Business Overview (Introduction)

Indian hand woven fabrics have been known since time immemorial. Poets of the Mughal durbar likened our muslins to baft hawa (woven air), abe rawan (running water) and shabnam (morning dew). A tale runs that Emperor Aurangzeb had a fit of rage when he one day saw his daughter princess Zeb-un-Nissa clad in almost nothing. On being severely rebuked, the princess explained that she had not one but seven jamahs (dresses) on her body. Such was the fineness of the hand woven fabrics.

Historical Evidence

Though India was famous even in ancient times as an exporter of textiles to most parts of the civilized world, few actual fabrics of the early dyed or printed cottons have survived. This, it is explained is due to a hot, moist climate and the existence of the monsoons in India. It is not surprising therefore, that Egypt which has an exceptionally dry climate would provide evidence which India lacks. The earliest Indian fragment of cloth (before the Christian era) with a hansa (swan) design was excavated from a site near Cairo where the hot dry sand of the desert acted as a preservative.

Later, fragments of finely woven and madder-dyed cotton fabrics and shuttles were found at some of the excavated sites of Mohenjodaro (Indus valley civilization). Indian floral prints, dating back to the 18th century A.D were discovered by Sir Aurel Stein in the icy waters of Central Asia. The evidence shows that of all the arts and crafts of India, traditional handloom textiles are probably the oldest.

Handlooms The Largest Cottage Industry

Handlooms are an important craft product and comprise the largest cottage industry of the country. Millions of looms across the country are engaged in weaving cotton, silk and other natural fibers. There is hardly a village where weavers do not exist, each weaving out the traditional beauty of India's own precious heritage.