Embark on an awe-inspiring odyssey across India’s enchanting destinations, where every footstep unfurls the vibrant tapestry of the nation’s textile legacy. These extraordinary places are more than mere shopping paradises; they serve as portals to immerse yourself in the very essence of Indian culture. To understand India’s tapestry, formed by sewing different traditions together over generations, consider visiting these destinations on your next exploration.
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu – For Kanjeevaram Silk
Situated 80 kilometres from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Kanchipuram is one of the oldest cities in southern India. Once the capital of the Pallava Empire, this bustling town is renowned worldwide as the birthplace of Kanjeevaram saris, made from the silk of the same name. These saris are woven from pure mulberry silk threads and are integral to a Tamil bride’s trousseau. They also make perfect souvenirs to take back home. Explore the famous Gandhi Road, lined with various cooperatives offering vibrant, pure silk saris adorned with stunning motifs. Organisations like Save the Loom and the Tamil Nadu Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society also conduct textile trails in other handloom cities. While in Kanchipuram, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the grand temples that dot the town.
Jaipur, Rajasthan – For Block Printing and Leheriya Fabric
Jaipur, the Pink City of Rajasthan, is a treasure trove of beloved Indian handloom traditions such as block printing, leheriya fabric, bandhani, and gota patti. While the city’s captivating architecture and delectable street food attract visitors from around the globe, the vibrant bazaars filled with textiles and sparkling jewellery truly make it an unforgettable destination. Jaipur effortlessly combines the past and the present, with young designers infusing age-old prints into modern silhouettes. Prepare to be spoiled for choice with a wide array of block-printed cotton shirts, dresses, quilts, bandhani kurtas, and leheriya saris.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh – For Benarasi Silk, Zari Embroidery, and Heavy Brocades
No list of famous textile destinations in India is complete without mentioning Varanasi. This city is a haven for Indian textiles, from intricate zari embroidery (which involves weaving gold and silver threads into the fabric) to the famous Benarasi silk saris. Varanasi offers the elegant Jamdani weave—a lightweight, sheer cotton fabric featuring all-over patterns for those who prefer lighter and simpler options. Once you’ve indulged in textile shopping, visit the historic Ramnagar Fort if you’re a history enthusiast or enjoy a serene morning boat ride on the Ganga.
Kanihama, Kashmir – For Kani Shawls
While pashmina needs no introduction, allow us to introduce you to Kashmir’s exquisite ‘kani’ shawls. Kanihama, one of the few Handloom Tourism Villages in India, is home to artisans reviving the dying craft of kani weaving. These skilled craftsmen weave fine shawls using delicate pashmina yarn and hundreds of spools (known as kani) to create intricate patterns inspired by nature, including flowers, leaves, and birds. Kanihama, located off the Srinagar-Gulmarg highway, holds a GI tag, indicating its well-known product’s geographical origin.
Kutch, Gujarat – For Kutchi Embroidery, Patchwork, Ajrakh, and Bandhni
If you’ve heard of Kutch, the region in Gujarat famous for its salt desert, you’re likely familiar with its rich textile tradition. From vibrant Kutchi embroidery and intricate patchwork to the beloved ajrakh print, these colourful fabrics make a trip to Kutch worthwhile. Numerous villages specialise in different forms of artistry. For example, the artisans of Hodka Artist Village excel in banni embroidery and leatherwork, while the Bharvads and Mirs, two nomadic communities, are renowned for their weaving and beadwork. The LLDC embroidery museum, located near the block-printing village of Ajrakhpur, provides a window into the various Kutchi styles.
Sualkuchi, Assam – For Muga Silk
Tucked away on the northern banks of the Brahmaputra River, Sualkuchi is a charming weavers’ village that serves as the textile centre of Assam. While the state is famous for its lush tea gardens, picturesque monasteries, and delectable local cuisine, it is the hidden gem of Sualkuchi that textile lovers should not miss. Located just 35 kilometres from Guwahati, the village offers a serene environment filled with the rhythmic click-clack of looms. Sualkuchi is renowned as the birthplace of muga silk, an incredibly durable fabric celebrated for its naturally-tinted yellow-gold threads with a shimmering appearance. Additionally, you’ll find eri and pat silk, along with traditional Assamese weaves like mekhela chadors and gamusa.