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The Vocabulary of Floral Motifs in Indian Textiles

The use of flowers in the Indian culture transcends pleasing attributes and is celebrated widely for its symbolism - a way to worship the divine, inseparable from occasions and deeply-rooted in auspicious beliefs. Each flower and each hue resonates with unique customs and traditions, evoking emotions of familiarity across cultures and communities.

Handwoven floral pattern in gold and silver zari 

Beyond the tangible, fragments of nature have for centuries been the source of artistic inspiration for painters, writers, poets and craftsmen, where flowers have almost always held a place of supremacy. The grandeur of florals is thus, spilled across the length and breadth of the country in its many traditional art forms. From Pichwai paintings of Nathdwara, hand-painted Kalamkari of Andhra Pradesh, Phulkari from Punjab, Kantha embroidery from West Bengal, Gyasar Brocades of Banaras, Pietra dura kaam of Taj Mahal, Ain-i-Akbari memoir – the list remains countless.

The introduction of florals onto woven Banarasi textiles is believed to go back to the 17th century when silk weavers from Gujarat migrated to the region, post a famine in 1603. The influx of floral motifs have a long history seeped in migration, trade and subsequently royal patronage in the Mughal era. The Mughal emperors were known to be great admirers of nature and flowers which can be seen through the famed Mughal gardens, miniature paintings and textiles from that period. Further, Islam did not encourage the use of human and animal figurines on to textiles which led to an inherent favoritism towards floral bootis, creepers and trellis amongst the predominant Muslim weaving communities. Overtime, the floral motifs and themes which developed were not only influenced by the likeness of the royals but continued to be laced with social beliefs where symbols stood for love, fertility, joy, good luck and success among several others for the wearer.

Several of the motifs we see today on Banarasi textiles have a rich Persian lineage – for instance, the multi-hued Crocus and Iris known for their beauty and sweet fragrance. Another famed motif – the Tulip is frequently seen in borders with Roses and Lilies. Marigold, synonymous with auspicious occasions was originally introduced from a foreign land and later, woven onto Brocade textiles. Jasmine and Hibiscus, used to worship the divine, continues to be woven onto yards of silk fabrics. The sacred Lotus, a symbol of purity and the cosmic union of earth, water and sky is seen across textiles and architecture resonating with the Mughal era. The glorious Gulaab – known as the ‘queen of flowers’ - a symbol of love is used extensively in Banarasi textiles. The fragrant Champa and blooming Guldaudi are all part of the celebrated vocabulary of floral motifs.

Woven floral bootis and all-over patterns in our recent collection, Gulrang  

With our latest collection, we go back to these magnificent florals. Transcending the decorating attributes, Gulrang is an ode to their seraphic symbolism and blissful hues.  

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