Handlooms of Gujarat

  • Article covers the handlooms of Gujarat i.e. Patola, Asavali Sarees, Kutch textiles, Mashru fabric and Tangail Sarees.

The state of Gujarat in India, popularly known as the Manchester of the East, has a rich heritage of textile crafts. The arid region of Kutch is the richest in the state in terms of cultural heritage. However, there are several other parts of the state which specialize in some form of textile craft or the other. In this article, we have outlined some of the traditional textile crafts of this beautiful state.


1. Patola

Elephant, peacock, parrot, girl & flowers on Patola sari. Credits www.guidetogo.in.

Also Read The Story of Patola Weaves of Gujarat


2. Asavali Saree


The Asavali saris named after the old city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat and derive their name from Ahmedabad’s 11th century ruler Asha Bhil. It had rich brocaded patterns woven in twill weave, a speciality of the area. Intricately woven silken patterns were embedded into the gold surface in myriad colours and were known as meenakari, imitating the enamel work prepared on jewellery. 


Ashavali sarees, a style of weaving to which references are found from the 16th century. Believed by some to have influenced the brocade traditions of Benaras through the migration of Gujarati weavers, Ashavali fabrics were made by Khatris and Patels, and used primarily by royalty and nobles. They were worn as sarees, jamas and patkas, or used for canopies, and decorations for camels and elephants.


Ashavali sarees are distinguished by the enamelled look of the border-which are sometimes woven onto Patola sarees-and the interwoven designs. The pallu is also very important. Radhika Lalbhai displays designs like the badshah pallu (common to Balucheri sarees) and chand-tara, and motifs like the parrot and peacock, some of which are found in other parts of Gujarat like mocha embroidery, beadwork and jaliwork. 



Sometime in the late 1930s, a farmer in Ridrol village of Gujarat’s Mansa tehsil thought of learning how to weave brocade sarees using gold and silver threads on silk. Somabhai Patel, who would be free after sowing seeds in the monsoon, wanted to put his time to good use. Many weavers in his village were engaged in weaving. Thus, Somabhai decided to learn the craft.


Over the years, he developed such a liking for the art that he continued it even when others in the profession began to quit weaving in the 1980s and 1990s. Just when the last of the weavers were set to exit the craft, Somabhai set up four looms, each employing two artisans.


Eighty years later, his grandson Paresh Patel is continuing the tradition with 55 looms and thirty weavers making Ashavali sarees, characterised by brocade weave with a variety of motifs including paisley, birds, humans, animals and vines.


Weaving Process

Kinkhab is made using a thick tano, (vertical thread or warp) or vano (horizontal thread or weft) in 36 pano (width, measuring 36 inch). Later, kinkhab began to be used in saree weaving in a 45 or 48 pano.


Initially, the weaving was done using the jala technique, which required three craftsmen at a time. The technique gets its name from jala-a metallic structure atop a loom to which the threads are attached while their corresponding ends are attached to the warp below. Two artisans weave and the third one pulls the threads so that designs can be embossed on the sarees.


However, the jala technique gave way to the jacquard system, which requires only two artisans on the loom. In jacquard weaving, the designs are sketched and then punched into paper cards. Each card corresponds to a row of the design. These cards make a continuous chain, are fed into the loom and weaving is done using a shuttle.


The major difference between jala and jacquard is that the jacquard instrument is used to pull threads instead of a craftsman.


The nature of the twill results in the diagonal lines on the textile. These motifs are then woven with supplementary weft yarns that may be of metal, silk or other natural fibre yarns.


The threads are prepared by softening, drying and wrapping them around a spindle. The loom is prepared based on a carding system that dictates the design.



The distinguishing feature of this kind is the circular designs known as butis which are woven into the field in form of warp instead of the typical weft insertions. It makes the butis appear horizontal when the saree is worn. The Gujarati brocade is very thick and heavy thereby it is further enhanced with meenakari work. The rich patterns woven on the saree appear all the more incredible because of twill weave.


Asavali sarees are known for their resemblance towards dyes and vibrant colors, high absorbance, light weight and buoyancy. The aesthetic appeal of the sarees is enhanced with the use of floral designs in colored silk against gold zari. The motifs usually has leaves, flowers, stems, outlined by a fine dark line like inlay work and that is what makes the Gujarati brocade stand out amongst other brocades.

Credits and useful information


3. Mashru

Besides beautiful embroideries Gujarat is also home to amazing weaves that are a combination of generations of expertise and skills. Mashru fabric is a hand-woven mix of cotton and silk. Mashru silk has the appearance of glistening silk that conceals the soothing feel of cotton. Bright contrasting stripes in vibrant colors are a characteristic of Mashru fabric.


