The vocabulary used to describe crafts and textiles is rich, varied, specialized and often unfamiliar. This glossary has been conceived as a guide whose purpose is to provide as introductory survey over this very wide field. The explanation and or definition of the most commonly used terms are intended to furnish a preliminary insight into the subject in an attempt to facilitate a deeper understanding of this very complex and vast subject.

When combined with the Bibliography section it seeks to serve as a guide for further study.



We will be adding on and updating this list regularly.


Italicised terms within the text are defined further within the Glossary.


Vernacular terms have been listed in red


Do e-mail us if there are any terms that you need defined, or if there are any terms that you are able to define for us.

This section can be searched by craft/keywords.



Thumb ring with mirror.


Term in Kantha embroidery, Bengal. With eight triangles or segments; term derived from aatchala, meaning eight-roofed. Chala refers to the sloping roofs of huts. Thus a roof can be dochala - with two segments, or charchala with four segments.


A local gum in Assam and West Bengal.


Tunic-shaped dress worn by Muslim women over trousers.

Abharanam petti

Lac-turned wooden casket with brass locks, hinges and beadings.


Women’s upper garment in Kutch, Gujarat


A wedding shawl, embroidered in silk or cotton with motifs of flowering bushes on a red, white or brown cotton ground by the Dars and Pali landowners and the Lohana and Memon merchant castes in Thar Parkar, Sind. Examples of these shawls can also be found in Banni Kutch.


A caste of Brahmin farmers of Saurashtra, Gujarat.


Mixed brocade fabric of silk and muslin with some portions designed with gold or silver thread, woven in Uttar Pradesh.

Acetic acid

An organic acid widely used while printing and dyeing. Vinegar is a dilute Acetic Acid.


Community of twice-born or high caste artisans of the South.


A ritual spoon of brass, copper, or five-metals often made with great ornamentation. It consists of a circular bowl- usually a plain hemisphere or an ornate flower-cup- to which a long handle is attached. The handle is often in the form of Vishnu, Kaliya damana Krishna, Hanuman, entwined snakes, or a multi hooded cobra. These spoons were used in household and temple rituals for symbolic purification with sacred water by transferring ritual water from one container to the other, or for sprinkling water in various directions, or for pouring ghee into the lamp, or sacrificial fire or for drinking ritual water as prasada for the grace of god.


A chemical compound, with a sour taste, that releases hydrogen ions when dissolved in water.

The strength of the acid depends upon the concentration of hydrogen ions. Acids react with bases, forming salts. Acids have a pH less than 7. Acids can be organic - such as critic, tartaric, tannic, oleic and acetic - and inorganic or mineral - such as sulphuric, hydrochloric, nitric, and phosphoric.


A Jacquard-like device used in Kanchipurarm, Tamil Nadu.


Twig-like embroidery motif used as a space filler by Raisiputras in Kutch, Gujarat


Synonym of karchob.


Fine white cloth.

Adhunik patas

In contrast to the religious patas, which are mainly devotional in character, the secular patas of Bengal are satirical and are based upon the chitrakars’ profound recognition of the contradictions in society and depict modern themes. These scrolls, known as adhunik patas or modern paintings, depict for instance, India’s independence from colonial rule or satirise the prevailing system of rationing and loss of moral values among the young.

Adi gaud

Brahmin community of stone sculptors of Gujarat and Rajasthan working in the Hindu and Jain tradition of temple architecture and sculpture.

Adi kurma

Mythical tortoise.

Adjective dye

A natural dye that requires the use of one or more mordants for effective dyeing.

Adya katti

The adya katti sword was used in Coorg and Malabar. It has a heavy, single edged blade which is inclined forward. The blade is generally 2 feet in length and is narrow at the root and broader towards the point. The hilts have no guards and are made of ivory, horn or wood.


Waist-belt in Kannada


The attraction between the fibre and dyestuff. Some dyestuffs have a natural affinity, e.g. wool and basic dyes, whereas others require the use of a mordant.


Spouted vessel generally used for wine


Adjectival form of the Persian word aftab, the sun. Used for a type of inlay where the design is cut out of silver and appears silhouetted against the black ground of the object. The surface is therefore brightly reflective.


Brownish red natural substance.


Fixing of printed colour by means of heat or steam. Originally induced by the action of air, sunlight and dew, this process gradually came to be carried out in large ageing rooms, and now in a ‘rapid ager’ (or hot-air or steam cabinet)


Basket used by men of the Adi Gallong tribe to carry rice in Arunachal Pradesh.


A caste of Hindu pastoralists and farmers. Ahir women of Kutch and Saurashtra are prolific embroiderers.


Cloth, of predominantly indigo colouring, block-printed (usually on both sides) with geometric patterning in Sind, Pakistan, Barmer in western Rajasthan and Kutch in Gujarat. Worn by Muslim men in these districts as turbans and/or lungis.


Al is a plant of the madder family. The young roots and root barks yield valuable red dye, wherein the root sugar is changed into red dye stuff. Till 1886 cultivation of madder was a monopoly of the Orient. Dried roots were imported in Italy under the name 'LIZARI' or 'ALIZARI'. The Al root was being extensively used as a dye till the synthetic alizarine was discovered in the year 1889.


Mirrored glass.


The chief colouring principle matter of madder (Rubia tinctorum L) and other red dye plants and their synthetic equivalent. Synthetic alizarine is also the name for an extensive series of chemical colours produced from anthracene, a constituent of coal tar hydrocarbons. Discovered in the year 1889, by two German scientists Graebe and Litchermann. The synthetic Alizarine red dye stuff has now replaced the Madder and Al Munjeet of the Madder family.


A chemical compound, with a bitter taste, that releases hydroxyl ions in solution. The strength of the alkali depends upon the concentration of hydroxyl ions. Alkalis react with acids, forming salts, and have a pH greater than 7. Common alkalis include ammonia, sodium and potassium hydroxides, and carbonates.


In engraved roller printing, a small space between areas of colour, so carefully calculated as to be just closed on printing - to avoid bleeding. Alternatively, in screen printing, often a small overlap planned so as to avoid possible gaps of white cloth if registration of screens is not accurately accomplished.


Traditional symbolic floor drawings painted with colours made from ground rice paste, turmeric, and vermilion. The designs are ritualistic, symbols of auspiciousness and signify worship or invocation of various deities through codified abstract design. Variations of these floor paintings exist all over India.


Auspicious symbols or diagrams outlined on the floor by women in the western Himalayas. See also Alpona; Aripona


Auspicious symbols or diagrams outlined on the floor by the women of Bengal. See also Alpana; Aripona


Mother goddess worshipped in Gujarat.

Ambari Hathi

Ceremonial elephant in Andhra Pradesh with a seat and canopy on its back for the rider.


Mango motifs


Type of cane in Garo.


Embroidered shawl of Kashmir


Nectar of the gods


Brocade without gold and silver threads.


Mixed brocade fabric from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Anaj taga

Lit. vegetable border; a border pattern resembling a row of beans.

Ananta or Angada



Angular floral pattern with the Holbein stitch in nakshi kantha embroidery, imitative of the pineapple surface; also known as lik phul.


Shoulder drape in the sari; End-piece (pallav)


Finger ring.


Oily liquid compounds, colourless when pure. It was isolated in 1826 by distilling natural indigo with lime and discovered in coal tar in 1834. In 1841 it was found that it could also be obtained by heating caustic potash with indigo, and it then received its name, which is derived from nila (Sanskrit for indigo), an-nil (Arabic) and anilera (Portugese). In 1856 William Henry Perkin revolutionized the dyeing industry by using aniline to produce the first synthetic dye, 'mauveine'. Obtained from coal tar derivates, it provides the chemical base of many modern synthetic dyes.


Substantive Dye. A dye not requiring mordant


Brocaded border design of the Maheshwari sari from Madhya Pradesh

Annatta / Annotto / Arnotto / Roucou

A dye obtained from the pulp surrounding the seeds of the Bixa orellana; chiefly used in dyeing silk an orange colour, but is of a fugitive nature.


Toe ring.


Technique of stitching a supplementary piece of fabric on to a background cloth.


The superimposition of areas of accessory fabric on a ground fabric, usually by stitching, for patterning purposes. Also the application of any accessory fabric or object to the ground fabric usually with stitches.


Ritual puja performed by Hindu pundits.


The tartar deposited from wines completely fermented, and adhering to the sides of casks as a hard curst. When purified it becomes Cream of Tartar.


A small awl with a notch near the point, used (in the manner of the European tambour hook) to embroider in chain stitch.


Hook used to embroider in chain stitch; see also Tambour.

Ari bharat

Hook embroidery of the Thar desert.


Auspicious symbols or diagrams outlined on the floor by women of Bihar. See also Alpana


Craftman who works with ari.


Technique of block printing on textiles in Kutch, Gujarat




A narrow embroidered wrapper to roll and store away a woman’s comb, mirror, eye kohl, vermilion, sandal paste and oil bottle etc. Often a tying string is seen to bind the wrap, as in later day satchets.


Local term for the castor plant in Assam.

Ashon / asan

Cloth spread for sitting at place of worship, or for an honoured guests.


A secluded abode of yogis or ascetics; a place for meditation and prayer for Hindus.

Asia rumals / chitti-rumal / telia rumals

Andhra Pradesh has long been known for its Asia rumals, usually red and black in colour, with large borders. Also known as chitti-rumals, chitti meaning "small" in Telugu, or telia rumals, telia meaning "oily", these are square kerchiefs having geometric and figurative designs such as birds, animals and flowers. Worn as turbans and lungis by men, they are used as dupattas, or shawls, and as saris by women. Executed in the ikat technique, locally known as pagdu bandhu or tie-dyeing, these rumals have a characteristic oily smell and lustrous finish. This is due to the yarn being soaked in an emulsion of sweet oil and alkaline earth for several days before it is ready to be dyed.

Asl (Outline)

In wooden hand blocks used for printing on fabric the Asl is part of the set and forms the fine outline of the pattern. It is intricately carved in relief from the wood of choice. The best wood for asl is obtained from the oil extracting press (chakki) used in the villages. The most delicate block in the printing set, asl it is the first block to be carved and the print of this is then used for the filler blocks of dattas and gad.

Astadal padma

Motif of Eight-petalled lotus.




Rice paste used as an adhesive to bind pulped paper to make papier mache in Kashmir.


Term for mashru fabric.


Rose water sprinkler




Term for bronze and/or copper in the Rigveda which later came to mean iron.


Books of Indian medical science.



An arrow.


‘Town bred’ doll popular in Darbhanga, Bihar


Plain cotton material used on top of the printing blanket to prevent this becoming soiled with excess dye.

Backstrap-tension loom

A two-bar frameless loom with a backstrap, belt or wooden yoke passing around the weaver’s back and secured to the breast-beam. The leaning forwards or backwards against the strap, while at the other end of the warp, another beam, known as the warp-beam, is held secure. It is also known as a back-tension loom or a body tension loom.


A thick variety of flattened metallic wire.


Closely-woven silk fabric with all over or partly gold or silver thread patterns used specially for garments.


Necklace with floral design.


Punjabi woman's ceremonial shawl, where almost all the fabric is covered with embroidery; see also Phulkari.


(lit.’garden’) A Punjabi woman’s shawl worn at weddings and some other ceremonies. Embroidered in heer (floss) silk so that the background of hand-woven khaddar cloth is almost completely covered.


A style of the Phulkari embroidery of Punjab that covers the entire surface of the fabric such that only the floss silk is visible.


Tie-dyed shoulder cloth traditionally worn by Harijan women of Gujarat and Rajasthan.


Type of the doll made in Sawantwadi, Maharashtra


Armband worn on the upper arm; from baju, meaning upper arm and bandh, meaning to tie around.


Herringbone stitch done on the reverse as shadow work.


Back stitch; part of the repertoire of nakshi kantha embroidery.

Bala or Balay

Rounded bangle.


Child Krishna



Balish chapa / oshar

A pillow cover with Kantha embroidery,Bengal.


A flat, single piece, pillow cover in Kantha embroidery.


A suburban village, famous for its highly skilled silk weavers who used an indigenous technique, the jala system, to produce intricate designs on the loom. The last master-weaver of the Baluchar tradition. Dubraj, died before the end of the 19th century. The Baluchar village itself also disappeared with the shifting course of the Ganges river.

Baluchar had enjoyed the special patronage of the Murshidabad court since the 17th century and developed a school of design where stylised forms of human and animal figures were most interestingly integrated with floral and geometrical motifs in the elaborately woven material. The Nawabs and Musilm aristocrats used the material produced in raw silk mainly as tapestry, but Hindu noblemen had it made into saris in which the ground scheme of decoration became a very wide pallav, often with a panel of large mango or paisley motifs at the centre. Efforts to revive the fine Baluchar tradition have recently yielded some success.

Surrounded by smaller rectangles depicting different scenes. The sari borders were narrow and had floral and foliage motifs and the whole ground of the sari was covered with small paisley and other floral designs in restrained but bright colour schemes.

An interesting feature of earlier Baluchari saris was the stylised bird and animal motifs that were incorporated in the paisley and other floral decorations.

The silk yarn used at Baluchar was not twisted and therefore had a soft, heavy texture. The ground colours in which the cloth was available were limited, but they were permanent and are still fresh after hundreds of years.

In recent years, expert weavers in Jiaganj in Murshidabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh have successfully reproduced old Baluchar saris, using the traditional jala technique.


A type of silk brocade sari produced in Baluchar in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal in the 18th and 19th centuries, with supplementary weft motifs of diagonal rows of small flowers worked on the central field and in the same technique vivid depictions of warriors, aristocrats, ships, carriages and cannon on the pallav end pieces. True Baluchar saris have not been made since about 1900, but copies made in the traditional manner have been produced at Varanasi since the mid-1950s.


Women who do the tying for the tie-dye pattern.

Bandhani / bandhej

Common term for a Hindu shopkeeper, merchant or money-lender.

Bandhani / bandhej

The Gujarati word for the resist technique of tie-and-dye.


Technique of tie-dyeing designs on cloth in minute dots, distinctive of Gujarat.


Hair Ornament.


Common term for a Hindu shopkeeper, merchant or money-lender.


A tribe of north Indian origin who are reputed to have moved south to the Deccan plateau when transporting the baggage train of Aurangzeb’s invading army.

Their traditional caste occupation was carting. Now they are classed as gypsies and sometimes as farmers. Banjara women produce some of the most intricately stitched folk embroidery in all India

Bank or Bankmal

Twisted anklet.

Bansphor/ Basor

Worker in cane and bamboo in North India.



Barfi (Half-barfi)

Design that is diamond shape/half diamond, named after a sweet of this shape.


A toran (embroidered doorway hanging) in the shape of an arch from Kutch and Saurashtra.


Smooth fabric made from a fibrous plant substance, usually inner bark or bast, which is softened, flattened and felted by soaking and beating.


With twelve triangles, or segments; see aatchala.

Base fibre

Strong fibrous plant material - e.g. hemp, ramie, flax, nettle and banana - which was commonly used for woven cloth and in many areas predated the introduction of cotton.

Base weave

The background weave or foundation of the fabric into which supplementary elements are interlaced.


Wedding head-dress among the Warli tribals of Maharashtra

Bashon dhakar rumal

A cover for plates, with Kantha embroidery, Bengal

Basket weave

A style of weave in which the pattern has the appearance of matting or basketry.


An often somewhat rigid fabric constructed of interlocking fibres which are no woven on a loom with shed openings. Also known as basketry interlacing.

Bast fibre

‘Soft’ fibre obtained from the stem structure of dicotyledonous plants.


Urban tenement.


Metal embroidery on silk base.


A Javanese word for a resist process of patterning and dying cloth with wax. Such fabrics reached fantastic heights of virtuosity on the island of Java in Indonesia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after the introduction of machine-made cotton fabrics permitted more finely controlled designs.


Shellac or purified lac, and lacquer, are used as bases into which mineral colour pigments are mixed and moulded into cubes of coloured lac called battis. The surface of the wooden object is first smoothened so that cracks and pores may be filled in. A batti of the required colour is pressed onto it while it revolves on the lathe. The heat generated as a consequence causes the lac to melt and spread over the wooden object.

Batwa / Batua

Small envelope shaped bag for keeping money or betel leaves etc.


Itinerant minstrals of Bengal.


The Bauls are a mystic sect of Bengal whose religious observance is expressed largely in music and dance. They have a very rich musical tradition with their own typical instruments on which they accompany their songs and dances. Their settlements, small communes called akharas, are scattered throughout East (Bangladesh) and West Bengal. Mostly drawn from rural lower and, occasionally, upper caste Hindus, Bauls, both men and women, leave their homes and society to join the community life of the akharas. Caste distinctions are shed and they are all equals.

Baul Kadi

Spindle-shaped motif in Orissan sari.


Half-rounded bangle.

Bead weaving

The threading of small beads on to the weft yarn before it is inserted into the warp.


A general term for the application of bead networks or strips of beads to a ground fabric.


A bark-cloth beater is a mallet with a textured stone or wooden head, used to pound the softened bark fibres into a flat fabric.


Bamboo basket for carrying seeds in Sarguja, Madhya Pradesh


Wavy pattern in Kantha embroidery, Bengal.


Meander or zigzag motif in Kantha embroidery, Bengal.


