(Last Updated on : 26/10/2010)
India is admired for its cotton textile since ancient times it still continues to be a flourishing textile center to this day. the tropical lands of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, has always had its distinctive cultural features. Relatively untouched by the invasions that affected the cultural fabric of North India, Southern India has over the centuries continued to retain its many ancient traditions of art and craft.
Early documents mention fine muslins and silks from Tamil Nadu. Bengal, Orissa, Benares and Madurai were well known for silk and cotton weaving. The Mahabharata mentions the textiles of Tamil Nadu. Muslins from Tamil Nadu were presented to Yudishtira during his coronation. Sangam literary works like the Silappadikaram refer to the art of cloth weaving particularly by women. Embroidered cloth with multi coloured hues was popular with women. Chinese travellers of the 13th century have mentioned that Chola princes wore cotton clothing, which seemed to be the prevailing custom.
The importance of the textile trade can be inferred by the fact that the capital cities of Uraiyur (Chola), Karur (Chera) and Madurai (Pandya) were situated near cotton growing areas. It is a well-known fact that these towns still have a flourishing textile trade. Documents state that an award of cloth recognized services to king or state.
The quality of silk in Tamil Nadu is said to be proverbially excellent with the capacity to endure strenuous washing on a granite stone! The unique characteristic of the Kanchipuram silk sari is that the border and pallu are woven separately and then attached to the body of the sari. In addition to Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam and Tanjavur have always been important centres of silk weaving.
In Tamil Nadu cotton weaving is widespread in Kanchipuram, Coimbatore, Salem, Pudukkotai, Madurai and Karur. The chungidi sarees of Madurai, kcmdangi saris of Chettinadu and the cotton/silk mixtures from Kurainadu are noteworthy. The cottons of Madurai and Salem, particularly the white veshtis with zari borders are known for their sturdy quality. In the 18th century there was kalamkari trade (pen painting) between Europe and India. The designs were known as cheeti, a word from that the European chintz was derived. "Bleeding Madras," fabrics use indigo dyes and have become popular all over the world for their bold checks. The art of embroidery was introduced by the Muslims to our people and the craft of lace making by the Portuguese and Dutch. Cotton and silk lace including gold and silver thread work continue to embellish the dresses made here.
Like most crafts of India, weaving and dyeing were hereditary occupations. Even if some of the older traditions of weaving are lost the textile industry continues to thrive in this state. The Weavers Service Centre in Chennai has contributed largely to a textile renaissance, reviving some of the splendid designs from the past as well as incorporating original and contemporary designs.