The fabric is mainly manufactured in Patan and Mandvi, Gujarat. Mashru fabric has a satin finish and striped Ikat weave. Mashru sarees and lehengas are an important part of the bridal trousseau in different communities.


Mashru has a silk exterior, but the inner fabric which stays in contact with the skin is made up of cotton. It seems that the makers of this fabric put every possible color together in lustrous compositions. For the people with a taste of luxury this blend of the opulence of silk and the comfort of cotton, in multi-colored stripes and Ikat patterns, is the right choice. 


Silk on the outer surface has a glossy appearance, the cotton yarns on the back side, soak sweat and keep the wearer feeling cool in warm weather conditions so fabric has practical use in India. Craftsmen have developed new designs by tie-dyeing the fabric and using Bandhani technique. Traditionally used in garments, Mashru is also used for making quilts, cushions and bags.


Making of Mashru

Mashru fabric is made up of silk and cotton yarns; where silk is used as the vertical yarn and cotton is used as the horizontal yarn. Each silk yarn goes under the cotton yarn once, and five or eight time above it. After completing the weaving of the fabric, it is washed in cold water and is beaten with a wooden hammer while it is moist.

Natural vegetable dyes are used to add color to the fabric. Mashru is compressed with hard press. This weaving technique of Mashru fabric results in a shiny surface that is identical to silk fabric and comfortable cotton on the inside of the clothing.


Interweaving of silk and cotton makes Mashru a durable fabric.


Present day status of Mashru

Recently, a few craftsmen use chemically dyed rayon instead of pure silk, to reduce the cost of the final product. Rayon is economical and gives better texture and shine than silk. However, synthetic dyes that are used now make the fabric weak. Mashru has now found its place in a range of home furnishings, side lining the garments.


Designs of Mashru have become simpler with time. Bright and vivid designs with solid-colored fabrics are replacing the traditional Ikat designs and patterned stripes. Craftsmen incorporate Bandhani saree designs with Ikat. Traditional Mashru is on the brink of extinction. Fabric is being made with power looms today. Creation of Mashru with cotton and silk yarns, is a dying art form.


Maintenance of Mashru

Mashru is relatively easier to maintain as compared to pure silk. However, care tips include, washing this fabric in cold water and slow rinsing. Drying the fabric in direct sunlight helps in keeping the glossiness of the fabric for a long time.


Mashru fabric finds customers all across India. Its colours bring a smile.



The Mashru fabric was originally used to make apparel such as kurtas and tunics for men of the Muslim community. When the fabric later spread to Gujarat, women in the Saurashtra and Kutch regions used the fabric to weave backless Kanjari blouses, Cholis and vibrant ghagras. They also did embroidery and mirror work to create their own versions of the fabric. In recent times, Mashru Silk has been revived by Avant Garde designers through use of contemporary styles.


We can see patrons starting to prefer Mashru silk for apparel like blouses, where Mashru fabric provides the perfect mix of the glamor of silk and the comfort of cotton. Mashru Scarves and Stoles are also becoming popular. They add a glamorous element to basic everyday outfits.

Everything you needed to know about Mashru Fabric and Credits


4. Kutch Weaving

Shrujan is a leading NGO of Kutch that has promoted local textiles for decades.

The traditional Kutch weaving is a 600-year-old tradition. It is done by an extra-weft weaving technique, where a weft yarn is used in the warp of the loom. The weaving with extra weft creates the distinctive designs with geometric patterns. The characteristic, intricately handwoven motifs form the identity of the Kutch weaving.


Shawls are woven with motifs. They were originally made from local desi wools and were traditionally worn as veils. Artisans continue to design and produce shawls for the local market as their shawls are widely worn throughout Kutch. Over the years, the weavers spread out in large clusters and smaller pockets throughout Kutch.



600 years ago, the Marwadi community from Rajasthan migrated to the Kutch region. They are known today as Vankar for the art of Traditional Kutch weaving. Traditionally, weavers used hand-spun cotton yarn provided by the Ahir and Patel farming communities and wool provided by the Rabari and Jat pastoral communities. Weaving was then a local art. It provided Kutch communities with blankets, cloth, and traditional dress.


Historical origins 

The weavers of Kutch claim a 500-year-old history in the region. They are originally from Rajasthan. There are two stories of their migration.


One story goes that when a girl of a very rich Rabari family was given in marriage and came to Kutch, a weaver was included as part of her dowry so that he could weave the clothes that she would need. This family of weavers gradually grew into a larger community and spread in different settlements of Kutch.


As per the second story, Shri Ramdev peer came to Narayan Sarovar in Kutch on a pilgrimage from Rajasthan. At the time, some followers who were goldsmiths from Faradi in Mandvi built a temple for him and requested him to bring his kin from Marwar in Rajasthan for its upkeep. That was the beginning of the settlement of the Meghwal community of weavers from Marwar. The community has four sub-communities i.e. Maheshwari, Marwada, Gurjara and Chaaran. Of these the Maheshwari and Marwada practiced weaving and leatherwork.