Rolling pin, in Northern India


Votive terracotta figure of a monkey on wheels in Bastar, Madhya Pradesh


A pair of curved tongs meant for pots.


An embroidered, appliquéd or beadwork hanging which is hung right across the walls of kathi houses in Saurashtra, Gujarat.


Nose ornament.


Hindu month between August and September


Priest of the Dushadh community of Bihar


Hindu religious song.


Javelin in Northern India


Cannabis sattvica


A caste of Hindu farmers who are largely settled in Kutch but can also be found in Saurashtra and the rest of Gujarat.


Embroidery in Kutch, Gujarat


A caste of herders found in Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat.


A bard, often performing the function of genealogist, Rajasthan




A caste of Hindu traders who are mainly centred in Kutch.


Loose warp at edges


See Besan.

Bhitti chitra

Paintings or drawings executed on a wall


Itinerant narrator performers of the painted scrolls of Rajasthan, sometimes accredited with shamanistic powers.

Bhorat Phor

The filler stitch, which unlike satin stitch is heavy on the surface and very light on the reverse, Kutch, Gujarat.

Bhuj / katti

The bhuj or katti, as its name implies, is the well known dagger from the city of Bhuj in Kutch, Gujarat but it was also popular in Sind as well as north India. The bhuj is a dagger with a unique shape. The blade is about 4 centimetres wide and about 20 centimetres long, with an S-shaped edge. The grip is of steel, circular in section and is about 50 centimetres long, i.e. it is more than twice as long as the blade. At the base of the blade is a stylised elephant head and for this reason it is sometimes called an ‘elephant dagger’. Due to its axed like shape the weapon is sometimes also referred to as an axe knife. The bhuj is, in fact, a combination weapon which can be used for thrusting and piercing as well as for slashing and cutting; its log grip is also suitable for two handed use.

Bhumi shobha

Paintings or drawings executed on the floor to enhance its beauty.

Bhurkul (or gular)

Light wood used in Varanasi to make toys.

Bhuta ganas

Attendants of Shiva.


Deities of coastal Karnataka.


Shrine of bhuta deities of coastal Karnataka, usually near a peepal (ficus religiosa) or banyan tree.


Toe rings worn by married women in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh.


The bichwa literally means a scorpion. This dagger was originally a Maratha weapon, and has a short, two edged, double curved blade. The hilt, which is padded towards its knuckles, is formed as a loop in which the hand is placed.


Bidri describes metalwork produced by a technique found only in India: objects are cast from an alloy in which zinc predominates but which may include small amounts of lead as well as copper and tin. The surface of the object is made smooth and a solution of copper sulphate darkens it temporarily for the next stage of engraving. The engraving tools cut the design into the metal, which is then lighter in colour than the darkened surface and enables the pattern to be seen more clearly.

The inlay of gold and/or silver wire on the blackened surface is called bidri after Bidar, a town of its patronage and production for nearly 300 years in the Deccan. The inlay process involves sketching the design onto the surface of the object using a kalam or a needle-sharp implement and then engraving and chasing the design with a cheelne-ki-kalam or chisel. This is followed by the chappat-kalam or the blunt-edged chisel for precisely embedding the fine silver or gold wires, previously drawn from a taar-patti having holes of varying diameters, onto the surface. This technique is also called tarkashi.


Inlay of gold and silver wire on the blackened surface of an alloy of zinc and copper named after Bidar, a town in Karnataka.


Grid pattern on the sheetalpati mat in Assam.


Land measure


Mythological bird symbolising immortality.

Binding thread

The resist fibre (often strips of palm-leaf) tied in patterns around the warp or weft threads. This prevents dye from entering those sections of the threads. After the dye process, the resist bindings are removed before the patterned threads are woven.


A close-knit cluster identifying itself with a sub-caste or caste-like group.


A caste which slices bamboo in Northern India


Steamed meat and rice dish.


Hindu herding caste of western India, followers of twenty-nine (bishnui) sacred precepts. They are vegetarians and are noted for their care of wildlife.


To whiten by exposure to sunlight (ancient) or by chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite (modern).

Block Printing

Decoration of a fabric by means of a carved wooden block dipped in dye.

Block printing

Method of printing a pattern on cloth (with a resist or mordant) before dyeing using a block, usually of carved wood, or with a raised design of metal strips or pins. Sometimes a thickened dye is directly printed.


An article, usually a small rod, around which the weft thread is wound for insertion into the warp during weaving. Also a small pin of wood, with a notch, used in lace-making.

Bobbin lace

Interlaced fabric made by manipulating groups of many separate threads by means of attached bobbins. The work is usually done on a pillow, hence the alternative term, pillow lace.

Body-tension loom

A two-bar frameless loom with a backstrap, belt or wooden yoke passing around the weaver’s back and secured to the breast-beam. The leaning forwards or backwards against the strap, while at the other end of the warp, another beam, known as the warp-beam, is held secure. It is also known as a back-tension loom or a body tension loom.

Bois jaune

Fustic, yellow wood.


String and rod puppets of Tamil Nadu

Bonded fabric

A lightweight, usually knitted, cloth which is strengthened and thickened by having a lining material fixed to it permanently by means of heat and pressure. Often a very thin layer of foam interlining is placed between two layers of the fabric.


Waistband of tiny silver beads that resemble smallpox postules and are meant to ward off the disease.


A style of embroidery, primarily consisting of pako embroidery with scattered white single chain stitches, used by Haliputra women in Kutch, Gujarat.


A square embroidered kantha used to wrap valuables when trunks and suitcases were not available. Possibily is a deriative from the local word ‘bosta’ or bundle.


Traditional danglers on silver necklets worn by Lambadi tribal women of Andhra Pradesh


The term used in late Georgian times (when dark printed grounds were in fashion) for the thick edge the block cutter left to his outlines to make the fitting of the background block easier.


An instrument, usually made be bent bamboo and held taut with twine stretched between each end, used to fluff cotton fibre during the carding process. The string of the bow is struck to produce vibrations which loosen any packed cotton fibres.


Shrines visited by the Brahmin castes in Darbhanga, Bihar


Members of the highest priestly caste whose men wear the sacred thread.


A general term to describe a flat, decorative, woven or plaited tape or band used particularly to trim border.

Braid weaving

The process of producing narrow bands of braid. Some types of braid are woven on narrow looms, while other braid is produced by interlacing elements by plaiting or twining.


The beam in the backstrap tension loom closest to the weaver, around which the woven section of the warp moves or is rolled. It is also known as the cloth-beam. The backstrap of the loom is attached to this beam.


A general term referring to the patterning of woven fabric by means of supplementary threads. It is usually applied to silk fabric richly patterned with gold or silver weft thread.


Local term for reversible border of the Maheshwari sari.


Silver mixture used to fill in etched pattern on pre-fired pots of Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh.


Scarf or sash, worn by bridegrooms in Kutch and Saurashtra and Thar Parkar, Sind.


Stiff cotton used for lining while couching.


Pulped paper used by Kashmiri craftsman to make papier mache items.


The cutting tool (also known as a ‘graver’) used by a hand engraver to incise lines on a copper cylinder or steel die.


Concealing over garment worn by Muslim women


Make shiny by rubbing with a hard, smooth object.


Kashmiri word for single flower or sprig motifs on the field of the fabric.




Big floral motif.


Saris with butis or tiny floral motifs.

Butadar aath phulia

Type of Orissan ikat sari.


Embroidery design used by herding Jats in Kutch, Gujarat


Small floral motif.


Flower design in textiles. The ‘Paisley’ cone design of Kashmir is also termed butti.



A general term for polishing or glazing fabric or paper.


Plain unprinted bleached or unbleached cotton, often used as back cloth in printing.


The Javanese name for a small batik tool consisting of a wooden handle with a copper reservoir from which a spout permits the controlled application of the molten wax to the cloth surface.


The Javanese term for a metal stamp, usually constructed of strips of sheet copper, used in the batik process to apply molten wax to the cloth surface.

Card weaving

A band weaving process in which warps are threaded through holes punched in tablets or cards which are turned to create shed openings for the weft to pass through.


A method of preparing fibers for spinning. It is used to even out the density of short fibers, most often wool, by laying them on the teeth of a wire brush (called a card) and scraping them with another matching wire brush. Cards with metal teeth are first recorded in Europe in the 13th century. Yarns spun from carded wool tend to be weak and spongy.


Safflower, an annual plant cultivated in South Europe, Egypt and Asia, for the red dye from its flowers.

Cast (blocks)

Blocks made of type metal, introduced in the 1850s. Many casts of small repeats were made and riveted on to a hardwood base to form a large block. Also known as stereo blocks.


System of stratification in Hindu society which combines a complex set of rules governing intermarriage with a rigid occupational hierarchy.

Caustic soda (Sodium Hydroxide)

Very strong Alkali used for scouring, dyeing and finishing of cotton.


A common flower motif made up of petals that appear cut or split into angular shape.


Hindu month of spring between March and April.


Covering cloth.


Potter’s wheel in Northern India


Grinding mill in Northern India


A square hanging, embroidered, appliquéd or of beadworked, from Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat.


The wheel, both a Buddhist and Hindu symbol of Divine knowledge (Dharma).


Potters who use the wheel in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh


Round zari with hole in the centre.

Chakshudana pat

Literally, the "eye bestowal painting" is one carried by the jadu patuas of Bengal to the family of a recently deceased individual wherein all but the eyes are painted, signifying the unincorporated wandering spirit of the dead. It is only after the patua has filled in the eyes that the spirit finds a permanent abode. Also see Jadu-Patuas.


Type of zari motif for highlighting design.


Round tray-like fish traps of Assam


Decorative wall hangings, usually less than two feet square, Kutch, Gujarat.

Chamba rumals

Chamba rumals or kerchiefs, from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, depict mythological and court scenes using the running stitch in outline and darn stitch in fillings with silk threads on muslin. At their best, the scenes appear exactly the same on either side of the fabric.






Magnolia bud


Embroidery design for churi, Gracia Jat, Kutch, Gujarat.




A large, usually square, embroidered, appliquéd or block-printed cloth used as a canopy at marriages and other ceremonies in Gujarat and western Rajasthan.


Oil lamp in Kerala.


Blunt edge chisel in North India

Char paek

"Four will make one", a design motif in Ajrakh print of Kutch, Gujarat


Cauldron for cooking payasam, a ritual meal. Made by the cire-perdue method of metal casting by the Moosaris of Kerala.


The Moosari community of traditional metal casters of the Kammalan caste in Kerala have perfected the complex technique of casting large cauldrons in one single piece, using the lost-wax process. The charakku and the uruli are the two important vessels made by the Musaris. So arduous is the process of preparing the clay mould, the wax replica and the final casting, that elaborate ritual prescriptions are observed by the Musaris for a faultless casting. The preferred metal for casting is bronze.

The stark simplicity of the charakku with its smooth spatial contours lends a resolute solemnity to its size and utility as a ritual cooking vessel for payassam.


A pastoral caste of western India, often bards to the local courts.

Charan chitra

Painting carried by itinerant picture showman


A pounce, used for tracing the outlines of paintings in the miniature tradition, Rajasthan


Chequered pattern.


Literally, one with four legs, a bed.


Brocaded border design of Maheshwari sari.


Ornament engraver in Northern India


Festival celebrated in Orissa


A small kiosk or pavilion with umbrella-like dome, Rajasthan


Four sectioned roof ; it became a prominent motif in the Rajshahi Kantha geometric form of embroidery, West Bengal.


A caste of Muslim carters found in Sind, whose patchwork quilts are noted for their beauty.


Grid motif in the painted pottery of Kutch, Gujarat


Traditional game of cross board dice

Cheelne ki kalam

Chisel for engraving and chasing the design in North India


Square or rectangular pattern on the sheetal pati of Assam and West Bengal.


To print, in Northern India


Spring festival in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa involving elaborate ritual dance dramas in honour of Nata Bhairava, the fearful dancing form of Shiva.


Harvest festival celebrated in Madhya Pradesh


The block printer caste in Northern India. The word chhipa or printer is derived from the Hindi word chhapna, "to print".


Chikan embroidery now practised mainly in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Executed in white thread on white muslin, the floral motifs employ satin stitch, buttonhole stitch, darn stitch, knot stitch, netting and appliqué work in a subtle shadowy lace appearance. Noor Jehan, wife of the Mughal emperor Jehangir, is said to have introduced Chikan embroidery.


Floral whitework embroidery, principally from Lucknow and Bengal.


A coiled wire with lustrous shine.


The chilanum, a dagger with a double-edged, recurved blade, generally has two or more grooves. The hilt is beautifully designed with a wide forked pommel topped by a button and the quillons are of similar shape. Occasionally it has a knuckle guard. It is not clear whether the origins are Maratha or Nepalese.


Silk embroidery on silk produced by Chinese embroiderers in Surat in Gujarat during the 19th and early 20th centuries, depicting Chinese motifs and using Chinese techniques.


Autumn maple leaf, a floral motif employed by Kashmiri papier-mâché painters.


Term of the most refined variety of silk i.e. mulberry, probably introduced into India from China and hence the term.

Chini thikra

Broken china mosaic.


Hindu word meaning coloured and variegated which became corrupted in England to ‘chintz’: a printed floral cotton furnishing fabric on a white or natural ground.


A mordant-painted and sometimes batik resist-dyed Indian cotton fabric which usually features an elaborate flowering tree of life on a rocky mound.

Though in English the term is generally applied to highly glazed, printed cotton.


Hereditary painters of Sawantwadi, Maharashtra



Chitrakathi/ Chitrakatha

The Chitrakathis, a nomadic community of storytellers, were once found all over Maharashtra and some parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Until quite recently they would travel from village to village, unpack their pothi or bundle of rectangular paintings, and narrate myths and legends from the epics, folklore and local legends preserved in their oral tradition.

The painted narratives or Chitrakatha now mainly from Pinguli, Maharashtra, are executed in rectangular panels, generally pasted back-to-back on both sides. They are held up for the audience by means of a bamboo stick and used as aids to narration of legends to the accompaniment of music and songs. There is no clear demarcation of foreground or background and the figures seem to converge and superimpose in a style characteristic of these paintings.

Chlorinated wool

Wool treated with chlorine to decrease the amount of shrinkage and to increase the uptake of dye, and as a preparation prior to printing.


Refers to pure gold, in North India


The eye pattern. One of the most prolific styles of kantha embroidery, Bengal.


Square mondol, or demarcated square in kantha embroidery, Bengal.


Backless bodice or blouse which forms part of the woman's costume in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Sindh.

Choot jabra jamdani

Design on sheetalpatti, in Assam and West Bengal


A phulkari shawl made by the maternal grandmother of a Punjabi girl for presentation at her wedding. The chope is embroidered with a type of double darning stitch so that the design will appear identical on both sides of the shawl.


Jath woman's full-skirted dress.


Cylindrical trap used in Madhya Pradesh for catching fish in flowing water


Sacred enclosure within an auspicious square whose four corners face the four cardinal directions.

Chowka purne

Auspicious symbols or diagrams outlined on the floor by women in Uttar Pradesh

Chrome dyes

A group of dyes which use a chrome compound as a mordant.


Forehead ornament, given to Sita by her father Janaka in the Ramayana.


Traditional dress of Jat women;(see also gagah) in Kutch, Gujarat.


The Afghan knife or churra, also called the Khyber knife, although used mainly by the Afghans, has had a wide distribution in India from Mughal times. Indian Museums and Armouries have this weapon in large numbers. The blade can measure anything from 30 centimetres to 70 centimetres and the longer Afghan churra can really not be included in the category of a dagger. The weapon is single edged and its characteristic feature is a perfectly straight back blade. The back edge is thick and reinforced to form a T-shaped cross section. The front edge of the blade tapers gradually from the hilt to the point. The hilt is formed by two hafts of wood, horn or bone, rarely ivory. The lower part of the hilt generally carries an ornamented metal mount. The sheath is wooden, covered with leather or velvet and is reinforced with a metal mount at the tip.

Cire Perdue; Lost wax metal casting

As the name suggests, the lost-wax technique involves the creation of a solid or hollow replica of wax or a wax-like substance, of the image to be cast. The wax from this replica is melted and allowed to flow out, leaving a void to be later filled in by molten metal. Unlike reusable moulds of modern casting technology, the lost-wax method requires each metal image to be created afresh from a different mould so that no two images can ever be identical. The technique of solid casting is predominant in the South, mainly in Tamil Nadu (Swamimalai in Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Chingalpet and Salem), Bangalore and Mysore in Karnataka, Palghat in Kerala and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, that of "hollow" casting (in which case an inner clay mould is required) is largely prevalent in Central and Eastern India.

Coal tar colours

Colours obtained by distillation and chemical treatment from coal tar, a product of coal during the making of gas.


Red insect mordant dye, obtained mainly from the parasite Dactylopius coccus O. Costa, which lives on prickly cacti plants.

Colour block

A block, usually of wood, filled with felt to facilitate the printing of bigger areas of colour with as little unevenness as possible.

Colour trough

In engraved or surface roller printing, the colour container in which the furnishing brush or roller rotates. Also known as ‘colour box’.


A rendering of a design on printed fabric in a set of colours differing from the original. Fabrics are usually printed in a set of at least four colourways.


