Calioc Textiles Musium
: Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Constructed In : 1949 AD.
Significance : One Of The Finest Textile Museums In The World.
The museum in its present, new setting creates a charming atmosphere, with courtyards, gardens, fountains, quiet passages and evocative settings created with the textiles themselves to show how they were used: religious textiles, cloth is used in royal court etc. This introduction is very well presented and offers an insight into the genius of Indian weavers and the skills and traditions associated with the ancient art.
Textiles can be broadly divided into those fabricated from cotton, wool and silk. Of these, cotton and wool appear to have been used throughout Indian history, beginning from the time of the Harappan Civilization. Indigenous silk was produced by the tribes of the north-eastern states like Assam, and of the Bihar and Orissa regions.
These tusser and muga silks are still available in natural hues of gold, and each with their own distinct textures.
There is a legend that a Buddhist monk brought a mulberry tree to India from China, where silk production was a closely guarded secret. There are numerous references in literature to silk garments throughout the medieval period. On a more significant scale, silk was introduced into south India during the reign of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, in the 17th century, through his 'French connection'.
Any material, including textiles, cam be studied according to the techniques involved in their production. For fabrics, the first stage is the preparation of the yarn for weaving: the twirling and twisting (spinning), which provides the initial element of texture to the cloth. Handspun yarn, like that used an khadi (handspun and handwoven cloth), lends a delightful uneven texture to the cloth. The colours and dyeing techniques for yarn used are equally important.
The best example of these is ikat, in which the yarn is tied and dyed in two, three or four colours, so that when it is woven the designs 'assemble themselves' on the fabrics. The museum has some outstanding samples of ikat from Gujarat, referred to there as patola, in which both the wrap and weft threads carry 'colour coding', to create intricate, slightly fuzzy-edged motifs of elephants, flowers and birds. This artistic techniques is still practised today in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
The next step is the weaving, in the course of which wrap and weft interact to create sensitive combinations of colours, and an unbelievable variety of textiles. In this range we have elaborate brocades in which gold or silver and coloured thread are woven into the fabric to create special motifs and designs.
To set a loom for weaving requires an in-built sense of harmony, mathematics and an uncanny sense of the forms to be created on a two-dimensional surface. Balushar saris, brocades, the textiles from Paithan in Maharashtra and Kanchipuram silks are some of the samples displayed here.
The artist not only had to consider technique and colour scheming, but also the functional value of the cloth, and how it would look when draped and worn.
Weaving in silk, cotton, wool and sometimes a mixture of materials was mastered using simple horizontal and vertical looms. In the north-eastern states, the hip loom, or loin loom, is still common. Use was also made of the Jacquard loom and individual bobbins to introduce colours like gold in just the motifs of the fabric.
The Museum has no less than five centuries of the finest fabrics spun, woven, printed and painted in different parts of India. It also has a collection of marble, sandstone and bronze icons and busts split in two thematic sections- gallery for religious textiles and historical textiles. There is also an excellent reference library on textiles.
Colourful embroidered wall hangings depicting Krishna legends hang from the second floor right down to ground level. Cloth decorated with tie-dye, glinting mirror work, screen prints, block prints and intricate embroidery include exquisite pieces made for the British and Portuguese and exported to Bali, while from India's royal households there's an embroidered tent and the robes of Shah Jahan, along with elaborate carpets and plump cushions that once furnished Muslim palaces.
THE FABULOUS PATOLA
The collection also includes some of the best examples anywhere of the Patola saris woven in Patan as well as the extravagant Zari work that gilds saris in heavy gold stitching and can bring their weight to almost nine kilos.
The Jain section features statues housed in a replica Haveli Temple, along with centuries-old manuscripts and 'mandalas' painted on palm leaves; note the traditional symbols such as the snake and ladder motif representing rebirth and 'karma'.
Among exhibits from else where in India are Kashmiri shawls, Kullu embroidery, glittering silk brocades from Varanasi, folk art from the Punjab and masks and large wooden temple cars (processional vehicles) from Tamil Nadu. Tribal crafts such as Kachchhi silk and cotton 'mashru' weaving are displayed in spectacular wooden 'havelis' from Patna and Siddhpur in northern Gujarat. Clearly labelled models and diagrams explain the weaving, dyeing and embroidery processes.