India’s staggering diversity makes it possible for visitors to take back a number of memorable souvenirs from the country. However, if you are looking for something that is classy, vibrant and is sure to touch the right chord with everyone; consider these five gems from India’s handloom heritage:
Pashmina from Kashmir
They say it is hard to go wrong with a Pashmina, be it as an accessory for the self or as a souvenir for an appreciator of delicate and prized things. The finest form of Cashmere wool originating in Kashmir, India, the authentic Pashmina is so light that you can pass it through a ring and so warm that it will keep you snug even on the harshest of winter days. History suggests that Pashmina was the preferred kind of fabric for kings and queens and laborious efforts would be made to procure the finest goat hair for their apparel. This soft and classy fabric found an admirer even in Josephine Bonaparte, wife to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Silk from Banaras, UP
Owing its name to a quaint city in Uttar Pradesh, which is also one of the oldest in the world, ‘Banarasi Silk’ is deep rooted in India’s traditions as much as it is in its handloom industry. Watching the craftsmen work with shining finely-woven silk threads, using methods that go back centuries in time is a spectacle worth travelling all the way to Banaras for. The ‘Banarasi Saree” is worn by many a brides as well as their kin during the wedding rituals and is treasured for life, only to be passed over generations. These ‘sarees’ often feature intricate Mughal-inspired designs and engravings and are heavy to wear, giving the wearer a royal touch.
Bandhani from Gujarat
Dating back to the Indus Valley civilisation, Bandhani from vibrant Gujarat is one of the oldest as well as simplest forms of fabric embellishment. Bandhani is made using the technique of tie-dyeing the fabric in bright colours, usually pink, green, yellow, and red and saffron and adorning it with mirror work and other interesting patterns. The factor that distinguishes a good Bandhani from an average one is the number of dots or tie-ups that are made; more meaning more intricate work.
Phulkari from Punjab
Phulkari, meaning ‘flower craft’ owes its origin to Punjab in India and was mentioned for the first time in popular culture in the Punjabi folklore of Heer and Ranjha. Thick fabrics such as khaddar were traditionally used for embroidering with floss silk threads on a charkha (a rolling wheel). An authentic Phulkari shawl sees use of bright colours and feels heavy on the shoulder, making it appropriate for winter wear. Phulkari was popularly worn during celebration times including a marriage or a birth.
Shisha from Rajasthan
It’s the Mughals who introduced Shisha (mirror) to Indian decor but Indians took it a step ahead and started making clothing using this intricate style. Paired with applique, embroidery and tie and dye, shisha is one of the most fascinating forms of handwork prevalent in India. Small pieces of mirror in various shapes and sizes, including circular, square, triangular and polygonal, are meticulously stitched on the base fabric. The final product is a shiny fabric that can be turned into bright skirts, vests, purses, stoles and more.