A piece of loom apparatus consisting usually of fine /wood slivers standing vertically between two horizontal bars. The comb acts as a warp-spacer and, when weaving, the weaver beats the comb against the newly inserted weft thread with her sword. It is also known as the reed.

Comb loom

Any type of loom which includes a comb or reed for spacing the warps. In most instances this type of loom is characterized by a discontinuous warp.


A method of preparing fibres for spinning. Fibres are aligned by drawing them through the teeth of a single large comb or transferring them between two combs. The process also separates longer fibres from shorter ones. Yarns spun from combed wool are smoother and stronger than yarns from carded wool, and are known as "worsted".

Commercial fibres

Threads spun by machine. These include natural fibres such as cotton and silk and synthetic fibres.

Compound ikat

The ikat-resist dyeing process applied separately to both warp and weft threads. The fabric is woven to achieve a balanced plain or tabby weave so that the patterning of both sets of loom threads emerges.


Conch the large white sea-shell with a spiral inner structure is used in Bengal, Orissa and other parts of India for blowing as a horn during religious ceremonies. Before any use, it has to be cleaned thoroughly with some blowing shells decorated with elaborately carved designs. Its use as a craft material is confined to Bengal, exclusively to the Sankhakar community. The shell is collected during an annual season in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kutch and is usually sold to nakhodas-muslim wholesalers, who retail them to craftsmen from their Calcutta bases.

Continuous circulating warp

A set of warp threads or partially woven cloth, which make a continuous circle around the breast-beam and warp-beam. When the completed cloth is removed from the loom, it is also circular.

Continuous supplementary weft (weaving)

Supplementary weft patterning in which the extra ornamental weft threads are carried back and forth across the full width of the cloth.

Coppered block

A printing block made by hammering in copper or brass strips of varying section.


The art of making coppered blocks.


Fibre from the floss of the seed heads of cotton shrubs of the Gossypium family. (See also handspun cotton)


An embroidery stitch in which threads are laid on the surface of the cloth and tacked in position with small stitches of another thread, which may themselves be arranged or coloured to create a pattern. Decoration with metallic or metallic-wrapped thread is often couched both for economy (no precious metal is wasted on the back) and practicality (the metallic-wrapped thread is not fine or flexible enough to be easily pulled through cloth.

Counted thread

Embroidery technique whereby an even number of background threads are covered with stitchery, in contrast to freely drawn work.

Cowdial saris

Murshidabad in West Bengal is also famous for its cowdial saris made of fine mulberry silk with flat, deep-red or maroon borders, made with the help of three shuttles. The borders are topped with a fine serrated design in gold zari and a few fine lines in gold on the ground of the sari, close to the borders. The fine gold lines are supposed to resemble the fine trail left on its path by a live cowrie mollusc-thus giving it its name, cowdial.

Crochet lace

Open fabric formed by interloping threads with a hooked instruments.


White-on-white embroidery characteristic of Lucknow.


An embroidery style in which two flat stitches of equal length cross the same small area of ground fabric at opposite angles.


See Polymerisation.

Cut-and-drawn thread

A type of openwork embroidery which depends on the cutting and withdrawing of yarn from a woven ground fabric, and the stitching of the remaining threads and edges into decorative patterns. Also known as drawn threadwork.



Stem stitch in Kantha embroidery, Bengal.


A coiled thin wire.


Circular boxes with a three tiered tapering dome shaped lid, standing on three legs used in Gujarat.


The Dablo a Saurashtrain brass-container is a vessel peculiar to Gujarat and not found anywhere else in India. The height of this circular container varies from a small 15cm to a large 160 cm. It consists of a circular box resting on three hollow tapering legs. The lid is attached to the box with a dovetailed hinge. On top of the lid are usually attached two heavy brass-rings, pierced into one another. The lid is normally ornamented by embossed crisscrosses and parallel lines, circles and triangles. This box was an essential part of every Kathi and Rajput house of Saurashtra. It is said that precious ornaments and clothes were stored in these boxes and during plundering raids such boxes were lowered into wells, and they were pulled out with a rope and an iron hook after the danger had passed.


Indigo resist print.


The dagger, with its short blade, has always been a thrusting or stabbing weapon, unlike the long bladed sword, which could be designed not only as a thrusting weapon but also as a cutting and slashing weapon. The dagger has generally been an auxiliary weapon for soldiers and was used in close combat. It was also part of the formal attire of courtiers and other civilians.


Shrine of the daiva or diety in South India




Merchant or broker.


Double-layered split bamboo basket for storing fine grain in Madhya Pradesh


North Indian salver


Hour-glass shaped hand drum associated with Shaivite deities


A general term applied to fabrics patterned by floating weaves dissimilar on each surface.


Tooth-like motif in Orissan sari


Bill hook in North Eastern India


The dao a sword used in Eastern India by the Nagas and other tribes; has a blade that is about 2 ½ feet in length, straight and narrow at the hilt, broad and square at the tip. It is usually set in a handle of wood. Daos are carried in wooden cases, one side of which is open where cane bands keep it in position.


Court of the king.


Plant fibre


Shrine and tomb of a Muslim saint.


Muslim tomb


Landowning caste of Sind.


Ritual viewing of the deity by devotees for seeking blessings




Ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu

Datta (Filler)

In wooden hand blocks used for printing on fabric the Datta block is part of the set and is carved in bold relief corresponding exactly to the shape and size of the asl and gad blocks.


Temple motif in Orissan sari


School of law


An old form of lithographic printing for embroidery transfers. The design was transferred from the tissue paper on which it was printed, usually by ironing; thick enamel- like pigments were used.


Temple pinnacle motif in Orissa sari


A cleansing agent.

Deva nartiki

Celestial dancer


Village shrine of the male deity in Madhya Pradesh


Male deity.


Literally, devoted caretaker of the deity, temple dancers symbolically wedded to the deity.


Village shrine of female deity in tribal Madhya Pradesh


Female deity.


Oriya term for the main ground of a sari


Rice stalk, symbol of Lakshmi and also prosperity, used as a motif in weaving and embroidery.


Dome-shaped lamp receptacle for deity in Gujarat


Oriya term for sari border


Barrel-shaped grain storage basket with lid in Bihar


Shield in Northern India

Dhaniya ki bel

Coriander creeper in Northern India


Dormitory for pilgrims attached to temple.

Dharaniyo / darnia / orchar

Rectangular embroidered or appliquéd cloth used in Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat to cover a pile of quilts when they are not in use.


Rest house for Hindu pilgrims.


Split-bamboo basket for grain storage in Madhya Pradesh


Dancing waves; is used for the undulating wave line in embroidery.


Drummer in Northern India


An unstitched waist-cloth, passed between the legs and tucked; a common male dress in northern India.


Man's loincloth.


A man’s lower unsewn garment of two and half yards draped between the legs and folded in at the waist. Hindu widows saris are also referred to as dhoti, as they are of similar white cloth with a very narrow border.


A rectangular length of unstitched cotton cloth (usually approximately four yards long and made of thin muslin) which is tied to form a loose pair of trousers. Worn by Hindu men.

Dhuli chitra

Painting or drawing executed on the floor


Black tar-like substance that becomes pliant and elastic upon the application of heat. It is extracted from the secretion of a particularly tree.


Woven floor coverings


A small cylinder of steel which is hand-engraved with one or more repeats of a small-scale pattern, then hardened and used to produce the mill.


Generally applied to immersing cloth, etc. in the blue vat.


Goddess of light


Hindu festival of lights

Direct dyes

A class of dyeing which can be applied to cotton and other vegetable fibres without the use of a mordant. They are easy to apply but on cellulose fibres are only of moderate wash fastness.

Direct style

The type of textile printing in which the mordant and the colouring matter are applied simultaneously. It was very rare until the development of artificial dyestuffs.


An agent, which removes the colour from previously dyed cloth. Hence the ‘discharge style’ of printing fabric.

Discharge printing

Method of producing lighter free-standing motifs on a darker ground by printing a previously dyed fabric with a chemical reducing agent which will withstand the action of the reducing agent can be included in the printing paste, and during treatment the dyed colour will be removed from the fabric and replaced by the non-dischargeable colour.

Discontinuous fabric

A fabric woven in such a manner that it is removed from the loom as a non-circulating, flat rectangle. The manner of warping the loom through a comb usually results in a discontinuous length of fabric.

Discontinuous supplementary weft (weaving)

Supplementary weft weaving in which extra weft threads are worked back and forth across limited areas of warp to shape pattern units.


The dried pods of Caesalpina coriaria growing in the West Indies and S. America; they contain 20 to 35% tannin and a brown colouring matter.


Small clay oil lamp.


Holder of the lamp in the Dev Narayanan ritual in Rajasthan


A traversing steel blade, which is placed in contact with the engraved cylinder and serves to scrape off the surplus colour from the raised (non-printing) surface. The term is now applied to any blade-type squeegee.


Woollen twill weave blankets in geometric patterns, Himachal Pradesh


Couching technique using cotton thread.


A loom material woven in self-coloured checks or lines.

Double ikat

The ikat-resist dyeing process applied separately to both warp and weft threads. The fabric is woven to achieve a balanced plain or tabby weave so that the patterning of both sets of loom threads emerges.


Ladle made of gourd in Gujarat



Drop-weight spindle

A small hand-held rod weighted with a disc (spindle-whorl) which is allowed to spin freely from some height, to twist the fibre into thread. (See also spinning)


See Mordants.


Rabha fish basket, Assam


Headscarf for women made up of two breadths of fabric. Nowadays usually worn draped over the shoulders rather than the head.




A method of printing in which both sides of the cloth receive the pattern - either at the same time (as with the Aljaba Duplex rotary screen printing machine) or one side immediately after the other (as in duplex engraved roller work).

Durga pata

These paintings, usually on round terracotta plaques are used for puja in modest homes where a real Protima idol, is beyond the budget.

Durree / dari

A thick cotton floor covering, Rajasthan


Hindu festival, in October, celebrated in honour of Rama and Durga

Dyed style

A way of patterning cloth in which the design is painted or printed in mordant and subsequently dyed. Only those areas so mordant take the colour in a fast form.


A process through which molecules imparting colour are chemically bonded to fibers. The fibers may be un-spun, or in the form of yarns or fabrics, during the dyeing process.


See print-paste.

Dyer’s sprit

Aqua fortis, 10 parts; sal ammoniac, 5 parts; tin 2 parts; dissolved together.

Dyestuff or dye

Natural or traditional dyes are organic chemicals produced by plants or animals, such as indigo, and inorganic chemical compounds, such as iron oxides.


Materials used to colour threads or fabric. True dyes penetrate the fabric and bind to the fibres. See also aniline dyes, natural dyes, vegetable dyes.


Eka Shringi Nandi

Single-horned bull deity of the bhuta cult of spirit worship in coastal Karnataka


A one string instrument played by village minstrels.


Embroidery, or the art of embellishment of fabrics by means of needle worked stitches. With raised designs and an extensive variety of stitches and materials including threads of silk, cotton, gold or silver upon the surface of woven cloth.

Embroidery frame / stretcher

A rectangular wooden frame, with tapes of fabric fastened to each side, to which the ground or backing fabric for the embroidery is usually attached by stitching or lacing. Frames are used to keep the ground fabric taut and are especially necessary for couched metal thread work.


Metal collars fitted to the ends of rotary screens with adhesive. They are given register marks so that each screen can be correctly fitted in position in the printing machine.


The incising of lines in a metal or other surface by means of a graver or burin. In the textile trade this term is still used even when the pattern rollers are produced by etching or by pressure from the raised surface of a mill in an ‘engraving machine’.


To enter wool, to put it into the dye or mordant liquor.


A type of wild silk produced mainly in Assam, West Bengal and neighbouring states.


Silkworm that feeds on the leaves of the castor plant producing glossy raw silk


The craft of producing an intaglio design in metal by means of lines drawn through a thin protective coating (usually of wax) which covers the plate or cylinder; the lines in the exposed metal are then bitten into by acid.


Loose trousers worn by women in Gujarat



A generic term for all fibrous constructions.

False dyes

Dyes such as turmeric that fade rapidly upon exposure to sunlight also called fugitive dyes.


Two vertical beams of karchob.

Fast colours (or dyes)

Dyes that do not fade appreciably when exposed to light (lightfast); dyes that are resistant to washing (washfast); dyes that are fast to rubbing (rubfast); and dyes that are resistant to sweat (sweatfast). Some dyes are lightfast but not washfast, etc.


A fabric made of loose, haphazardly arranged wool fibers, which have surface scales that stick to each other as a result of the felt-making process. By the felting process a firm fabric is produced from the matting and adherence of a mass of fibres lying indiscriminately in all directions by mechanical processes such as pressure, moisture, pounding. This process includes disarranging the wool fibers, placing them in a thick layer, and then subjecting them to moisture and extensive friction over several hours, causing the fibers to shrink and mat together. In Central Asia, nomadic peoples live in circular tents called yurts, whose roofs and walls are covered in felt.


The basic component of cloth - an individual strand. A general term referring to strands of plant or animal issue, of naturally limited length, used in the construction of fabrics. Twisted fibres refer to the twisting of two or more strands of unspun fibrous material. Fibres normally have a definite length, unlike filaments, which can be of any length.


The design element on a textile which contains a wide and often repetitive pattern. While usually occupying a central place in a design structure, the field on some Asian textiles may be divided by a head-panel.


To effect more permanent chemical combination.

Fixing solution

A solution composed of a weekly alkaline substance, such as calcium carbonate, that facilities more permanent chemical combination of an alum mordant to cellulosic fibers.


Woven woollen fabric.

Flat screen printing

The mechanical method by which the cloth is printed using a number of stationary flat screens of a rectangular shape, working in a line. These screens have colour pressed through the mesh, then they are lifted, the cloth moves on the space of one repeat and the process begins again.

Flat weave

A general term applied to carpets and rugs woven by a tapestry weave or weft wrapping process rather than a knotting technique which produces a tufted pile surface.


A colouring matter extracted from Quercitron.


Printing from rubber rollers cut in relief. Introduced in its rotary form in 1963, it is used in the wallpaper industry and is one of the main means of printing transfer paper.

Floating threads

Warp or weft threads travelling over or under two or more of the opposite elements.


A single stroke (or passage of the squeegee) made while the screens are raised from the table, in flat screen-printing. This fills the mesh with print paste before the screen is lowered to clothe level and the usual squeegee stroke is made; thus in the time of a single stroke almost double the quantity of print paste is applied to the cloth.

Florentine Canvaswork

Embroidery of a wavy or flame design.

Floss Silk

Raw, untwisted silk thread, obtained from the external covering of the silkworm cocoon.


See rainbowing.

Foot-braced loom

A two-bar frameless loom, with one bar secured to a backstrap for controlling tension and the other bar braced against the weaver’s feet. It is one type of backstrap tension loom.

Foundation weave

The basic woven structure of a fabric over which any supplementary elements float. This is usually a one-over-one-under over which any supplementary elements float. This is usually a one-over-one-under tabby weave.

Four-heddle loom

A simple but versatile frame loom with four heddles or sets of heddles, used to practice striking geometric patterns from supplementary floating wefts.

Frame loom

A type of non-mechanical loom in which a wooden frame permits the tension on the warp threads to be regulated by the beams without the need for the backstrap operation of the earlier types of loom. The heddles are opened by foot pressure on treadles.


An ornamental edging of woven material, of which on edge is gathered and the other left loose, giving a wavy appearance.


An ornamental border of loose or twisted threads, usually the unwoven warp ends remaining at each end of a length of fabric when the textile is removed from the loom and the warp is severed.

Fugitive (dyes)

Dyes that rapidly fade when exposed to light also called false dyes.

Full, to

To treat or beat cloth for the purpose of cleansing and thickening it.

Fulled Wool

Woollen cloth that is felted and shrunk by the application of heat, pressure and moisture.

Fuller’s heb.

Saponaria officinalis; a plant used in the process of fulling.

Fuller’s thistle, or teasle.

Dipsacus fullonum. Used for fulling cloth.

Furnishing brush (or roller)

The brush or roller that rotates in the colour trough and supplies the printing roller with colour in engraved cylinder or surface roller printing.


Young fustic. Venetian Sumach Rhus cotinus. It gives a fine orange colour, which has not much permanence.


Gad (Background)

In wooden hand blocks used for printing on fabric the Gad is part of the set and is carved in intaglio style and used as the background filler. The asl or outline block fits within the outline printed by the gad block of the same set of blocks that form the pattern. There are normally two or more cylindrical holes drilled into the gad blocks thickness, connecting the upper surface to the carved lower surface. These holes free the air bubbles and excess printing paste while printing.


Toy cart


Embroidery design for churi, Gracia Jat in Kutch Gujarat.


An older, more traditional name for churi in Kutch, Gujarat.


Full, gathered skirt.


Full skirt worn by women of western India.

Gainda buti

Marigold flower motif in North Indian textiles.


Elephant motif in the ikat saris of Orissa


Form of Goddess Lakshmi lustrated by elephants


Precious silken cloth mainly found in Gujarat

Galls, Gall nuts.

Oak galls produced by the egg of an insect, -the female gall wasp. An excrescence is produced round the egg, and the insect, when developed, pierces a hole and escapes. Those gall nuts which are not pierced contain most tannic acid. The best come from Aleppo and Turkey.


