The textiles of Rajasthan represent an amalgamation of generations of experimentation with fabric, handicraft skills, and a sharp eye for detail. These textiles, woven with incredible precision, are the result of an oral tradition that has passed down generations and been honed with finesse and purpose. It is always advisable to “buy local” – i.e. visit small villages instead of buying from Rajasthan’s urban shopping centers, as this is where you can get the kind of fabric, weaving and embroidery that is impossible to get anywhere else in the world.
Rajasthan had mastered fabric dyeing much before America’s fascination with hippie tie and dye T patterns.
Tiny, incredibly precise designs are achieved in cloth by plucking and tying a thread to reveal artwork in bright shades of like vermillion, saffron, emerald, sapphire, and yellow yields. Along with style, there is also symbolism here – red can represent a Hindu bride, and yellow signifies maternity. Bandhini use is common on turbans, dupattas, and sarees, in accompaniment with embroidery, mirror-work, and appliqué.
Named after flowing waves of water, Leheriya work focuses on clear patterns, created on thin cotton or silk cloth, for turbans or saris. Authentic Leheriya fabric is sold with the knots (used for dyeing) still in place.
Very much similar to Sanganeri block printing, Bagru’s textile printers chose to focus on floral designs, and exclusively print using vegetable colour. Bagru work is also famed for its zigzag motifs.
Rajasthan’s most popular hub of block and screen printing is Sanganer, famed for its sheer variety of folk patterns on white cotton. It is great for home linens and furnishing, including bed covers, table cloths etc. These motifs are made with thin black outlines and the use of red dye to colour figures and flowers.
Bold geometric prints are what set Barmer’s prints apart from the rest of Rajasthani textiles. Additionally, unlike the light floral colours, Barmer fabrics show darker shades as it takes inspiration from the Barmer’s location in the Thar Desert, where locals believe dark shades are cooler.
Famed across the world for their softness, warmth and the artistic attention to detail, they are worth the high price they command. Not only do they insulate well, but they’re also lightweight. Adornments include frills and embroidery. They are fluffy, and traditionally use 100 % pure, finely combed cotton with a high thread count and double stitching.
Kota Doria is among the many types of sari textiles made in Rajasthan’s Kota region, where it gets its name from. These pure cotton and silk fabrics feature checkered square patterns and are famed for their lightweight feel. Historically, Kota Doria weaving came from Mysore, after weavers were brought from Mysore to Kota by a Mughal army general. Application of a mixture of onion juice and rice paste during the process of weaving ensures the finish is incredibly durable. It is common to spot machine-made Kota Doria fabric today.