Shyamji Bhai shop, village Bhujodi near Bhuj. Belongs to the Meghwal community. 

Thus, the Meghwal community of Rajasthan migrated to Kutch and brought with them the art of handloom weaving. Traditionally, weavers used hand spun yarn provided by Rabaris, a nomadic community of sheep and goat herders. Kutch weaving is known for its incorporation of distinctive traditional motifs and colours in medium to heavyweight textiles. The value of Kutch handlooms lies in the value is created by skilled artisans who weave their tradition and way of life into each piece.


The rich and diverse creative traditions of Kachchh (often written as “Kutch”) live at the intersection of cultures and communities. The designs woven into Kachchhi woven fabrics were inspired by the communities who wore them, replicating the shapes of musical instruments, the footsteps of an animal herd, etc.


From morning to dusk, meditatively the music plays on. The spin wheel, the beats of loom and the birds chirping on vocals. Weavers are closely linked socioeconomically with their local clients, the Ahirs, Rajputs, and Rabaris. Each weaver was once personally linked with a Rabari family, who would supply yarn from sheep and goats. Farming communities like Ahirs cultivated kala cotton, which produced woven textiles for shoulder cloths and headgear. Sheep and goat wool was used for veils, skirts, shawls and blankets. The designs woven into Kachchhi woven fabrics were inspired by the communities who wore them, replicating the shapes of musical instruments, the footsteps of an animal herd, etc.


The names for motifs like vakhiyo, chaumukh, satkani, hathi, or dholki are evocative of rural images. In the 1960’s, cheaper mill made cloth flooded the market and the local market declined. The weavers were forced to look for external clients and shift their practices to fit the demand of larger markets. A group of four enterprising weavers created a Bhujodi Weavers Cooperative which brought together all of the weavers in Bhujodi. 


Now Bhujodi is a popular tourist destination for weaving, though weavers are spread all over Kachchh.

Village women at work, village Noronha 40 kms from Bhuj.

Today, there are 1200 weavers all across Kutch in 210 villages. The number of women involved in the preparatory and finishing processes is around 2400. Apart from Bhujodi, Vannora, Kota, Jamthara, Sarli, Bhuj, Kadarthi are other villages in Kutch region where weaving happens. Weaving as a process goes around the year apart from the rainy season, when work hits a lean because of practical reasons. Not relying too much on today’s education system, the vankars train their future weavers from a very tender age. Growing around the traditional looms in the household, the kids learn by seeing. 


Craft is to Kutch what beaches are to Goa and Credits

To see album of Shrujan NGO , Bhujodi Weaving products , Craft Villages Kutch


5. Tangail

The crafts persons belonging to the semi-desert land of Rann of Kutch make Dhaba shawls. The shawls are yarned on the traditional loom using cotton and woollen yarns. Using threads, a design is put on the loom to shape up the product. The extracted water of rice or starch is used to wrap the desired colour directly on the loom. Traditionally colours used are black, yellow, red, orange and green.


The number of threads is dependent on the design and are tied with pedals. Craftsperson carries out weaving the shawls using the up and down technique. The wool is collected from the sheep and the texture is rough.


Surendarnagar district in the Saurashtra is the prime location for the Tangail weaving. Loose and twisted white wool is used to make designs. Two or three warp threads are involved to give the ready feel of bead- like appearance.


The Tangail is woven traditionally with broad borders featuring lotus, lamp and fish scale motifs. These saris feature highly stylized Jamdani motifs on Tangail fabrics fine textured fabric with 100s count. The traditional Tangail jamdani saree always have a Padma or a lotus paar or a Pradeep or lamp paar unlike the “aansh paar” which is commonly found in other jamdani sarees. Usually a single color is used to design the saree. But these days up to three colors are used in the border of the saree to give it a “Meenakari” effect.


In Tangails the embroidery thread is inserted after two ground picks. The main characteristic of Tangails is the extra weft butis, tiny motifs repeated all over the ground. Tangails are popular and continue to be woven by weavers as being light, they are excellent for everyday wear esp. in a tropical country like India.



Rajkot and Patan weaving traditions not included above.


The purpose of this compilation is to document and promote. We have given credits and reference links in this compilation along with third party links (to promote). In case some are missed, it is not with malafide intent. Please email full details to esamskriti108@gmail.com and we shall effect the change.


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Author Trishna Patnaik is a self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. She is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She conducts painting workshops across India. She is also an art therapist and healer who works with clients on a one to one basis. Not to forget her quality writings on Indian Art and now Textiles for esamskriti. She fancies the art of creative writing.


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