Towel fabric


Elephant-headed god. The remover of obstacles, worshipped by Hindus before undertaking any fresh venture.


Pentagonal embroidered hanging with images of Ganesh and his wives Siddi and Buddhi, usually hung on the wall of farming houses in Saurashtra in Gujarat for ceremonial occasions.

Gangour ka guna

A particular type of floor painting in Rajasthan


Playing Cards/ ganjifa and the games played with them, probably came to India with the first Mughals from Central Asia. The classic ganjifa with 96 cards and the standard eight suits has lent itself to Hinduisation into its 10 or 12 suited variant with the theme of dashavatara or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Traditionally the cards were painted on roundels cut out from cloth, treated with lac, gum and chalk or pata, while ivory, tortoise shell, mother of pearl and ordinary paper were also used. Probably originating in the Deccan around the 17th century, the dashavatara ganjifa spread to Rajasthan, Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Garbha griha

Inner sanctum, literally abode or place of residence.


Lit. house garment. Red cotton sari with a grid-like pattern of gold and silver brocade work in which are set tie-and-dye dot motifs of women, elephants, flowers, etc worn traditionally by women from Gujarat.


Mythical eagle and vehicle of Vishnu.


Fair, white.


The white one - an appellation of Parvati, Shiva’s consort.


A general term applied to light, sheer or open fabrics.


Stitch in kasuti embroidery of Karnataka.


Abbreviation for a directly designed galvano screen. The screen mesh and the pattern are ‘grown’ on a mandrel at one and the same time.


Red earthen substance used as a pigment.


Colour wash or paste made of powdered terra-cotta mixed with water


Pitchers for water made of either terracotta or metal.


In handcrafting precious ornaments in North India this is the term used for the process of shaping by hammering, soldering or casting the metal into the required size and shape

Gharua/dhokra kamar tribes

The traditional metal workers of West Bengal, now semi-nomadic and closely related to the Malhars of Bihar and the Situlias of Orissa. They live in the districts of Bakura, Burdwan, Midnapore and Purulia all close to the Chhota Nagpur region of Bihar where the Malhars live in the hills and forests, close to the different local tribal people.


Mixed brocade fabric of Uttar Pradesh. Indigenous name of satinette.

Ghora Kalasha

Votive painted terracotta horse riders of Darbhanga, Bihar




A triangular embroidered or appliquéd cover which fits over the ears and neck of a horse.


Dome-shaped lamp receptacle for deity in Gujarat.


Paper toy.


A circular thin stiff wire used for embroidery.


After picking, seed cotton has to be cleaned before spinning as it contains only about one-third fibres, the rest being made up of seed and linters. The first ginning removes only the best lint or fibre. The seeds are then put through a second ginning to remove the cotton linters which are used in rayon manufacture.


The action of polishing or burnishing.

Glue work

The application of a glue or a viscous substance to the surface of a fabric to enable decorative elements to be attached.

Gobar Kandhayi

Orissan toys made from cowdung


Triangular piece of fabric inserted into a dress or glove to add fullness.


Tattoo designs executed on the skin

Gokul Ashteme

Lord Krishna’s birthday.

Gol patti

Brocaded border design of Maheshwari sari, Madhya Pradesh

Gold thread

Thread formed from finely beaten gold ribbon usually wrapped around a core fibre.


Water pitchers with handle-rings in Gujarat.


Make-shift staircase made during Dussehra in South India.




Female cowherds, or milk maids.

Goru gadi-chalak

Bullock-cart rider in West Bengal, often depicted in clay moulding.

Gosauni ka ghar

Room of the family deity in Bihar.

Gram devata

Village deity.

Gramme or Gram

About 15 ½ grains (Troy).

Ground / Ground weave

The background weave or foundation of the fabric into which supplementary elements are interlaced.

Gubba uli

Type of chisel used by craftsmen of Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh


Wall plaster with glue applied on the surface of papier mache objects to create a smooth surface for printing.

Gudano patas

Scroll paintings of Bengal that depict a single story.


Sandalwood carvers of Mysore.


Embroidered wedding blouse or coat in Sind and Kutch.


Heavy pendant worn on the temples by the women of the Lambadi or Sugali tribe. An essential sign of marriage, its absence is a sign of widowhood.


Rose, a popular motif in Indian painting, craft and textile.


Mixed brocade fabric woven all over Northern India


Silk warp-faced cloth in a multicoloured, vertically striped design. Worn as a turban or sash in Sind, west Rajasthan and Banni Kutch.


Renowned Indo-Persian decorative motif of a flower vase or flower pot.

Gule hazara

Literally thousand-petalled flower, term used for a particular floral pattern employed by the papier mache painters of Kashmir.


Flower motif in the painted pottery of Kutch, Gujarat

Gulli danda

Traditional North Indian game played with two small sticks.

Gum arabic

Natural gum used as a dye base in printing and as a table gum to glue the fabric down onto the neoprene printing surface.

Gundano patas

The Chitrakar or Patua community of West Bengal especially in Midnapur, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Purulia districts, employ bright vegetable colours in their scroll paintings or gundano patas. These depict a single story on the entire scroll. Each scene is bound in a floral border that separates it from the one next to it on the vertical paper panel. These religious themes painted and narrated by the patuas.


The gurz, a mace had a spherical head and several pointed spikes were attached to it. The handle was made of steel and was 90 to 120 centimetres in length. Some gurz were fitted with sword hilts.


Piece of material sewn into a garment, usually at the crotch or underarm.



Temporary open-air market; generally held at fixed site or on fixed day or at festival time.


Also known, in the textile industry, as a ‘step-half’. A kind of repeat in which the unit is repeated at a given distance, not directly horizontal but stepped down half its vertical dimension.


Swan. A popular motif in painting, craft and textile

Hand screen printing

Printing from flat screens by hand.


Loom operated manually and not by a machine.

Handspun cotton

Cotton thread made locally using simple non-mechanical apparatus such as a spindle or a spinning-wheel.

Handspun thread

Locally grown animal or plant fibres, usually cotton or silk, spun into yarn by hand, using a spindle or spinning-wheel.


North-Indian rigid neck band or choker that falls heavily on the collarbone.

Hard dot

In photogravure, the system in which the cells are of differing widths but of the same depth.


Name coined by Gandhi for ‘untouchable’ lower castes; literally meaning ‘son of god’.


Silvery pigment used by craftmen of Sankheda, Gujarat for painting on wooden furniture.


A Persian/Arabic word referring to the decorative borders or outlines placed as boundary to the written text. In kantha needlework it is the outline formation of descending stitches.


Narrow patterned border of Kashmiri shawl.


Stone spice container with various compartments common in Gujarat and Rajasthan

Hath ari

Hand-operated awl for embroidery. Same as ari but as it is used by hand it is generally called by this name.


Potters who do not use the wheel


Crooked knee; name of a stitch pattern in Kanta embroidery.


Aristocratic residential building of a rich merchant or landlord in Gujarat and Rajasthan in western India.


A section of different pattern or certain design structures of Southeast Asian textiles.


An essential feature of a loom which produces shed openings, through which the weft threads are inserted during the weaving process. In Southeast Asia it usually consists of a wide rod (heddle rod) to which selected sets of warp threads are attached by loops of yarn. These loops of yarn are sometimes also known as heddles.

Heddle sticks

Additional rods used to select particular warp threads for the purpose of creating the pattern. They are also known as shed-sticks. A supplementary weft is inserted in the sheds they are used to create.


Term used for floss silk in western India.

Heer bharat

Floss silk embroidery of the Thar desert


To turn in and sew down the edge of a fabric.


Best fibres obtained from the wild marijuana plant. Cannabis sativa. See also bast fibre.


‘Migration’-the Muslim calendar is calculated from the date of the Prophet’s migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D. In English usage it is usually abbreviated to A.H., or Anoo Hijrae.


Himru can best be described as cotton and silk brocade where the extra silk weft, which is used for patterning, is thrown over the surface only where the actual pattern appears, the rest of the patterning thread being left to hang loosely beneath the surface of the fabric. Because of this, the material has to be lined and is ideally suited for winter. Himru thus differs from other mixed fabrics such as mashru, where the entire fabric is woven with the silk weft in a regular satin-weave.


Swing with broad comfortable seat.


The spring festival, celebrated with the throwing of coloured powder and water.


The hubble-hubble, a smoking pipe which draws tobacco fumes from leaves placed over a clay burning charcoal holder.


Contraption for smoking tobacco. It consists of a bowl, a long flexible tube and a base containing water that cools and filters the smoke

Huqqa / hookah

A water-pipe, Rajasthan


Pipe of the Nishi tribe from Arunachal Pradesh



Ikat is a derivative of the Malay work mengikat, meaning to tie or to bind. This technique entails the binding, resisting and dyeing of the warps or/and wefts of yarn before weaving. Bundles of threads are meticulously arranged to a prepared design and bound with impermeable yarn or rubber bands so that as the yarn is dyed with a range of colours, the areas protected from each dye are resisted in succession. Within India the textiles produced by this yarn resist work are called tie and dye, bandha, patola, chitka and telia rumal.


Indonesian term for the warp or weft-resist dyeing process, or a fabric made using this process. The technique is very highly developed in Indonesia, India, Central Asia, and Japan.

Pre-loom technique of resist dyeing wherein the warp or/and weft yarn is tie-dyed in such a way that the programmed pattern transfers in the process of weaving onto the finished fabrics. Ikat may be single ikat, i.e. warp ikat or weft ikat, or double ikat as in patola


A dye containing the colouring agent indigotin, which produces a blue colour. Indigotin is found in the leaves of several species of plants native to and utilized in different parts of the world. Indigotin was first synthesized in the late 19th century.


A design or line cut into a surface so as form a hollow or indent.


A general term for the process of basketry and matting, in which fibres are interlaced to form fabric without the use of a loom with heddles, the elements being indistinguishable as warp and weft and all active at different times.


Brocaded border design of Maheshwari sari


Wall paintings the Saora tribals of Orissa execute for the installation of spirits of the dead



A shade of puple, similar to the inner flesh of an Indian fruit jaamun.

Jacquard loom

A loom incorporating the Jacquard punched card apparatus, invented in the early nineteenth century, which mechanically opens the warp sheds in intricate repetitive patterns. Usually the warps are lifted and the shuttles are thrown also by mechanical means.

Jada billies

Circular medallions worn on the hair by dancers in Tamil Nadu


Hair braid ornament composed of nagas or serpents in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu


The nomadic jadu-patuas, literally magic-painters of Bengal, cater mainly to their Santal clientele in Singhbhum and the Santal Parganas in Bihar and adjoining areas in West Bengal. Their paintings, both scroll and rectangular, are executed in few colours usually with a pale green ground and the figures are small in size. According to the Santals, the jadu-patuas possess magical powers that protect their disciples from evil, both in "this life" as well as in the "after life".


Floor spread.


Legendary horsemen, now deified, who liberated Kutch from tyrannical rule in the 10th century.


The thread Jacquard used in brocade weaving.




An openwork pattern in chikan work.


The Jambia dagger were originally of Arabic origin but are popular all over West Asia and India. Their distinguishing feature is a curved blade, usually double-edged and often ribbed. Hilts are their easiest identifiable features, ranging from fan shaped pommels to the smaller, flat-topped Indo-Persian style. Though the general shape of the hilt and the blade remains the same in different countries, the sheath can differ considerably.


Originally a dress material for both women and men, nowadays it is made in sari lengths in an astounding variety of designed geometrical motifs. Woven on a simple frame or pit looms. The pattern of the design drawn on paper is pinned beneath the warp threads and as the weaving proceeds, the designs are worked in like embroidery. When the weft thread approaches close to where a flower or other figure has to be inserted, the weaver takes up on of a set of bamboo needles round each of which is wrapped yarn of a different colour as needed for the design. As every weft of woof thread passes through the warp. He sews down the intersected portion of the pattern with one or another of the needles as might be required, and so continues till the pattern is completed. When the pattern is continuous and regular, as in the usual sari border, a master-weaver generally dispenses with the aid of paper patterns. Very often, two persons work together on a sari.

Traditionally, jamdanis were white of fine cotton muslin, with designs in bleached white. However, today, very lightly dyed grounds with designs in white, maroon, black, green, gold and silver sari and muga silk of a dark golden colour are also seen. Woven at and near Dacca in Bangladesh, at Tanda and at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

Jamdani / figured muslin

Jamdani or figured muslin, traditionally woven in West Bengal, Tanda in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh and Dhaka in Bangladesh, refers to an extremely fine fabric cotton or zari brocading on cotton fabric. Here, two weavers work on a single loom where the design on paper, kept underneath the warp, is used as a guide in placing the cut threads, according to the design, over the warp. These are, then, interlaced into the warp with fine bamboo sticks in a zigzag manner to form the motif. This is followed by the weft thread, the process being repeated before the shuttle carrying the weft is thrown across again.


A Kashmiri shawl


Name of the famous river, alongwith the Ganges, which flows from north to south of Bangladesh, assuming the local names of Meghna and Padma (Podda). The word is also used for the angular wave line in kantha embroidery.


Sacred thread


Mesh motif in Benaras brocade


Literally wire from Japan; A variety of polypropylene wire, popularly used in embroidery in recent times.


Traditional drama from legends about gods and deities, and historical events of Kings and Queens based on the human principles of Truth, Good and Evil.

Jautuk pedi

Dowry chest of Orissa.


Tree of life/World Tree.


Fish trap of Tripura and parts of Assam.


Cane and bamboo dowry casket in Madhya Pradesh.


Window-façade-cum balcony of Rajasthan

Jhop diya

Hanging oil lamp in Bastar, Madhya Pradesh

Jhop taga

Name of border design; literally, the bush border in Kantha.


An embroidered or appliquéd cover for a bullock’s back.


Ear ornaments with danglers, mainly in Northern India

Jhutha kam

Embroidery done with imitation copper wire.

Jhutha tar

Literally false wire; Copper wire gilded with gold or silver.

Joda patti

Pairs of stripes; a traditional motif in the mashru fabric of Gujarat


A caste of snake charmers or snake catchers found in Sind and Kutch. Jogi women of Badin district, Sind, stitch quilts to a unique design.


A pair of fish; this motif refers to a wedding symbol, being part of the gifts sent to the bridegroom’s house before the wedding. Symbolic of fertility in Ka e.






Traditional Indian footwear.


Painting of three female deities with Ganesh, distinctive of Kumaon region of Uttar Pradesh



Slip used for glazing pots in Uttar Pradesh

Kachcha resham

Untwisted or floss silk.


Embroidery motif used by herding Jats in Kutch, Gujarat.




An important branch of the kanbi farming caste who live in southern and central Saurashtra.


Bengind; the name of a stitch which appears to slope in nakshi kantha embroidery.

Kala kam

Work of manufacturing iron tools.

Kala laher

Black wave, a traditional motif in mashru fabric of Gujarat


Silk thread braided with zari thread.


Silver gilt thread used for brocading and embroidery.


Gold wire used in brocade weaving and embroidery in Kashmir


(In urdu) Pen. Pen-like instrument made of either bamboo or iron with a felt-like reservoir near the tip, used for drawing out the designs or applying the wax resists for the kalamkari cloth of Masulipatnam and Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh.


Penwork hand-painted textiles of Masulipatnam and Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh, usually used as temple backdrops. Though much of the Masulipatnam production is in fact block printed and used for clothing, but the cloths are still known as kalamkaris.


Hand-painted fabrics of Andhra Pradesh


The universe, prolific, all-pervading, auspicious symbol of prosperity.




Container in the shape of a bitter gourd, a local term used by the nomadic Ghantrar community of metalsmiths of Orissa


(In Bengali) The paisley; of Persian and Kashmiri origin this motif is an integral image of subcontinental decorative motif.

Kalpa lata

Wish fulfilment pattern in nakshi kantha embroidery.


Wish fulfilling tree

Kal-tac chan

Stone cutters belonging to the Kammalan community of artisans of the South

Kalu kadaga

Anklets in South India


Mendicant’s bowl

Kamar band

Belt or waist band.


Embroidery done on muslin silk and other fine materials, with silver and gold wire.


Shirt-like tunic of north India and Pakistan. Usually worn over salwar (baggy pantaloons).


A blouse specially made of the mashru fabric of Gujarat


Gold-leaf design on silk.


Kind of tent.

Kandarpa ratha

Chariot of Kandarpa, the God of Love


Lit. tablecloth. Name of appliquéd shrine cloths offered to the shrine of Salar Masud at Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh.


Red seed of a wild creeper used by Manipuri potters to shine the surface of the clay pot before firing


Type of zari motif for highlight design.


Outer borders of a sujni embroidery.


Particular type of loom-woven shawl of Kashmir


Language of Karnataka State.


In Gujarat the craftsmen who make and deal in metal utensils of copper, brass, bronze are known as Kansara. The word is derived from the Gujarati kansu, meaning bronze which in turn is a derivation from the Sanskrit word kansya meaning bronze. Before brass /pittal, an alloy of copper and zinc, became popular, the use of bronze utensils was widespread, and therefore the term kansara which originally meant bronze worker became the general term for all utensil makers.


Quilt of old cloth; a generic name for a typical layered wrap made from between two to six layers of old saris/dhotis, stitched in a decorative method,evolved by the women of Bengal; the sewing threads were traditionally drawn from old sari borders.


