Textiles and Dress of Gujarat

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Item Code: NAC131
Author: Eiluned Edwards
Publisher: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788189995522
Pages: 248 (Illustrated Throughout In Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.4 Inch X 9.4 Inch
Weight 1.60 kg
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description
From the Jacket

The textiles and dress of Gujarat in western India are acclaimed for their design and craftsmanship. The sophisticated weaves, dyeing techniques, intricate embroideries, vibrant motifs and embellished dress, and the communities to which many of these are unique, have all been the subjects of this extensive documentation.

Textiles and dress play a central role in the construction of a visual identity of Gujarat and its people. This book examines the ‘social life’ of Gujarat’s textiles, tracing the historical journey of cloth and dress up to the present day. It looks closely at handmade fabrics, woven, dyed, painted and printed cloth, and embroidery, and locates their place in culture and trade. It also acknowledges the role of entrepreneurship in the survival of these handmade textiles.

Eiluned Edwards has been researching textiles and dress in India for 20 years and has published widely on their production, use and circulation. She lived in Gujarat for a number of years, working with pastoral migrants, craftspeople, entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations throughout the state. Her PhD (2000) addressed the effects of social change since Indian Independence in 1947 on the textiles and dress of the nomadic Rabaris of Kachchh. She was a senior research fellow at the V&A/London College of Fashion from 2005 to 2009, and has recently joined Nottingham Trent University as a senior lecturer in Design and Visual Culture.


This book is about the contemporary production and use of handmade textiles and popular dress in the state of Gujarat, western India. It describes the types of textiles made by the regions artisans whose hereditary occupation as weavers, printers and dyers has been determined by the caste system. Similarly, local usage reflects the caste occupation and faith of local customers; the use of textiles and dress plays a key role in social institutions such as dowry and marriage. The book also tells how the consumption of textiles has changed in the past fifty years, notably with the rise of synthetic fabrics and readymade clothes, and considers the impact of this on craft production. The transformation of cloth into dress is revealed by following the {social life’ of textiles.

Handmade fabrics have played a central role in the formation of the visual identity of the peoples of Gujarat, in carefully regulated dress codes that also encompass jewellery, footwear, and body art in the form of tattoos and mehendi (temporary tattoos drawn in henna paste). A coherent aesthetic language is discernible across dress, textiles used in domestic and sacred space, and animal trappings, the symbolism of which is discussed. Distinctive styles of dress and decoration differentiate one community from another; they also reveal the interplay between textiles made by professional artisans, such as tie—dyed fabrics, and decoration like embroidery made by women, which until thirty or forty years ago was widely regarded only as a domestic craft. Contemporary activity is set in historical context and the factors that have influenced the evolution of the states material culture are delineated. The book concludes with a review of current developments in handmade textiles. It identifies a range of initiatives to preserve the states craft and textiles heritage, including schemes introduced by state agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs); and considers the role of entrepreneurs, educational institutions, including the National Institute of Design (NID) and the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), and museums, such as the Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad, and the Tapi Collection at Surat.

The Formation of Modern Gujarat

In order to understand the textiles and dress of Gujarat, it is necessary to recall the formation of the modern state. The boundaries of Gujarat in western India were established only in 196o. Prior to India becoming a sovereign nation in 1947, the area of modern Gujarat consisted of numerous smaller princely states. After independence, the national government grouped these into three larger administrative units; Kachchh, Saurashtra and Bombay State. In 1956, Kachchh and Saurashtra were absorbed into Bombay State, along with parts of Hyderabad State and Madhya Pradesh in central India. Linguistically the expanded state divided into a Gujarati—speaking north and a Marathi—speaking south; it lasted only four years. Persistent agitation on the part of Marathi nationalists for a separate state led the national government to split Bombay State into Gujarat and Maharashtra on 1 May 1960.

Considering the emergence of the modern state from older polities, many communities in Gujarat share a greater regional identity with kindred groups in neighbouring Rajasthan to the north, and Sindh province across the border in Pakistan to the west. This is expressed through shared religious practice, occupation, patterns of betrothal and marriage, and dress codes. Thus many of the groups-castes—identi1‘ied in this book as Gujarati, are also to be found in Rajasthan and Sindh, the region formerly encompassed by Harappan culture—the earliest civilisation on the subcontinent which developed in the lndus Valley in the period 2500•175O BCE. Clearly there are plural identities, defined variously by caste, gender, occupation, religion, state, country. Partition in 1947 marked the creation of the Dominion of Pakistan on 14 August and the Union of India on 15 August, and the dissolution of the British Indian Empire.

Many communities were divided by the international border between the two newly established countries which left some family members in Pakistan and others in India. Maintaining cultural and family links has been difficult in the face of on-going tensions between the two countries. Livelihoods were badly affected by Partition: for example, the Rabaris of Kachchh, who are pastoral nomads, lost the western extremity of their old migration routes in Sindh and Baluchistan, areas that offered respite from the recurring droughts of Kachchh. In addition to which they no longer have access to important religious sites such as the shrine of Hinglaj Mata on the Makran coast. The outbreak of Hostilities between India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 triggered a flood of refugees, mostly Hindu Sodhas from Singh, to Kachchh (and Rajasthan). They brought with them only the tings they could carry which included exquisite suf embroidery with distinctive triangular patterns worked in silk floss, made by the women for dowry. The sale of these embroideries, typified as ‘hardship sales’ by NGOs, sustained many families during the grueling period in isolated refugee camps in Kachchh. Nowadays, the skill of Sodha women provides their families with a steady income as many of them work for NGOs making commercial embroidery. Textiles such as these present a compelling narrative, and the use of ethnographic data, drawn from nearly twenty years research in Gujarat, is a particular feature of the book. This material is then allied to the study of historic Gujarati textiles in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum which are accessible to visitors to the UK or via the Museum’s website. This approach gives deep insights into Gujarat’s rich heritage of textiles and dress, and recognizes the ingenuity and expertise of the state’s craftspeople.


Chapter 1 Historical Outline of Gujarati Textiles and Dress 16
Chapter 2 Contemporary Dress 42
Chapter 3Constructed Textiles 82
Chapter 4Dyed, Printed and Painted Textiles 112
Chapter 5Embroidery 154
Chapter 6Craft Development and Entrepreneurship 204
Appendix: Garment Analysis 217
Glossary 237
Bibliography 242
Acknowledgements 247
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