India's diversity in history and heritage along with its well-developed and multi-faceted visual traditions are expressed in all aspects of material culture. Luxurious textiles were produced in the subcontinent and exported all over the world. Woven silks and shawls along with hand-painted and embroidered pieces of cotton have inspired the world.
The motifs used in the textiles are not just a design element but deeply connected with tradition and ancient heritage. In this blog, we look at the Paisley design which has withstood the test of time from the Persian era to the Paris and New York catwalks.
The paisley pattern has travelled the silk route, adorned the headgears of Persians, the bandanas of cowboys and bikers and was popularized by The Beatles when it became an emblem of the rock ‘n’ roll era. The Scottish city of Paisley is intertwined with the famous print and is now bidding to be the UK City of Culture for 2021.
This intriguing design called th Boteh-Jegheh in Persian is an asymmetrical geometric floral pattern that signifies royal sovereignty. It occupied the focal design in the headgears of the Iranian Kings of the Safavid Empire.
The motifs were translated onto the walls of mosques in the early 19th century, and later on in the design of high-quality cloth used by the courtiers and royals.
These Persian designs later found a way into the Kashmir shawls and Machilipatnam block printed kalamkari. In the early 19th century, patterned Kashmiri pashmina shawls were imported by the British. The town of Paisley in Scotland made the machine equivalents of cashmere shawls.
In the mid-19th century, the weavers of France and Britain produced their own versions of the Paisley with the aid of semi-automated looms. The above pattern is from George Haité (1825-1871) and showcases shawl designs with brilliant colours.
The rich brocaded sarees of India, which form a fundamental part of the cultural tradition have symbolic patterns and meaningful motifs woven in their own style. The weavers stylise the paisley, also called as mangai either as a butti in the form of a floating pattern or as a rich zarigai motif in the pallu
This mango motif is a perennial favourite of Indian craftsmen. Various regions incorporate these designs in different sizes, as border designs or small buttas.
In Kanchipuram silks, this motif is woven in different sizes; not just on the border and mundhanai but also as small buttas dotting the body. The Ekambareshwar temple in the city of Kanchipuram is associated with mangoes. The sacred tree of the temple is a unique mango tree with four main branches. Even today you see the fossil of this 3500-year-old mango tree in the temple premises, under which the deities’ marriage festival is conducted annually.