Patched cloth embroideries of Bengal using old saris stitched together in running stitch


The tiny quilting stitch worked on the base of the layered fabric to create a rippled effect. It is used in many ways to form textual patterns, such as the modelling style, and pipra-sari in nakshi kantha embroidery.


Kanthas are traditionally worked by village women on old cloth, mainly soft, discarded dhotis and saris. Layers of old white dhotis used by men or white or faded coloured saris are held together in running stitches along the edges, using thread drawn out of the faded borders of the discarded saris. These borders are generally torn off and preserved carefully for the purpose by kantha makers. The number of layers of cloth used depends on the use for which the kanthas is meant. If it is to be a quilt for use in the mild winters of Bengal, five or six layers of soft, fine cloth are used. Three or four layers usually suffice for other purposes. The top and bottom layers of a kantha are always white or of a very light colour, so that embroidery with faded threads drawn from the sari borders is not lost. The muted colours lend a charming, soft, pastel effect to the completed kantha.

Kanthas meant for use as quilts are called lepkanthas, and those designed as counterpanes are called sujanikanthas. Kanthas also serve as covers for boxes and mirrors, as pillowcases. Stoles for women and shawls for men; they are very popular as diapers for babies too.

The main characteristic of a kantha is the patterned running stitches in white thread with which the kantha-maker covers the whole surface of the piece. The stitches secure the layers together and the surface gets a delicate, rippled look.


A flower.


This container similar to katodan is in the shape of its base with a lid that is cone shaped. The tip of the cone has two heavy brass rings attached to it. Traditionally used by the Kathis in Gujarat to store ornaments.


A type of alloyed silver


Fine metal embroidery done on silk or muslin.

Karchob/ Karchobi

Zari embroidery done on velvet or heavy satin.


The kard is basically similar in shape to the Afghan knife/churra but much smaller in size with the blade usually measuring 20 centimetres. The kard superficially resembles the pesh qabz but while the kard blade tapers gradually, the pesh qabz blade is wide at the hilt, narrowing acutely and then tapering to a long slender point.

Kardhua jangla

A particular brocaded pattern technique of Varanasi


Artisan, usually used in the sense of a craftsperson.


Wage workers.


Lt. Artist, now a generic term for artisans.


Embroidery style most commonly seen on Harijan textiles in Kutch, Gujarat.


Production workshop.


Workshop, particularly of the Mughal period.


Artisan community of Orissa usually engaged in stone carving








Embroidery of Bihar


Traditional coin necklace of Kerala


An embroidery style practised in Karnataka. Usually done on saris with blouses to match. From geometric motifs to figurative work, such as birds, animals, temples and plants, the embroidery is scattered over the field and concentrated on the pallav or end-piece. It is done in two types of stitches, the gavanti line or double running stitch, and murgi, the zig-zag done within the darning stitch, akin to gavanti. In both, the two sides are neat and identical. Negi is the ordinary running stitch.


Embroidery work of north Karnataka and the adjoining Kannada-speaking districts of Maharashtra. Figurative designs are worked in cross stitch and a variety of running stitches.


Gujarati term for appliqué.


A type of dagger.

Katar/ jamdhar

Often considered the most interesting and effective Indian dagger the katar or jamdhar is found only in India. Its hilt consists of two parallel arms extending backwards from the blade. These are connected by two or more cross pieces which form the grip and are set near the centre of the arms. The blade, always double-edged, is triangular in shape and usually thickens at the point. The total length is generally about 1 ½ to 3 feet, half of it being the blade. The katar is of Rajput origin but its use was widespread. Rajput and Mughal miniature paintings of the period bear testimony to this fact.


Landowning caste of Saurashtra.


A style of embroidery in heer (floss) silk, utilizing geometric designs with adjoining areas of the design achieving a variation in texture by working one section in the horizontal direction, the other in the vertical, in the manner of Punjabi Bagh embroidery.

Kathputlis / string puppets

The kathputlis/ string puppets of Rajasthan, literally "wooden images", typically have wooden heads with large painted eyes and torsos adorned with dazzling, trailing skirts.

In many parts of Rajasthan the Bhat community of itinerant bards above with their mobile puppet theatre enact the heroic deeds of Rajput warrior kings such as Amar Singh Rathore and the unrequited love story of Dhola and Maru.


Circular boxes with lid, used in Gujarat.


A unique container, this is a circular box with a lid. With a slightly broad and rounded bottom and a lid that is raised in the middle its peculiarity is that at the centre of the lid a bowl-like element is fixed separately. The lid itself, usually, having embossed geometric patterns, is joined by hinges to the box, and is closed with a latch. Used by the Kathis and Rajputs in Gujarat for storing clothes.


A type of reed from Manipur


Receptable for the image of a diety worn as a pendant on a necklace. The Virashaivas or Lingayat community of the South


Painted wooden mobile shrine carried by mendicants in Rajasthan




Mango motif


A tight-fitting, long-sleeved jacket with a skirt-like border flaring out from breastbone level. Worn by young children, adolescent boys and grown men in Gujarat.


A Chinese term for weft-faced, often slit-tapestry weaving.


The kestan mace head was a steel sphere and this was attached by a metallic chain to a steel haft or handle. The head was generally ribbed or had flanges. With a straight mace, where the spherical head is directly attached to the handle, the adversary can judge the direction of the blow and take parrying action, but when the mace head is a mobile sphere attached to a chain, it is very difficult to judge the direction or angle of the blow and parrying or evasive action requires much more skill and effort.

Khaddar / khadi

Handspun, handwoven cotton fabric.


Spun handloom fabric.


White clay


Handspun and handwoven fabric


Date palm


The blueprints.

Khakhra leaves

Plates made from dry khakhra leaves used for serving meals.

Khanjari bhat

A design in mashru fabric of Gujarat


The khanjarli is a dagger of Hindu origin and is characterized by a double curved or S-shaped blade sharpened on both edges. The blade is generally grooved or fluted, has a mid-rib and a thickened point. A typical feature of the khanjarli is a wide mushroom like pommel and a knuckle guard. The hilt is made of two separate pieces of ivory or bone riveted to a flat tang.


Somewhat similar to the jambia dagger are the khanjars which have a curved blade of watered steel and a hilt reminiscent of a pistol butt. Though khanjars probably originated in Turkey, they became extremely popular in India, where they are apt to be more elaborately decorated than any other type of dagger. The hilts are made of ivory, jade, crystal, agate and are frequently set with precious and semi-precious stones.

Kharad/ Kharadi

Hand-turned lathe. While Kharadi is the occupational title given to lathe turners who are usually wood workers by caste in North India


Mortar for grinding spices and medicines


A particular type of raised printing with tinsel


The khar-I-mahi, which is the fifth type of mace mentioned in the Ain-I-Akbari, was a spiked mace with a steel haft.

Khat kantha

A nakshi kantha meant for use in a palanquin.


Wood carvers/carpenters of Rajasthan


A caste of professional dyers.


An appliqué technique of Bihar where an entire piece of fabric is cut out in such a way that the cutout is attached to a background cloth of another colour without foregoing the contours of the original pieces.


Appliqué work of Bihar. The design is cut out of a whole piece of cloth which is then stitched to the background cloth. The term also applies to a method of Lucknow chikan work whereby sections of fine fabric are appliquéd underneath semi-transparent fabric.


Date palm leaf design in nakshi kantha embroidery.


A coiled wire.


Colloquial for mess; literally rice and lentils cooked together.

Khut diya

Oil lamp with a pointed end that is dug into the ground in North India


Turkish word sometimes used to describe rugs without pile. It more precisely refers to rugs woven in slit tapestry weave made in the traditional rug producing areas of the Middle East.

Kilo. Kilogramme

Equals 2 Ibs. 3.2 oz.


Heavy silk fabric brocaded with silver and gold wire in weaving; and used mainly for furnishings. Also brocaded fabrics with large percentage of gold and silver wire interwoven Varanasi is the traditional production centre for kinkhab cloth.

Kisan turi

Traditional basket makers-cum-cultivators in tribal Central India


Thick paste prepared form rags, sawdust and tamarind seed powder, used to coat wooden sculptures by the craftsmen of Kinnal in Raichinur district of Karnataka


A technique using a single element or yarn in which a loop is drawn through a precious loop at the edge of a fabric. It first appeared during the Middle Ages, probably in the Islamic world, from which it spread to Europe to the Americas.


A fabric formed by tying free-hanging sets of threads around adjacent threads, in combinations of structurally identical knots. See also macramé.

Koftgari /False Damascening

The technique of inlaying gold and silver wire on steel and iron, usually on swords, daggers and shields, is referred to as damascening. This is a variation of the damascening technique While in true damascening a fair amount of gold or inlaying metal is required, in false damascening, or koftgari, the previously scratched design on the surface of iron or steel is simply inlaid with gold or silver wire with the help of a hammer. The surface is heated and hammered again so that the soft gold may spread into the grooves of the design. Thus the gold or silver becomes one with the base metal producing a smooth embellished surface.


Ritual paintings executed on nuptial chamber walls of Brahmin, Kayastha and other communities in Madhubani area of North Bihar. Its centre is generally a cosmic sunburst.Women ritually paint the walls in connection with marriage ceremonies.


Traditional eye mascara made of smoked almond oil.


Pigeon coop, pyramid shaped geometric motif of the nakshi kantha embroidery.


Auspicious floor paintings made with rice-paste in Southern India


Oriya term of tie dyed or ikat designs in a sari


Ivory carvers of Bengal


Corner motif

Konlu uli

Type of chisel used by craftsmen of Tirupati


A double-walled basket given to a daughter as dowry


A coiled wire with less lustre used in zari embroidery.


A type of grass

Kothi kothala

Barrel-shaped clay grain containers with narrow bases from Gujarat.


To play, Sanskrit root


A type of linen.


One who makes earthen pots


Needle-like implement used for weaving kera mats


Embroidery stitch, literally meaning weak, not durable in Kutch, Gujarat.


Grain measure in Madhya Pradesh


A plant fibre.


A wild creeper; a motif used in block printing and weaving.


Potter in Kanarese


Earthen pot

Kumbhar / Kumhar

One who makes earthen pots, mainly in Northern India


A type of a wood found in North Eastern India


Vermilion, a red substance used by Indian women or their foreheads or hair parting as a sign of marriage. Also considered auspicious for the propitiation of deities.


Potter in Telugu


Trap for catching fish in stagnant water in Madhya Pradesh


It was under the Mughals that Indian craftsmen mastered the technique of kundan work, the setting of precious and semi-precious stones within bands of highly purified soft gold. The characteristic feature of this type of setting lies in applying pieces of pure gold leaf or kundan in the space between the stone and its gold frame in order that the stone remains firmly set. Often kundan work is combined with enamelling or meenakari, so that a piece of jewellery has two equally beautiful surfaces, enamel at the back and kundan set gems in front. Today both Gujarat and Rajasthan are renowned for this work.

Kundanapu bommas

Literally beautiful figures in Telugu


One who sets the ornament with precious stones within bands of gold i.e. using the kundan technique


Gunpowder case of Rajasthan


Rounded stone used by Kashmiri craftsmen to smoothen the surface of a papier mache object before painting.


Upper garment worn by both men and women in North India, generally A-line shaped and calf length.

Kusavan or Kulalan

Potter in Tamil Nadu


A type of linen


Name for a type of embroidery used by Frontier Herders in Kutch, Gujarat.


Seed basket of Arunachal Pradesh



Decorative fabric wall hanging, hung above interior niches in Kutch, Gujarat.


Lac is an animal resin secreted by the lac insect (Lacifer lacca; Coccus lacca) that feeds on a variety of host trees of which the important ones are palash (Butea monosperma) , ber (Zizyphus mauritiana) and kusum (Schleichera oleosa). It is a popular source of red dye. Also known as stick lac.

Lac dye

Red mordant dye obtained from insects of the Kerria family (mainly Kerria lacca Kerr), found in Asia. They also create a resinous secretion from which shellac varnish is made.


A general term for an open, usually finely worked fabric. See also crochet lace, bobbin lace.


Skein of threads or wool.


Lacquer is a vegetable oleo-resin which naturally exists in a liquid state, and is either directly applied by a brush or is thickened by ashes into a plastic material that may be moulded and, while still adhesive, can be applied to surfaces in bass-relief ornamentation. The various uses of this substance have originated with the Burmese and Siamese art that more closely resembles Japanese lacquer than Indian lac-work.


In this technique of painting on rounded wooden surfaces, lac is applied onto the surface of wood using friction-generated heat created by the rotatory movement of a lathe or kharand. Shellac or purified lac are used as bases into which mineral colour pigments are mixed and moulded into cubes of coloured lac called battis. The surface of the wooden object is first smoothened so that cracks and pores may be filled in. A batti of the required colour is pressed onto it while it revolves on the lathe. The heat generated as a consequence causes the lac to melt and spread over the wooden object. When the colour is uniformly coated all over, rag dipped in oil of kevda leaves (Pandanns odoratissimus) dipped in groundnut oil is pressed against the turning object so as to polish the lac till it acquires a permanent shine.


Lacware is, often, wrongly equated with lacquer ware as lac is an animal resin, while lacquer, on the other hand, is a vegetable oleo-resin which naturally exists in a liquid state.


Brocaded border design of Maheshwari sari.


Wave motif in the painted pottery of Kutch, Gujarat




A wild grass which folds in on being touched.


Hindu goddess of wealth.


Low work


Mud resist, block printed, red fabric used by Lambanis.


Loin cloth in North India


Specially woven fabric which is wound about eight or ten times round the central pressure bowl of a textile printing machine to ensure resilience.


A pattern with horizontal rows

Layered ikat

A general term for ikat resist dyeing which involves the repeated opening or tying off of different sections of the threads during the dye process. See also over-dyeing.


Ankle-length heavily pleated skirt in North India


Leheria, literally wavy, refers to the wavy pattern of a fabric processed in the tie-dyed technique. The material is rolled diagonally and certain portions "resisted" by lightly binding threads at a short distance from one another before the cloth is dyed. The shorter the distance, the greater the skill required in preventing one colour from spilling into the other. The process of dyeing is repeated until the requisite number of colours is obtained. This is practised very effectively in Rajasthan.

Leheria/ laharia

Lit. waves. A resist-dyeing technique, which results in a multi-striped or chequered, multicoloured patterning, this technique is practiced in Rajasthan.


A Kantha quilted covering made from old saris/dhotis/lungis in Bangladesh; sometimes made in certain districts from sheet cloth.


Stool-like cylindrical platform used my Manipuri potter women for fashioning their pots.


The printing of type of illustrations from and image raised in relief; the surface is inked before being pressed on paper.


Holbein stitch; patterns made using this stitch in Kantha.

Lik lohori

Lik pattern resembling waves in Kantha.

Lik phor

The Holbein stitch in Kantha.

Lik phul

Lik pattern resembling a flower; known also as shaita phul in Rajshahi, anarasi in Jessore in Kantha.

Lik tan

An elongated version of the lik pattern in Kantha.


Phallic emblem of Shiva


Sacred phallic emblem of the god Shiva. usually standing in the yoni, or female organ.

Linked warp

The joining and substitution of different coloured threads into the basic warp where a change of pattern colour in the ground weave of a warp-faced textile is desired.

Lint doctor

A steel blade positioned at the back of an engraved roller-printing machine to scrape off any fluff after printing.


White wash.


White wash

Lithographic printing

Printing (now rarely used directly on to fabric) from pigment colour adhering to a mixed-wax printed pattern on the level surface-as distinct from intaglio or relief images.


Nearly 1 3/4 pints


The process of separating a soluble substance from an insoluble by the percolation of water.


A term often used in old dye books, water impregnated with alkaline salts extracted by lixiviation from wood ashes.






Hindu merchant caste of Sind and Kutch.



Lohori / lohira / loria

The wave like stitch in nakshi kantha, typical of Rajshahi district; a mutation of the Persian word ’lehr’, which means wave; but also applies to other kanthas using the thick, close running stitch associated with this type of kantha.


A device, the invention of which greatly increased the speed at which cloth could be made of spun yarns. The loom used for weaving contains a means of lifting selected warp yarns above other warp yarns, forming a space called a shed through which the weft is passed. Such devices cannot function unless the warp is under tension, so all looms also contain in means for stretching the warp. There are many different method of stretching the warp and of forming sheds, ranging from the very simple to the very complex.


A technique using a single element or yarn in which the free end and full length of the yarn is pulled through previous work at the edge of a fabric to form each new loop. The element crosses over itself in proceeding to make the next loop.

Looping is an ancient technique that existed before the demonstration of fiber sources and the invention of the loom. The technique is still practised in areas with less European influences such as the Amazon rainforest and New Guinea. Frequently, long plant fibers are used that can be twisted into yarn as the work proceeds.


The most versatile of all Indian metal pots which derives its basic shape from the gourd


Terracotta pot used for milk and curd in Gujarat


Large and small pots in Gujarat.


A measurement of cloth 120 yards long. Also known as a ‘piece’.


Man’s sarong-like unstitched garment length of fabric worn from the waist downwards.


A man’s sewn or unsewn lower body drape - sarong-type garment- tucked around the body to hang from waist to ankle. used in various parts of the subcontinent. It has regional names such as lacha in Punjab.

Lye or Ley

Any strong alkaline solution, especially one used for the purpose of washing such as soda lye, soap lye.




