[Travel] Jaipur, the Heritage Embroidered in the Thread of Time

In the afternoon after going to some places in Jaipur this morning, the rickshaw driver take me to this garment district he knows (and probably get commission out of it) named Textile Village. Oh well, I did plan to but some sari and India fabric so might as well. Textile Village also have a workshop area to show and tell for the tourists. One of the clerk explained that some of their goods come from nearby villages.

Price is more or less the same like in New Delhi as happen to most stores gear up for tourists. I learn to say no a lot because I don’t need carpet or ornate fabric or bed sheet, quilt or blanket. They are beautiful and Jaipur is famous for their bed linens. But just no, I still have a long way to go in India. The second store, Maharani Textile on my last day in Jaipur is much better and 1/2 the price of the sari I bought in Textile Village, with a free lesson on how to wear sari/saree.

Apart from the not good shopping experience, the fabric and culture are amazingly beautiful. Fabric made of cotton has a long, long history in India. In India, it came from the artifacts found in historical sights along Indus Valley civilization to the stories told in epic poems such as RigVedaMahabharata and Ramayana.

Textile made of cotton and silk were the currency for trading from India to South East Asia and China through silk road with other goods. They clothed Maharajas, Emperors, Chiefs and rich merchants. By the 18th century, textile from India crossed to Europe and prized for their design, comfort and beauty.


Hand block print

The tradition of hand block printing exist from around 500 years by the Chhipa community from Bagru village, famous for natural plant dye and mud resist (dabu) in various ethnic floral patterns and branched out to Sanganer village with a specialty of their own in its unique geometric pattern. To make background color for Bagru fabric for example, they use earthy dye and dip in turmeric water for a soft cream color.


The wooden block for print use various different wood. The wood is prepared and coated with khadria, a mix of quicklime and pvc glue. The design (usually floral or geometric) is drawn on the paper and the artisan transfer the design onto the wood, sometimes using grid system to have consistent design for pattern. Then the artisan will carved into the wood, shaped and varnish to finish. Check out the video at the Victoria and Albert Museum Youtube channel.


In above photo, the store clerk show us two blocks; one block for the outline (rekh) of the elephant, then the second block for the elephant block color (datta). The printing block sometimes made of wood, metal or rubber.

Like printing plates, one block is used with one color. Multiply colors use several blocks. Minimum 2 blocks and maximum 8 printing blocks are used . The dye ink use natural sources, 90% from plants like vegetables, green spinach, yellow turmeric, saffron, carrot, blue indigo and 10% from stones found in the mountains like turquoise, limestones, and then red sugar from sugar cane.

In the villages that produced this garment, they layout a long fabric, usually cotton 100/100 or cotton silk 75/25 or chiffon and silk, and prepare it for print. They repeat the pattern, one block at a time, until the fabric is filled. For finishing, they wash and dry the cloth a couple of times to bring out the color.

This is the point where I wish I can go to one of the village to see the real process instead of this tourist’s show.



The rug in Jaipur is made of wool, dyed with natural colors (maybe some chemical but I didn’t ask). The artisan weaves the rug into pattern and design and manually hand-knot individual strand. So much labor intensive! The store doesn’t show me other types of rug but I’m not interested in buying one either.

Zardozi (hindi: ज़रदोज़ी, Persian: زَردوزی, Arabic: خرير الماء)

Zardozi is embroidery for the members of the royal family’s cloths or decoration on the wall or other usage in the olden days. It was heavily embellished with metal threads, often gold and silver with precious jewels. Nowadays, the artisan use copper strings with golden and silver polish.

The Zardozi is embroidery from Iran, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The word came from Persian, “Sewing with Gold string.” Zar means gold and Dozi means embroidery. Beautiful and expensive.


Shisheh inspired by the Amer fort

Shisheh or abhla bharat (Persian شيشه, abhala bharat; Hindi: अाभला भरत, abhla bharat; Gujarati: આભલા ભરત)) embroidery or Mirror Work embroidery. Shishes means glass in Persian. It is famous for attaching small mirrors or shiny metals, even coins, add a little glitter and sparkles for bling effect in the hand-woven and embroidery fabric. This decoration, if applied right, makes a beautiful picture to hang on the wall or become my bed’s accent.





Hand painted replica of Rajput painting/Rajasthani painting. It’s a miniatures in manuscripts or single sheets in a folio. I assume tourist can frame this is they want.

In the end I bought 1 Shisheh, an embroidery shawl for mom and a long sleeve cotton top for dad. I bought 2 sari or saree for my sister and I but bought these in another store that is cheaper. Next time, I should probably stick to the street bazaar and if only I have time, it would be lovely to visit one of the village that produce the hand block print. In total, my spending is 1100₹.


Next: Jaipur, the Elephant Festival. Hail to the Wise Chief.

Jaipur trip:

Source information: Jaipur Fabric, Maherashaw Block PrintingVictoria and Albert Museum Youtube channel, Wikipedia, Travelwiki, India Eye Witness Travel.


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