India has always been synonymous with the handloom. According to Handcrafts India, traces of handloom fabric were unearthed in excavations in Egypt, after which finely woven and dyed cotton fabrics were discovered in Mohenjo Daro, in the Indus Valley Civilisation. Jump forward to the British Raj, when Gandhi popularised the use of khadi, which became an integral part of the Swadeshi movement.
In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared August 7 (the day the Swadeshi movement was launched in 1905) as National Handloom Day in an attempt to revive the handloom industry. According to data released by the government, the textile industry is the second largest provider of employment after agriculture, with handloom weaving providing direct and indirect employment to more than 43 lakh weavers. Almost 70% of those weavers are women from rural villages. Further to that, 95% of handwoven fabrics in the world are made in India. Known for its diversity, almost every state in India has its own weave, whether it is Uttar Pradesh’s Banarasi weave, Bihar’s Bhagalpur silk, Gujarat’s Bandhani, Madhya Pradesh’s Chanderi and Maheshwari or Tamil Nadu’s Kanjeevaram.
In honour of National Handloom Day, we look at 7 Indian designers who have become synonymous with the handwoven sari.