancient times to Rome, Egypt and China. In ancient times, almost all villages had their own weavers who fulfilled the clothing requirements of the villagers. The entire process of cloth making was traditionally self- reliant.

The instruments that were used in the process were small and handy, which included the infamous spinning wheel also known as Charkha.

Decline of Indian Handloom

India was turned into an exporter of raw cotton by Britishers during their rule, which resulted into the country being flooded with machine made imported yarn.

So as to increase the yarn consumption, the British authorities resorted to violence, resulting in a huge loss of livelihoods, and made the handloom weavers dependent on machine yarn.

The Indian handloom struggled but still sustained itself until World War 1, which was when the Indian market was flooded with imported machine-made clothes. The unfair decline of Handloom was led on due to beginning of Power looms in the 1920’s, which resulted in consolidation of the mills and due to high cost of yarn.

Revival of Handloom

The Swadeshi Movement, which was started by Mahatma Gandhi, reintroduced hand spinning in the name of Khadi. Khadi essentially means fabric that is hand spun and hand woven.

This movement urged every Indian to spin yarn using Charkhas and to wear khadi. As a result of this, the mills in Manchester were shut down and imported clothes were burnt down and Khadi was chosen to wear. This proved a huge turnover point in the independence movement of India.

Handloom weaving in process. Photo taken in Darjeeling Handloom center.

Handloom Post Independence

The functioning of textile mills and spinning mills continued in the post- Independent India. Even today, many weaving styles which use machine spun yarn. Even though, machine made textiles continued in Independent India, khadi and other handlooms were given a lot of protections and promotion from the unfair competition.

Tibetian women hand-weaving. Photo taken in Darjeeling Handloom center.

Importance and Strengths of Indian Handloom

Currently, there are 4.33 million Handloom weavers that are spread across India, and around 2.38 million handlooms are installed. It is said majority of these handlooms are modified to make weaving less effortful and more versatile.

The Indian Handloom sectors plays a vital role in the nation’s economy as this sector contributes to nearly 19 % of total cloth produced in the country.

Handloom weaving in process. Photo taken in Darjeeling Handloom center.

Known for its flexibility and versatility, the handloom also permits experimentation while encouraging innovations. This becomes a huge strength of the handloom as its innovative designs can hardly be replicated by the Power loom sector.

It caters to majority of sections and offers a wide range of products suitable for every strata of society.

The Indian handloom forms a crucial part of the heritage of India while exemplifying its richness and vibrant diversity to the world.

It generates uniqueness where the traditional designs can be combined and woven with modern ones.

National Handloom Day – 7th August

The National Handloom Day is observed on 7th of August every year since 2015. The objective behind dedicating a day to celebrate the rich handloom of India was to generate public awareness about the importance and value of our handloom industry. Another reason is to help revive the roots of handloom and create more work for weaver communities.

On 7th August, 2015, the first National Handloom Day was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held at the centenary of Madras University in Chennai.

The reason for choosing this date is to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement that was launched on this same day in the year 1905 in Calcutta Town Hall to protest against the partition of Bengal by the British government. The Swadeshi Movement celebrated our indigenous fabrics, weavers and encouraged use of handloom products.

To know more about Indian Government’s plans and efforts on Handloom check this out.

Indian States and their Handlooms

Almost all states of India have their unique and beautiful handloom or textile that they’re known for. Here’s a compilation of Indian handloom that each state offers so that you can make sure to check them out on your visit to these regions.

Source – Google
  • Andhra Pradesh – Machilipatnam Kalamkari
  • Arunachal Pradesh – Mishmi Weaves
  • Assam – Mugga Silk
  • Bihar – Tussar Silk
  • Chhattisgarh – Kosa Silk
  • Goa – Kunbi Fabric
Kalamkari fabrics. Source – Google
  • Gujarat – Patola
  • Haryana – Panja Durrie
  • Himachal Pradesh – Chamba Rumal
  • Jammu & Kashmir – Pashmina
  • Jharkhand – Kuchai Silk
  • Karnataka – Mysore Silk
  • Kerala – Kasavu Sarees
  • Madhya Pradesh – Chanderi Sari
Mulberry Mysore silk sarees. Source – Google
  • Maharashtra – Paithani
  • Manipur – Wangkei Phi
  • Meghalaya – Ryndia Silk
  • Mizoram – Puanchei
  • Nagaland – Cotton Weaves
  • Odhisha – Ikat (Bandha)
  • Punjab – Phulkari
  • Rajasthan – Sanganeri, Bandhani
Maharashtrian Paithani saree. Source – Google
Rajasthani locals doing hand- embroidery.
  • Sikkim – Lepcha Weaves
  • Tamil Nadu – Kancheepuram Silk
  • Telangana – Pochampallu Ikat
  • Tripura – Risa
  • Uttar Pradesh – Chikankari
  • Uttarakhand – Woolen Weaves
  • West Bengal – Kantha sarees
Beautiful Kantha work saree. Source – Google

Indian handlooms and the products manufactured from them are widely popular. The Indian Government is taking conscious efforts so as to promote and create livelihood for these talented weaver and artisan communities.

These handloom pieces are available in the local markets and online for all to enjoy. Here are some places you can checkout for handloom online.

As a citizen of India, it is our responsibility to do the same and support the culture and history of ours. Tourists who travel to India, can take a piece of India and its culture with them in the form of these handloom pieces.

Do own you Indian handloom pieces? Share about your priced possessions with us. I love Ikat, Bandhani and almost all pieces of them, and aim to experience and own a small piece of Indian handloom someday.

Pin this to save this post for later.
Pin this to save this post for later.

You might also enjoy:

7 Comments

  1. This is fascinating and beautiful. My daughter went to India last year to learn more about sustainable techniques in fashion like this one. She still talks about it.

  2. Omg , this post just blew my mind. I didn’t know about this National Handloom day either. I really enjoyed reading this post and knowing about our history and culture. Thanks for sharing this.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *