UNESCO launches list documenting 50 iconic Indian heritage textiles

It mentions causes for their dwindling popularity and provides strategies for their preservation

September 30, 2022 10:29 am | Updated October 22, 2022 05:57 pm IST - New Delhi

Making the cut: Hand-embroidered shawls made by the Toda community of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu on display. File photo.

Making the cut: Hand-embroidered shawls made by the Toda community of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu on display. File photo. | Photo Credit: SATHYAMOORTHY M

UNESCO on Thursday released a list of 50 exclusive and iconic heritage textile crafts of the country. Toda embroidery and Sungadi from Tamil Nadu, Himroo weaves from Hyderabad and Bandha tie and dye weaving from Sambalpur in Odisha were some of the textiles that made the cut.

Handmade for the 21st Century: Safeguarding Traditional Indian Textile lists the histories and legends behind the textiles, describes the complicated and secret processes behind their making, mentions the causes for their dwindling popularity, and provides strategies for their preservation.

According to UNESCO, one of the major challenges to the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the South Asia is lack of proper inventory and documentation. The publication, which aims to bridge this gap, brings together years of research on the 50 selected textiles.

Some of the iconic handcrafted textiles documented from north India are Khes from Panipat, Chamba rumals from Himachal Pradesh, Thigma or wool tie and dye from Ladakh and Awadh Jamdani from Varanasi.

Finding a place

From the south, Ilkal and Lambadi or Banjara embroidery from Karnataka, Sikalnayakanpet Kalamkari from Thanjavur have been included.

Kunbi weaves from Goa, Mashru weaves and Patola from Gujarat, Himroo from Maharashtra and Garad-Koirial from West Bengal also find a place among the 50 iconic textiles.

In announcing the publication, UNESCO New Delhi Director, Eric Falt added: “Textile crafts represent a very significant share of the Indian cultural heritage and have dazzled the world for centuries. Despite the pressures of industrial mass production and competition from new countries, it is essential that these iconic heritage crafts are taken stock of and promoted as contemporary treasures”.

 “It is my hope that India will consider expanding its register of elements inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by nominating one of the textile crafts featured in this publication. No textile practices from India have been included in the list so far and an inscription in the list would be due recognition of the talent and diversity of the country’s extraordinary weaving traditions,” Mr Falt said.

In addition to acting as a sample of endangered textile crafts, the UNESCO publication also includes recommendations for the protection and revitalization of these textile crafts, that cover both the broad-spectrum of issues extending from policy to grass-root based micro-interventions.

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