Maach taga

The fish border in Kantha.


Fish bone pattern in Kantha embroidery


Main room of a kathi house in Gujarat.


Grain measure in Madhya Pradesh.


The mace was essentially a weapon against armour for which purpose it is admirably designed. The spiked mace was particularly effective against the helmet. The Ain-I-Akbari mentions several types of maces. Apart form their use as weapons of war, maces also had a ceremonial role as a symbol of office or command and were carried by mace bearers or chobdars. Such maces were made of precious metals and lavishly ornamented.


Fish motif in an Orissan sari

Machine printing

The process of printing designs in dyes or pigments on to a cloth surface by mechanical means, usually employing copper-plates or rollers on to which the patterns are etched or engraved.

Machine-spun thread

Threads spun by machine. These include natural fibres such as cotton and silk and synthetic fibres.


A general term for ornamental knot work. More specifically the term refers to an ornamental fringe of knotted threads. See also knotting.


The red dye stuff extracted from the roots of the plant species Rubia Munjeesta, Rubia Tinctorum L., Al and other species of Rubia.

Madur mat

The most popular of the mats produced in West Bengal is the madur, its production is now undertaken on an organised scale by weavers of the Mahishya caste mainly in the southern districts of Midnapore, West Bengal, an area covering the coastal area of the state, west of the river Ganga.

Woven on a simple bamboo frame loom with a warp of cotton thread and the weft -the thin soft reed, madur kathi that is cultivated in the Sabong and Ramnagar areas of Midnapore district.

Three types of madur are made in Midnapore-ekrokha, dorokha and masland. Dorokha, with a double madur kathi weft is thicker and is more comfortable to sit or lie on than the simple ekrokha that and is used for general purposes, while the masland is very fine-textured and made with carefully selected reeds. It has two borders of beautiful geometrical designs, sometimes in a deep magenta, but most often in a self-colour, the designs showing up through the texture of the patterns only. The main centres of madur and masland mat production in Midnapore are Ramnagar, Sabong, Kholaberia, Sadirhat and Narayan


An appliquéd tent-like cover for an ox cart used at marriages and other celebrations by some farming castes in Kutch and Saurashtra.


Hindu goddess of beauty and prosperity

Magnet-roll system

A method whereby squeegees- in the form of cylindrical metal rods, varying in diameter from 3 to 18mm., placed loosely in the screen with the print paste- are moved along by means of magnet coils under the printing blanket, which draw the print paste through the mesh of the screen. It is used in both Johannes Zimmer and Peter Zimmer screen-printing machines.


Broker; Gujarati merchant; moneylender.




Madhuca indica; mahua flowers are used for extracting alcohol


Vahana of Ganga Devi; a mythological river creatur resembling a crocodile.


Fish-crocodile figure associated with Hindu religious art.




Garland; Necklace patterns.

Mala taga

The garland border in Kantha.


Community of traditional shoal pith makers in Assam and West Bengal.


Cattle traders in western India.


Floral motif in Orissan sari.


Cotton cloth of Sind and western Rajasthan woven on narrow looms, block-printed in the ajrakh style, but mainly in red rather than indigo blue. Originally printed in the Thar Parkar village of Malir, although now printed in other places in Sind, and in Barmer Rajasthan.


A brass pot called mana was used as a musical instrument by the mana-bhattas the narrative singers and storytellers. This pot, almost round like a ball, with a very narrow neck, was played by the slight beating of the palm with special finger-rings.

Manasa Jhard

Shrine of the snake goddess Manasa in West Bengal.


The display of utensils on multiple shelves in the living room of Gujarati rural households.


A circle enclosed by a square with a central point or beeja (seed). It is a pattern for meditational vision; it is also sacred space. Based on geometrical principles of abstract form on which the Hindu temple is built, it also symbolises the universe at different levels with gates and doors to the four Vedas.


Gujarati wedding pavilion.

Mandee chopad

Embroidery design among herding Jats in Kutch, Gujarat.

Mandir pawnti

Temple-shaped date palm leaf basket with lid, from Bihar.


Wall mural, generally painted or mud mirror relief.

Mandrel / mandril

A supporting steel bar on which the engraved copper cylinder turns.

Mangal charaner alpana

Alpana drawn when a marriage is fixed - in Bengal.


Literally auspicious thread, a necklace of black beads worn by married women, especially in Maharashtra.


"Mango necklace" in Tamil Nadu


Incantation and recitation of coded Hindu prayers.


Coarse unbleached mill cotton.


North Indian storage jar.


Lit. inhabitants of Marwar, the old name for Jodhpur. Members of the Rajasthani trading caste, which is now the dominant force in business and industry throughout India.


Mashru is a mixed brocade fabric with a silk warp and a cotton weft. Distinguished as a textile, mainly with stripped patterns in satin-weave, the warp yarn is often tie-dyed in the single-ikat technique giving the fabric its characteristic lightning effect. It is believed that Muslin men were permitted to wear mashru cloth in lieu of pure silk which was prohibited. This type of cotton and silk mixed fabric known variously as mashru, gaji or atlas, is traditionally woven in Mandvi, in Kachchh, Patan, Surat and Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, as well as in the Deccan and the South.


Lit. permitted. A warp-faced textile of mixed fabric. A silk (now usually synthetic) warp and cotton weft.


Cloth floor covering.


Lamp for the mata or goddess in Bastar, Madhya Pradesh

Matano chandarvo

In Gujarat, matano chandarvo or textiles for goddess worship” follow an old tradition and are made and used even today in Ahmedabad. These temple hangings are installed at the time of the annual ritual of a sacrificial offering to the various local goddesses. In Gujarat members of the Vaghri, Ravalia, Bhangi and Dhedh communities construct an enclosure of such hangings and install it around the village shrine of the goddess. Inside this enclosure, the ritual of invocation and the goat or buffalo sacrifice is conducted. These hangings are block printed and hand-painted with iron rust dye on cotton.


Monastic house in Puri, Orissa.


The form or mould on which something is shaped. In the case of textile printing, it is a solid steel cylinder, or one of inflatable rubber, on which rotary screens are formed.

Matsha avatar

Fish incarnation signifying the creation of life from water.




An often somewhat rigid fabric constructed of interlocking fibres which are not woven on a loom with shed openings. Also known as basketry interlacing.


Muslim preacher.


Muslim preacher.

Mayur phorua

Literally peacock casket, as it is called by the Ghantrar metalsmiths of Orissa.


Enameller in North India.


Enamelling on the surface of a metal.


Delhi and Jaipur are known for meenakari, the jewel coloured enamel work on gold, silver and since the 1980s on copper. The art involves the fusion of coloured minerals, such as cobalt oxide for blue and copper oxide for green, on the surface of the metal giving the effect of precious stone inlay work. The particular mode employed is known as champleve where the metal is engraved or chased in such a way as to provide depressions within which the colours can be embedded. The colours are applied in order of their hardness, those requiring more heat first and, those less, later.

Meghwal / Meghwar

A caste of leather workers found in Sind, Banni Kutch and western Rajastnan.


A farming caste settled mainly in western Saurashtra.



Mehrabnuma buta

Motif characterised by a flowering cane bound within an arch.

Mekka motiram

Ring worn by women of Kerala in the upper part of the ear.


Folk festival


A Muslim merchant caste of Gujarat and Sind.

Mercerised cotton

Cotton prepared by treating with a solution of caustic potash or soda or certain other chemicals. Discovered by John Mercer in 1844.

Metallic thread

Worked metals, especially gold and silver, are used to fashion thread either in the form of wire or float metal ribbon, or wound around a core of other fibre. The metallic thread is used as a weaving and embroidery element.

Metallic-wrapped thread

Contrary to myth, gold and silver cannot be spun, and they are generally too precious and heavy to be woven in the form of wire. Frequently, the glint of gold or silver that embellishes many traditional textiles is a silk or linen yarn that has been wrapped with thin strips of metal.


South Indian cushion mat made from two mats sewn together.




Thin, flexible, transparent and glittering scales of silicate found naturally and used to decorate garments. Mica has largely been replaced by mirror-work.


A small cylinder of softened steel on which the pattern is raised in relief (by pressure and acid) from contact with a previously engraved die.

Mill engraving

Also known as ‘machine engraving’, it is the mechanical method of ‘engraving’ a cylinder; the design is pressed out by means of a mill.


The operation of fulling cloth.


"Spirit reservoir" among Naga tribes

Mirror work

Rounds cut from thin mirror glass, often lead-backed, or from mica, and sewn on to a base fabric with a framework of stitches.


Embroidery design for churi, Gracia Jats in Kutch, Gujarat.


Lit. mixed. Refers to the fabric more generally known as mashru


Triangular head cloth worn by some Muslim communities of Gujarat.


Artisan, most generally a carpenter.

Mixed brocade fabrics

Mixed brocade fabrics include the amru silks of Varanasi, the sangi silks of Azamgarh, gulbadan silks woven all over northern India, the Himru of Gujarat and Deccan, and the ghatta and abrawan of Uttar Pradesh and the Mashru of Gujarat.


Male professional embroiderers of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat. Famed for their delicate ari-work silk embroidery.

Mochi embroidery mochi bharat

Chain stitch embroidery done using a cobbler’s awl in Rajasthan and Gujarat

Modelling stitch

A directional form of laying stitches to create shapes.


City ward or locality


City ward or locality.


Deity mask in Himachal Pradesh

Moi taga

Ladder border in Kantha.


A description by nakshi kantha embroiderers for the inner circular enclosure which contains a symbolic device.


A slanting stitch described as ‘twisted’ in kantha embroidery.


Stronger than sikki, but lacking the golden hue, is moonj grass (Saccharum munja) used by the Tharu tribals, mainly in Nepal, as well as in the Madhubani region of Bihar to make baskets and caskets with lids of numerous varieties dyed in dark tones.


A ceremonial fan made of peacock feathers in Rajasthan


An agent, often in the form of a metallic salt which combines chemically with the dyestuff to fix the dye permanently. It has an affinity for the cloth and an attraction for the colouring matter and so in combining with them it forms an insoluble colour lake on the cloth.

Mordant assistant

A chemical that increases the effectiveness of a mordant. Examples are cream of tartar and washing soda.

Mordant block printing

A design with mordants applied to cloth by carved wooden blocks. The design remains fixed and the coloured pattern stands out against an undyed ground after the dye process.

Mordant painting

A design in mordants painted on to a prepared cloth with a pen or stylus. The mordants will react with the dyes to produce a colourful pattern against an undyed ground as practised in Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh.


A chemical substance that has an Acetic Acid for both the dye and the fibre (metal oxides, tannins, and oxyfatty acids) they are necessary to chemically fix (make washfast) most natural dyestuffs (but not for indigo). The mordant combines both with the dye molecule and the fiber molecule, producing a permanently fixed insoluble colour lake. Most mordants are metallic salts although some are arcidic in nature.

Morinda citrifolia

A tree grown widely in Asia, the bark of the roots of which yield red or rust dye. It is known as mengkudu, kumbu, Al or related terms.


Young men’s dormitory characteristic of the North-Eastern tribes of Nagaland


Glass beads, particularly Venetian Murano beads.

Moti bharat

Bead embroidery of Gujarat

Motor dana

Pea border in Kantha.


Metallic thread embroidery done throughout the Banni in Kutch, Gujarat.


A silkworm reared mainly in Assam where it is fed on a species of laurel, producing a golden-hued silk.


Oriya term for the endpiece of a sari.


Bamboo tripod in Tamil Nadu.


Face of mask.


Anthropomorphic phallus, a Shaivite object of worship




Rubia Munjeesta. This is a plant of the maddar family.


The island in the lagoon of Venice that has been the centre of Venetian glassmaking since 1292.


Low cane and bamboo stool from Tripura.


Idol, image.


Textile, warp facedsatin weave.


Type of cane used for making mats in Bengal.


The fruit of several species of trees, growing in China and the East Indies, containing tannic acid (25-40% tannin)





Votive stone tablet bearing carved images of serpent deities worshiped at wayside shrines in Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu


String of cobra hoods

Nakli kam

Embroidery with chemically coloured copper wire.

Nakli tar

Chemically coloured copper wire.


Design or model for brocade weaving

Naksha bandha

Master craftmen of Varanasi who tie the naksha of jala for the weaving of Benares brocades. Akin to the western jacquard, the naksha is an arrangement of threads that when fixed on to the loom, enables the weaver to lift the required warp threads to produce the desired design on the fabric.


Slightly thicker wire than dabka.



Nakshi kantha

An embellished quilt embroidered in traditional motifs and innovative style by rural women in Bangladesh, often with elaborate pictorial embroidery

Nakshi Kanthar Maath

The field of the embroidered quilt in Kantha; the name of a poem by Jasimuddin.

Nakshi paar

The sesigned or decorative borders of handloom woven saris in Bangladesh.

Nakshi pitha

Rice-flour cake made with elaborate designs that are available in the form of moulds.

Nalki sut ki

Silken thread used to stitch the zari.


Christening or naming ceremony.


Derived from the Sanskrit root nand meaning to rejoice or to be pleased. It also means the happy one. Refers to the bull vehicle of Lord Shiva

Nandi Raja

Horse-headed guardian deity of the bhuta cult of spirit worship of coastal Karnataka


Bull diety of the bhuta cult in coastal Karnataka and the chief deity of the shrine at Mekkekattu

Narasimha avatara

Man-lion incarnation of Vishnu

Nasta’ liq

A cursive variety of the Arabic script developed in Persia.


Dancing form of Shiva


Nose ring in North India

Natungram toys

The most popular of the Natungram wooden toy items were the boldly painted figurines with raised hands representing Gaur, the beloved Vaishnava saint and social reformer, Shri Cahaitanya, and his principal disciple Nitai or Nityananda. Another popular painted toy form similarly fashioned but without the raised hands was a women figure known as "mummy doll" reminding one of the mummy coffins of ancient Egypt. These forms were crafted by cutting with the heavy all-purpose knife, dao. Around the nineteen-fifties only small toys were made and sold to the Paikar wholesalers for about Rs.6 per hundred. They were sold to the customers at places pilgrimage for two annas, an eighth part of a rupee per piece. The carving is always done by men and the painting often by women and children.

Natural dye

Dye in which the colouring agent is extracted from plant, animal, or mineral matter. The most common natural dyes are found in plants, but certain insects produce a red dye and certain shellfish produce a purple dye. Rust is an ancient mineral dye.


Necklace of nine gems that has the effect of negating the ill-effect of the planets associated with each gem


A caste of bhopas who perform the Pabuji epic in Rajasthan.

Nayaka (f. nayika)

A type of ideal lover, as classified in Indian poetry and rhetoric.

Needle braid

A decorative border or join achieved by interweaving threads with a needle. See also braid weaving, needle-weaving.




Indigo dyeing, specifically, is the task of the neelgar or one who dyes in indigo, neel meaning "indigo".

Neem patti

Leaf of neem tree (Azadirachta indica)


Name of stitch in kasuti embroidery, Karnataka


A type of embroidery, Haliputra, Kutch.

Net, netting

A general term for an open-textured, net-like fabric.

Netra mangalya

Ritual opening of the eyes in a painting or sculpture so that the image may be imbued with ‘life’

Netted beadwork

The threading on to yarn of a large number of different coloured tiny beads in a regular pattern to form a variety of coloured designs in an open net-like fabric. This is then anchored on to a ground fabric with stitches. See also beading.

Nettur petti

Lac-turned wooden ornament casket from Kerala with brass locks, hinges and beadings


Occupational group that separates the gold from the dust in a goldsmith’s workshop


The fixing position for each printing unit in a printing machine of any type. Also known as the ‘station’.


Forest dwelling tribe


A substance, usually a dye vessel, that does not react chemically and is not affected by dye baths, mordants, acids, or Alkalis.


Embroidery design for churi, Gracia Jat in Kutch, Gujarat.



North Indian veil cloth covering the head

Oil of vitriol

Sulphuric acid.


Embroidery design for churi, Gracia Jat in Kutch, Gujarat.


A type of openwork embroidery which depends on the cutting and withdrawing of yarn from a woven ground fabric, and the stitching of the remaining threads and edges into decorative patterns. Also known as drawn threadwork.


See Dharaniyo


Twisted raw silk from best cocoons, used for warp.


A woman’s veil of cloth worn all over the sub-continent as an upper drape for the head and bosom.

Oriental carpet

Any of a variety of pile carpets traditionally from regions east of the Mediterranean Sea (once referred to as the Orient). The terms carpet and rug are often used interchangeably, but “carpet” sometimes specifically refers to floor coverings.


Local term for ladle used by the tribal population of Bastar, Madhya Pradesh


Auspicious diagrams or symbols outlined on the floor by women in Orissa


Dyestuffs of different colours used consecutively to achieve a darker, mixed colour.


In dyeing terminology, bringing a product in contact with the acid in the air. In some dyeing processes, e.g. with indigo, the dyeing is completed by exposure to the air, and the oxygen in the air converts the unstable dye into a stable colour in the textile.



Betel leaf (usually sold as an outer wrap with betel nuts and condiments as an appetizer).

Paan Paata

Design of a betel leaf.


Container, often perforated, for betel leaves and other accessories.


Gujarati technique of jewellery making wherein tiny claws cast together with the ornamental framework are used to hold the stone in place.


