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Traditional Indonesian Ikat weaves

India is known as a country rich with culture and diversity in all aspects, and textiles are certainly an integral part of the regional culture. While most weaves have been designed and developed by indigenous craftsmen, and have a unique cultural significance, some of them are a heritage from outside the country. Ikat, one of the most diverse and versatile fabrics of India, is a product of extensive trade.

Ikat originated in Indonesia, and was popular for its resist dye pattern. Threads were woven in wefts and warps, outlines that refused to accept dye, forming the hazy, indistinct pattern. The threads flow into each other so effortlessly, that it is called the 'Poetry of the Loom'. There are different types and qualities of this weave, which depend on the fineness of the thread, or the skill of the craftsman.

Ikat in Thailand and Bali are woven with geometrical motifs and bold colours Balinese motifs woven into Ikat Image source: wikimediawikimedia

Through the various trade routes, Ikat became a fabric that many countries across Southeast Asia adopted. Today, it is a craft that countries like Japan and Cambodia have mastered. Japan has developed Ikat to the extent that they weave a unique indigo pattern on their fabric, which no other country has been able to do. In Indonesia, the patterns are very sophisticated and more distinct. The fading lines between colours forms intricate designs. Ikat in Thailand and Bali are woven with geometrical motifs and bold colours.

In India, Ikat has been adopted by Gujarat, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh, who have created their own signature textiles over the years. The 'patola' weave of Gujarat is the most complex Indian variant. They use a double weave technique and form pictorial designs. It is woven to lengths of six meters, with fine silk threads. Odisha ikat is a craft that has been practiced since the 12th century. They use geometrical patterns in a grid-like design. Between two artisans, weaving can take up to seven months. In Andhra Pradesh, a fine silk called Pochampally is produced, which is specifically used to weave ikat. It is a lightweight fabric that is interwoven with cotton and silk threads. It takes around ten days for four people to weave it.The

The 'patola' weave of Gujarat is the most complex Indian variant The Gujarati Patola double weave Image source: wikimediawikimedia

Ikat was quite popular in ancient times. Owing to its beauty and finesse, it briefly became the currency on the Silk Road among traders. The earliest piece of ikat fabric was discovered in the tomb of a Pharoah in Egypt. The Balinese believe that ikat has medicinal properties, and call it Gringsing, which means, 'to avoid pain'. Even today, the fabric is extremely popular in many countries. Its versatility into cultures and traditions is as enduring as poetry.

Keywords: Ikat, Handloom, Poetry, Textile


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