Gujarati embroidered frieze.


Hanging pendant from Tamil Nadu that comes in various shapes including a serpent hood, swan, lotus, peacock and mango


Lotus motif in Orissan sari.


The joining together, by means of evenly distributed lines of stitches, of two or more layers of fabric to afford warmth, protection and decoration.

Pagdu bandhu

Tie-dyeing in Telugu


A turban.


Mizo basket used by women for carrying firewood and cotton


Grain measure in Madhya Pradesh


The application of mordants, dyestuffs or pigments to an object, usually to the surface of a fabric or to unwoven threads.


A type of embroidery, literally meaning good or strong, used by Frontier Herders, particularly Haliputras in Kutch, Gujarat.


A mordant-painted and sometimes batik resist-dyed Indian cotton fabric which usually features an elaborate flowering tree on a rocky mound. Derived from the word palangposh meaning bedspread.


Indian hand-painted cottons of fairly large size, often patterned with ‘Tree of Life’ motifs, which were imported into Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and used for bedcovers and hangings and later stretched on frames as wall decorations.


Fish trap of Rabha tribe of Assam


The principle usually ornamented end-piece of a sari

Pallav; pallu

The end piece of the sari that is draped over the left shoulder, usually with a design that contrasts with and complements the rest of the sari.


Leaf pouch containing chopped nits, spices and lime, chewed as a digestive and mild stimulant.


Betel leaf, which together with areca nut and lime is formed into a quid and chewed; often stored in a pandan or special box.


Basket for betel in Bihar

Panch mala taga

Literally, the five-garland border; same as panch taga in Kantha embroidery.

Panch patta

Five stripes, a traditional motif in mashru fabricof Gujarat

Panch taga

A threaded running stitch border in nakshi kantha embroidery.


Oil lamp with five lamp bowls


Literally five-rooted; a five-pronged motif common in nakshi kantha embroidery.


A section of a textile of a separate length of fabric. Not to be confused with a head-panel, a design element on certain Asian textile.


Erythrina indica; wood used in Savantwadi, Maharashtra

Panna hazar

Thousand emeralds literally, name of a brocade design


Kora grass mat of Kerala


A device used to copy a design in a scale other than the original.


A district




Circumambulation of the deity


A resist dyeing process in which a thick paste is applied to the surface of the fabric and allowed to harden before the cloth is dyed. See also batik, resist dyeing.


Folk tales painted on scrolls.Also, Cloth length in Gujarat; while in Punjab pat means floss silk.


Scroll paintings

Pata chitra/Patachitra

Patachitra or the cloth board scroll icon painting of Orissa occupy an important status among the many art forms centered around the temple of Puri. For the painted surface, the chitrakar community of painters utilises a gauze like fine cotton cloth, coated with a cooked solution of powdered tamarind seed, chalk and gum and subsequently smoothened.

The paintings are executed primarily in profile with highly elongated eyes within floral border. There are few landscapes and the scenes are depicted in a foreground closely juxtaposed together. Highly stylised paintings of the Puri temple and scenes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, figure along with the predominant painting of lord Jagannath, a form of Krishna, with his older brother Balarama and sister Subhadra.

Patbane ki sari

Sari made from untwisted silk


A decorative fabric assembled by seaming together many relatively small and more or less equivalent pieces of a number of different fabrics. See also appliqué.


Lathe in Kannada

Pati phor

(In Bengali) Also known as chatai; lit. the mat stitch.


Mat weavers of Bengal and Assam


A waist-sash worn by the nobilit or Typical turban in Andhra Pradesh


Famous double-ikat silk saris now woven only at Patan, Gujarat but formerly also at Surat and other towns. The term probably derives from the Sanskrit pattakula, meaning silk fabric


Salvi community of Gujarati weavers who weave the double ikat patola silks


Impersonator and vehicle of the deity in spirit possession rites among the bhuta deities of coastal Karnataka


The Maratha dagger the patta has a similar construction to the kartar and it is believed that it probably, evolved from the katar.


Paintings on cloth board


Silk fabric


Pairs of stripes, a design on the mashru fabric of Gujarat


Sets of shed-sticks supplementary to the main heddles used to create other sheds for the purpose of decorative patterning. Mostly used for supplementary weft weaving they may also be used to create supplementary warp patterning.

Patti bent

Type of cane used for making mats in Bengal


Type of cane in Assamese


Woollen twill weave blankets in geometric designs from Himachal Pradesh


Painters of Bengal




As the name implies, the payazi mace head was heavy and shaped like and onion/piyaz. The surface of the head had uneven projections.

Pearl ash

Carbonate of potash


The machine using the pantograph principle to transfer at one time as many repeats as are required around the surface of the copper cylinder. Originally the design was always increased five times in size on to the zinc master plate before being transferred at original size on to the surface of the copper cylinder - hence this traditional corruption of the word ‘pantograph’ in the textile trade.


Tamil for woman

Persian berries

The dried unripe fruit of various species of Rhamnus. Also called French berries, grains of Avignon.

Pesh kabz

Straight bladed daggers such as the pesh kabz have acutely tapering blades which are ground back under the grip to form a distinct step. Another distinguishing feature is the broad T-rib along the back edge of the blade. Grips are of the sandwich type with layers of bone, horn, elephant ivory and walrus ivory riveted to an extension of the blade. The pesh kabz sits very deeply into its scabbard, leaving only the pommel exposed. The tapering slender point is used for piercing through the rings of coats of mail and splitting them. The pesh qabz is of Persian origin and was introduced into India by the Mughals.


Rectangular boxes of brass or copper displayed on shelves or floors of the living rooms of the rooms of the rural houses of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat.


Large painted rectangular canvas panels rolled and carried around by the bhopas that depict the life story of the fighter hero Pabuji and the neo-Hindu incarnation of Vishnu, Dev Narayan of Rajasthan


Reed mat of Manipur


End pieces of Kashmiri shawl


Gold alloyed with silver


Woollen smock worn by Kashmiris.

Phoda kumbh

Steeple-shaped motif in Orissan sari


Stitch in Kantha.

Photographic emulsion

In the engraved roller industry known as a ‘light-sensitive varnish’. It is usually made of a branded PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) emulsion added to a solution of ammonium bichromate. One way, using Stensol (a proprietary brand which is sold unsensitized), is to make a stock solution with 6 per cent sodium bichromate and mix one part stock solution to five parts Stensol.


The process by which an ‘ engraving’ is produced in a metal plate or cylinder by means of light acting on a sensitised surface and the resultant image then being etched in acid. Conventional gravure cylinders all have cells or ‘dots’ of the same width but varying depth so that they hold either more or less ink, thus producing varying tones f one colour. One of the main methods of printing transfer paper.

Photomechanical (techniques)

A style of textile printing (known in France as picotage) used in the eighteenth century. A series of brass pins were driven into the surface of the block which was then used to produce a pattern, either as background or as shadowy shapes of such things as leaves.

Phul par

Flower border in Kantha embroidery.


Bamboo flower basket in North India


Lit. flower work. Shawls of khaddar cloth embroidered by Punjabi women in floss silk, leaving much of the background cloth unembroidered,done in satin stitch over counted threads on coarse madder or indigo-dyed home-spun cotton fabric. Also Ref. Bagh.


Wet rag used by Manipuri women in hand modelling the pot


Stone anvil used by Manipur potter women

Piari mitti

Yellow earth in Uttar Pradesh


The pigment-painted temple hangings or pichhavais of the Vallabhacharya Sampradaya, a Krishna sect in Rajasthan and Gujarat, are hung behind the image of the deity. The term pichhavai is a Hindi word, literally meaning ‘of behind’ (pichha - back and vai - of), which well describes the hanging’s function.


Temple hanging of the Vaishnava Vallabacharya sect of Nathdwara in Udaipur, Rajasthan


The joining of pieces of fabric to make a larger textile. The top layer of “patchwork” quilts is pieced before being quilted.


Colour which is not fully absorbed as a dye, but which binds to a surface when incorporated in an emulsion. In indigo's case the dried pigment becomes a dye when dissolved in the dye vat with Alkalis and a reducing agent.

Pigment printing

The printing of fabrics with opaque pigments that lie on the surface of the fabric instead of being absorbed into the fibres. Such pigments should not be used on pile fabric, e.g. velvet, as they will destroy the fabric's natural feel.


A plush or shaggy surface on a fabric resulting from loops or ends of yarn or fiber projecting above or below the surface of the fabric. In Oriental carpets, pile is formed by the cut ends of yarns commonly called rug knots.






Fretsaw perforation style of wood carving typical of Kashmiri craftsmanship


Ficus religiosa

Pipre sari

The name of a border pattern based on the kaitya, literally, ant line.

Pitches (or pitch pins)

Fine metal pins driven into the corners of the block for the purpose of establishing the correct repeat.


Finding the correct repeat. In engraved roller printing this means putting each roller in correct position while the machine is running slowly. Also known as ‘registering’ or ‘putting in register’.


The soft stem of a marshly reed


A checkered pattern achieved by tabby weaving different sets of coloured warp and weft threads in recurring arrangements.

Plain weave

The simplest possible interlacing of warp and weft elements in which weft element passes alternately over and under successive warp elements (over-one, under-one), and each reverses the procedure of the one before it.

  • Balanced plain weave: Plain weave in which the warp and weft yarns are of the same size and interlaced with equal spacing
  • Warp-faced plain weave: Plain weave in which the warp yarns are significantly more numerous than the weft yarns so that they completely hide the weft.
  • Weft-faced plain weave: Plain weave in which the weft yarns are significantly more numerous than the warp yarns so that they completely hide the warp.

Plangi; Pelangi

A resist dyeing and patterning process in which areas of cloth are reserved from dye by being bound off with dye-resistant fibres before dyestuffs are applied. Patterns are usually built up from small circles.

Plastic ka taga

Plastic thread.


The process of twisting together two or more single yarns. If the yarn is composed of two singles twisted together, it is said to be 2-ply, if of three singles, 3-ply, etc. Plying is usually done in the opposite direction from spinning.


Ornamental work produced by burning designs on to the surface of an object with a hot pointed instrument.

Pola baila

Votive terracotta figure of a bullock on wheels, Madhya Pradesh

Polished cloth

The action of polishing or burnishing. Make shiny by rubbing with a hard, smooth object.


Large conical fish trap from Tripura


The chemical union of two or more molecules of the same compound to form larger molecules. In screen printing, the emulsion coating (with added hardener) is baked, or ‘cured’, to bring about this change - after exposing and developing - as it greatly extends the life of the patterned screen.

Potassium carbonate (potashes)

Carbonate of potash has been known since ancient times as a constituent of the ashes of land plants, from which it is obtained by extraction with water. In most cases Sodium Carbonate, which it strongly resembles, can be used in its place.


A bundle of rectangular chitrakathi paintings of Maharashtra that together relate a single story


A term widely used in Southeast Asia for gold leaf glue-work, the application of gold leaf or gold dust to the cloth surface.


Lord of the universe, also an appellation given to potters


Breathing in of life’ in the image of a deity after its completion by the craftsman. It is believed that the deity descends into its images.

Prayer rug

A rug or carpet with the design of a niche or arch at one end of the field.

Pressure bowl

The large central cylinder against which the engraved roller rotates and which carries the back-grey and cloth to be printed. Made resilient by lapping, it acts in effect like a print table.

Print paste

Also known as ‘dye-paste’. The blend of colouring-matter, solvents, mordant and thickening which the printer uses to get the impression.


Although with the invention of synthetic dyes it is now possible to apply colour directly to fabric, this process will not produce washable colours with natural dyes. Instead, designs first had to be printed either with a mordant or with a resist, and the entire fabric then immersed in the dye bath.

The traditional textile printing tool in the Middle East and Europe was the wooden block. During the Industrial Revolution in Europe, metal plates and then metal rollers were used instead, at first for mordants and resists, and then for the new dyes when these were developed.

Process engraving

Also known as ‘photographic engraving’, in the textile trade this refers to the process in which copper cylinders are etched from ‘tracing’(positives) produced entirely by photographic means.




Ritualistic worship by Hindus.


Literally meaning ripe; used also in the sense of a ‘solid’ or ‘permanent’.


Literally meaning ripe , it used here in the sense of a ‘solid’ or ‘permanent’ house.

Pukur paar

A border design in paar-tola patterns shaped like a pond.


Embroidered motif, literally flower, in Kutch, Gujarat.


The full vase motif in Kantha embroidery.


Lit.curtain. The custom of the seclusion of women; Veil or curtain, used to describe the custom of women covering their faces in the presence of men.




Veil or curtain, used to describe the custom of women covering their faces in the presence of men


Puppet figure of a woman or doll.


The invoked god in alpana floor design in Bengal.


Effigy of replica

Putting on

The job of transferring the design to the surface of the a or die prior to cutting or engraving.

Putul Nautch

Puppetry of Bengal



A canvas tent wall round an encampment.


The process of sewing together layers of fabric with lines of stitches, usually with a layer of padding in between the layers. Such stitching not only holds the layers together but is also often decorative in its effect.



A ‘garland of ragas’ or musical modes ( f. ragini), whose essential characteristics are creatively personified, both in verse and in visual images, in series of thirty-six or more illustrations in the miniature tradition.

Rahu Puja

Ceremony to propitiate King Rahu performed by the Dushadh community of Bihar


Known as ‘fondu’ in France. The use of a divided colour-box in block printing, so that the colour is transferred to the block in the form of softly shaded stripes.


King and queen


Warriors by caste, the former ruling class of west India.

Rakt chandan

Red sandalwood

Ram Dao

The Ram Dao sword is not a combat weapon but one used for sacrificial purposes. It was in use in Bengal, Assam and Nepal. It has a broad, heavy, forward curved blade about 2 feet in length. The handle is straight and long so that the sacrificial sword can be held in both hands for a downward stroke.

Ranakakan diya

Oil lamp depicting the sun and the moon in Bastar, Madhya Pradesh



Rangin tar

Coloured wire.


Auspicious diagrams executed on the floor by women of Maharashtra


Dyeing of fabrics in India, is the traditional occupation of the rangrez, rang meaning "colour" and rez, "to pour".

Rapid ager

See Ageing.


Circle dance


The many tiered chariot on wheels which is fitted with statues of deities and decorated colourfully. It is pulled through the streets by devotees during puja festivities in India and Nepal.

Rath diya

Oil lamp shaped like a chariot in Madhya Pradesh




Chariot festival


Fibre from the stems of various climbing palms of the genus Calamus, used for matting and basketry.

Raun pawnti

Shadow theatre of Orissa


Mythical many-headed demon king of Lanka.


Stringed fiddle-like instrument played by a bhopa in Rajasthan whilst narrating the Pabuji epic.

Raw Silk / Wild Silk

The wild or raw silk is obtained from silkworms known as the tassar, muga and eri as well as some other local varieties is indigenous to Indis It is well known for its textural beauty and subdued tones. Tassar worms are simply fed on any tree in the hilly tracts of the country and produce a variety of silk that is stiff in texture. The muga worm is reared mainly in Assam where it is fed on a species of laurel, producing a golden-hued silk. Eri worms feed on the leaves of the castor plant, locally known as arundee, and produce a silk which is rough-textured and lacks a glossy shine.


A term for artificially made silk thread. See also synthetic fibre.

Red woods

Camwood, Barwood, Sanderwood (Santal, Sandal, Red Sanders), Brazil wood, Sapan wood, Peach wood.


A piece of loom apparatus consisting usually of fine /wood slivers standing vertically between two horizontal bars. The comb acts as a warp-spacer and, when weaving, the weaver beats the comb against the newly inserted weft thread with her sword.


The correct fitting together of all areas and colours in a printed fabric.

Rens taga

A threaded stitch border resembling a pattern of wrenches in nakshi kantha.


The exact reproduction of any unit of design placed in and accurate geometric relationship to it - for instance ‘side to side’ (known as a ‘square’ repeat), that is, set at a given distance exactly horizontal and vertical to the original.


Wax or a paste of rice or clay painted or printed on to the cloth before dyeing, to reserve a white pattern. There are also modern resists which act chemically to prevent the fixation of the dye. Hence the ‘resist style’ of printing.

Resist dyeing

Resist dying is a common method of textile decoration in India, this process involves the resisting, screening or covering of pre-woven yarn or finished cloth with a removable yet impermeable substance. The placement of the dyestuff in the resist technique is controlled in various ways, though there are two main methods of regulating the patterning. First, there is the tie-and-dye technique, in which yarns or textiles are screened/covered, or partly screened, by being tied with impermeable threads. The second creates patterns either by painting or printing with a substance that will react with the dye to fix the colour (mordant resist dyeing), or by applying an impermeable and removable substance such as mud, gum or wax, that will successfully resist the colour when the cloth is dipped into a dye bath, yet may be removed by dissolving through washing or washing and heating.

Resist dyeing

Any process which employs dye-resistant materials to block the penetration of dyes on to or into selected areas of fabric or threads for the purpose of decorative patterns. See also batik, ikat, plangi, tritik.

Resist printing

Method of printing in which substances that will prevent the dyestuff from penetrating the fibres are applied to the cloth before printing or dyeing.


To pour

Ribbon embroidery

An embroidery technique in which narrow flat ribbon thread, usually of beaten silver, is interlaced or stitched into a net or gauze-like fabric. See also embroidery.


Narrow zigzag braid used as trimming.


Zigzag braiding used to decorate garments.


An adhesive residue of safflower, castor or linseed oil used to prepare a colour for printing textiles. When oil of safflower, castor or linseed is heated over fire for more than 12 hours and cast into cold water it produces a thick residue known as roghan. The raised or encrusted work in roghan carried out by craftsmen of Nirona in Kutch, Gujarat, is skilfully worked out using a stylus on one quarter of the cloth which, when folded, effectively stamps the design on the remaining parts.

When this adhesive-residue is printed on cloth and subsequently dusted with coloured powder, gold or silver dust, it is known as khari or tinsel work.

Rotary screen printing

Printing from a machine equipped with a set of cylindrical screens - usually, but not always, placed in line along a horizontal print table - each fitted with an internal squeegee and colour-feed unit.


Anatta, Arnotto.


Coil or roll made of ribbon or strips of fabric


Lit.tears of Shiva. Seeds of the Javanese tree Eleaocarpus ganitrus, revered and used in India as necklaces and rosaries by shiavite priests, holy men and devotees.


Fruits of the Elacocarpus Canitrus used as roary beads


The terms rug and carpet are often used interchangeably. However the term "rug" is broader, often including a range of coarse weavings including tent furnishings, bags for storage and transport and animal trappings.

Rug knot

A segment of a supplementary wrapping weft whose cut ends project above the surface of the rug. Although called a "knot", the yarn segments are not actually tied, but just wrap around the warp yarns and are held in place by the ground weft yarns. Depending on the coarseness of the yarns and how closely they are set, the number of "knots" per square inch of a rug or carpet can range from less than 50 to more than 1000.

Ruling mill

A small mill which has scale lines raised in relief on its surface, and which is used to transfer these lines on to the varnished surface of a copper cylinder.

Ruling varnish

A specially prepared coating used to protect the surface of the cylinder, but which is malleable enough to be finely and clearly scarped away when the small ruling mill is rotated against it.


Handkerchief; square fabric often used as a base for embroidery. See, Chamba Rumal.


Either a kerchief worn over shoulders or head, or a square cover for gifts or food.


Type of alloyed silver


Sable (ground)

A French term (also called ‘sanded’ or ‘vermicular’ ground) for a block-printed cloth which has had tiny pinned dots printed all over it before the printing of the main pattern.

Sachacha tar

Silver wire gilded with gold.

Sachcha kam

Silver wire gilded with gold.


Gold embroidery

Saddening agent

Addition to the dye bath of iron mordant, which ultimately dulls the colour. Dyeing in an iron vessel has this effect, particularly on bright colours.


One who handcrafts an entire ornament on his own (Sandh in Persian means 100%)


A wandering ascetic.


Gujarati woman’s wrap, worn over petticoat and blouse in the manner of a sari.




Necklace of charms and pendants of the Deccan. The word probably has it’s origin in the Sanskrit word sraj.

Sajji mitti

Crude carbonate of soda


A lady’s confidante, acting as a go-between for separated lovers in North India.


Sari with a chequerboard design in the central field, woven in single and double ikat at Sambalpur, Orissa.

Salar masud

A nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni (the first Muslim invader of India, d.1033/34). A cult developed around his tomb at Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, with both Muslim and Hindu devotees. This involved the offering of appliquéd cloths known as kanduri as covers for the tomb.


Shrines visited by the Dusadhs of Bihar


Baggy trousers worn in north India and Pakistan.


A small piece of fabric bearing examples of patterns for the purpose of recording.


Important ritual occasions or rites of passage in the life of a Hindu.


A traditional milk sweet of Bengal made in moulds with engraved decorative designs on the surface.


Mixed brocade fabric from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh

Sankia (hankia)

Decorative fabric panels hung by the sides of doorways in Kutch, Gujarat.


A red dye extracted from wood, in Andhra Pradesh


The wood of a small tree, Caesalpinia sappan from which a red dyestuff is obtained.


Type of glue


A woman’s unsewn piece of cloth varying in length from five yards to six and a half yards and upto nine yards, used in different parts of the subcontinent as a drape, worn with or without an upper garment or blouse.


Glue used along with wall plaster to coat the surface of moulded pulped paper while making papier mache objects in Kashmir


Jungle shrine in Madhya Pradesh


Woman’s wrap-around, shorter than a sari and usually worn without a blouse


North Indian term for nutcracker. Made in a variety of shapes, from equestrian figures to couples


Painting of the family pool which includes different kinds of fish, turtles, etc, executed on the walls of homes in Madhubani, Bihar

Satadal padma

The hundred-petalled lotus motif.


Universal consciousness symbolised by rounded stones.


A tie-dyed shoulder cloth worn by a woman after her first child is born in Rajasthan


Auspicious diagrams outlined on the floor by women of Gujarat.


A term used to describe both a simple float weave structure of either warp or weft threads, and a type of woven fabric characterized by a smooth, lustrous silky appearance.


A cloth made of mixed cotton and silk.


A simple, straight, flat stitch circling through the fabric, which is often used to produce flat, smooth, patterned surfaces by laying a series of fairly long stitches parallel and close together.


Fabric exported to Islamic countries under this trade name since it was brought by ‘saudagars’, Arabic for merchant.

Saxon blue

The dye made by indigo dissolved in oil of vitriol.

Scale (lines)

In engraved roller work, in order to print a flat area of solid colour, the shape (after outlining) must be filled in with a series of parallel lines set at an angle of between 22 ½ and 30°; the number of these to the inch constitutes the scale.

Scotch ell

37.2 inches


To wash


The freeing of cloth from all impurities before printing or dyeing.

Screen engraving

The production of the open and infilled pattern areas on the screen surface; the traditional term is still used, although engraving is in no way involved.

Screen printing

Method of printing where thickened dye is forced through an open mesh fabric held under tension. The dye is prevented from reaching the cloth in certain areas by coating the open mesh with any medium that will not break down until the required number of prints have been made.


The rustling property of silk.


The edges of a textile where the wefts encircle the outermost warp threads.


The edge of a fabric where the yarns reverse direction.


The opaque painted or photographically produced positive of all areas of one design colour on transparent film. Also known as a ‘sketch’ or ‘tracing’.


Small, shiny, usually metallic discs with a central hole. Also known as spangles.


The process of cultivating, harvesting, and processing silk from silkworms, primarily the domesticated caterpillar Bombyx mori, which is a type of moth. Silkworms are fed a diet of mulberry leaves, increasing their body weight nearly 10,000 times in their month-long lifespan. The silkworms extrude a protein-based liquid that when exposed to air becomes the filament that creates their cocoon. The cocoons are soaked in hot water to soften them and the filament is drawn out and wound onto a reel. Several filaments are drawn out simultaneously and twisted together in a process much like plying.


Wealthy man


A name given to certain muslins.

Shadow appliqué

Appliqué embroidery in which the base fabric shows through a pattern cut out of a translucent upper fabric.

Shadow puppets

Viewed as shadows from behind a lamp-lit cloth screen, puppets usually made from leather, are manipulated with the help of bamboo sticks attached at certain point, usually at joins on the shoulders, knees, elbows and head. The highly animated performance, along with the drum beat and loud narration of stories is highly effective in mesmerising the spectators.


(Hindi) Energy

Shalu / Salu

Traditional red cotton quilt material in nakshi kantha emboidery; also used in Sujni embroidery.


Two horizontal bars of karchob.

Shamuk taga

The snail border




Conch shell, one of Vishnu’s emblems


Snakehead pattern in Kantha emrboidery.


The head of the shashpar mace had six big ribs or flanges arranged around a central block. The mace head it then surmounted by one strong spike. The flanges present an ‘S’ shaped profile and can be aesthetically very pleasing, specially when the shaft and head are damascened.


A temporary opening between two planes of warp threads, selectivity separated, for the passage of the weft during the weaving process. See also heddle, shed-opener.

Shedoli munda

Flat, paddle-shaped wood or stone pillars erected at the shedoli ceremony by the Korku tribals of Madhya Pradesh


A device used to open a shed through which the weft threads can be inserted during the weaving process. See also heddle, shed, shed sticks.


Additional rods used to select particular warp threads for the purpose of creating the pattern. They are also known as shed-sticks. A supplementary weft is inserted in the sheds they are used to create. See also shed-sticks


Rods or sticks used in conjunction with a main heddle to produce other often irregular sheds for supplementary thread patterning. See also heddle-sticks.

Sheetalpati cool mat

A special type of cane (Clinogyne dichotoma) locally known as patti bent or mutra in Bengali, patti due in Assamese and amjori in Garo, is used to create beautiful floor mats.

Generally undyed, the natural subdued tones of the dried split cane create a tonal effect on the hand woven surface of the sheetalpati, literally, "cool matting", ideal during the sultry heat of the Indian summer.


Sari depicting hunting scenes, usually in Benares brocade


A huntsman


Literally refers to all forms of creative expression including skill, craft, work or art or architecture, design, ability, ritual and ingenuity.


One engaged in shilpa, a craftsman


Sanskrit treatises on art and architecture


One engaged in shilpa


Mirrored glass used in embroidery work.


A type of hard wood.

Shitalpati / cool mat

A popular but expensive mat made in the northern Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Bangladesh. The word shitalpati literally means cool mat. The shitalpati mat-makers of north Bengal are from the Kayastha caste; one step below are the madur mat making Mahisyas who belong to a caste group higher than the nine traditional craft castes. The Kayasthas use mutra cane, this raw material grows in Cooch Behar. It is soaked in water for 24 hours before it is slashed into thin strips to make the pati. Some of the strips are dyed magenta for pattern work. Sagareswar Ghugumari and Pashnadanga in Cooch Behar are the most important centres of shitalpatti.

Shokher haari

A clay pot painted in primary colours, used for ceremonial purposes.


Aeschynomene aspera a light marshy need used in Assam and West Bengal

Shostir chinho

The swastika, also known as muchri or golok dhanda in nakshi kantha embroidery.


Guild of medieval India


Women’s body decoration


A tool by which the weft is passed through the shed opening in the warp during weaving. In many cases in Southeast Asia the weft is wound on to a bobbin which is placed inside a shuttle case or weaving.

Shuttle case

An implement in which the bobbin containing the weft threads is inserted for a smoother passage through the warp shed. In insular Southeast Asia this is often a hollow tube, smooth at the closed end. On the northern mainland the shuttle case is a long boat-shaped piece of carved wood. See also bobbin, shuttle.


The part of the swimming-tub which furnishes the block with colour.


Fine slices of bamboo used in central tribal India

Sikki/ golden grass

The Darbhanga, Madhubani, Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Muzaffarpur districts of Bihar are known for their coiled basketry using a grass locally known as sikki, obtained from the dried stems of a succulent plant. The golden-yellow sikki is used to create dolls, toys, caskets and baskets using the coiling technique. Before being woven, the grass is dyed in bright translucent colours with the golden grass, glowing through the paint, it gives the articles their characteristic luminosity.


Community of stone carvers of Rajasthan


The filaments secreted by caterpillars and spiders. While the silk of most caterpillars and spiders is not practical for textiles, there are a few species of moths whose cocoons yield usable fiber. One species, Bombyx mori, was domesticated in ancient China and its cultivation is known as sericulture.

Silver thread

Thread formed from finely beaten silver ribbon, sometimes wrapped around a core fibre. See also metallic thread.


Printing of one side of the cloth only.




Vermilion or sindoor container in North India


Vermilion; the red powder in the parting of the hair is a symbol of a hindu married woman.



Sisum, sheesham

A type of rosewood, Dalbergia roxburgh, used in the making of furniture and wooden printing blocks.


A small embellishment piece looking like a star.


Black stone used for making everyday utensils, in Bihar


The controlled distortion necessary to print horizontal stripes by engraved roller. The roller is engraved with the stripes set at and angle of 22 ½ -30° from the horizontal and printed on to cloth stentered off-grain at the same angle. The same effect can be produced photographically on a pull-in machine.

Slip number

Objects transferred from the Indian Museum to the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria and Albert Museum) in 1880 are entered in record, or ‘slip’ books. The ‘slip number’ of the object identifies the relevant page.

Slit-tapestry weave

Tapestry weave in which the adjacent areas of colour are separated by slits in the woven fabric, achieved by repeatedly turning back the discontinuous weft around adjacent warps.

Soda ash

Carbonate of soda.


A Rajput clan.

Sodium Chlorate

Added to acid dyestuff printing pastes to prevent reduction of dark shades.


A brown dye used in Javanese batik, derived from a combination of bark and wood from several trees. A major ingredient is the bark of the soga tree. Pelthophorum ferrugineum.


Shaman in Uttar Pradesh


Shaivite community of stone sculptors and architects of Gujarat and Rajasthan

Sona rakha

Auspicious symbols or diagrams outlined on the floor by women in Uttar Pradesh


A cloth worked on with rubies.


Gold embroidery.

Sone chandi ka tar

Gold and silver wire.


A widely used term in Southeast Asia for supplementary weft patterning usually denoting metallic thread as the major supplementary weft element.

Soof bharat

Embroidery that follows counted threads of the warp and weft in creating geometric patterns on homespun fabrics, mainly in the Thar desert area


Counted stitch embroidery done in west Rajasthan, Sind and Kutch.


A circular curving form of the ancient svastika evolved in kantha embroidery as a motif signifying good omen. Su-asti in Sanskrit means “it is well”.

Sour water

To every gallon of water, add one gill vitriol; stir thoroughly. Stuff steeped in this should be covered with the liquor, otherwise it will rot.

Water in which bran has been made to grow sour. 24 bushels of bran are put in a tub, about 10 hogsheads of nearly boiling water is poured into it; acid fermentation soon begins, and in 25 hours it is ready to use.

Throw some handful of bran into hot water and let it stand for 24 hours, or until the water becomes sour, when it is fit for use.


A tool used for spinning thread. The hand spindle consists of a short rod weighted at the lower end with a disc (spindle-whorl). It is either let fall from a height to spin freely or spun with the lower point in a smooth concave receptacle. See also spinning.


A small disc through which the spindle-rod passes. It provides weight and balances during the spinning process. See also spindle.


The process of drawing out and twisting together massed short fibers into a continuous strand. Fibers of naturally limited length, such as cotton and wool, must be spun to achieve a desired length, texture, and strength. Traditionally most fiber was spun using a hand spindle. Today most fiber is spun by machine.


Apparatus consisting of a wheel turned by hand which rotates, via a belt, a spindle-rod around which the spun thread is twisted. In Southeast Asia this apparatus sits flush with the ground. See also spinning.


The device (usually in the form of a blade) used to press the print paste, or alternatively the light-sensitive emulsion, through the mesh of the screen. Also known as a ‘doctor’.


A method of colouring small sections of pattern on fabrics after the weaving is completed, by the staining or daubing of dyes, usually of a fugitive nature.


A term applied to cotton and wool indicating length of fibre.

Stem stitch

An embroidery stitch which moves forward on the front of the cloth and then part way back on the underside of the cloth to start the next forward stitch on the top surface in a regular fashion. It used to produce lines or outlines.

Stencil print

A form of cloth print where a dye or resist paste is applied to the cloth through leather or paper shablon stencils with pattern details that have been cut out.


A controlled straightening and stretching process. The selvedges of the cloth are attached to a series of pins or clips as it is fed through a machine (or ‘stenter’), and as the pins are gradually placed further apart widthways, the cloth is slowly and permanently brought out to the desired width.


See Half-drop.

Step-repeat machine

A machine which copies as many repeats as are required on to a sensitised screen or film in correct register.


A copy or cast. In flexographic printing the term is applied to the moulded rubber repeats of the pattern, many of which are fixed together to form a complete roller.




Traditional architect - craftsman

Stick batik

A batik resist dyeing process in which the resist substance is applied with a small stick or rod rather than a pen


In hand engraving, the tonal effects produced by punching small dots on the copper cylinder with a series of small punches and hammers. It is no longer practised because gradations can now be more easily produced photographically.

Stitch work

The embellishment of fabrics by means of needle worked stitches. An extensive variety of stitches and materials are used in embroidery.

Stitch-resist dyeing

A resist dyeing and patterning process in which the cloth is stitched, gathered and tucked tightly before dyestuffs are applied so that dye cannot penetrate the reserved areas. Also known as tritik.


Sample prints made to prove the accuracy of screens or rollers.

Stump work

Raised couched metal thread embroidery which is worked over padding or a card cut to the shape of the pattern to achieve a three-dimensional effect. See also couching.


Dome-shaped Buddhist and Jaina funerary monument


Administrative area of the Mughal empire.


Type of alloyed silver

Substantive dyes

Natural dyestuffs that have an Acetic Acid with textile fibres and do not require the addition of mordants.


Silk embroidered with gold.

Sudarshan chakra

Sacred discus of Vishnu


Fish trap from Tripura and part of Assam


Pipe of the Apa Tani tribe


Tie-dyed shoulder cloth for women worn after marriage and before the first-born in Rajasthan.


A special quilt worked in elaborate decorative designs.In Bihar, quilts similar to Bengal kanthas; in Bangladesh specifically quilts made with red salu, worked with back stitch.


Decorative quilting done in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.


Quilts made from old saris with lively figurative motifs in running stitch, distinctive of Bihar


Leaves and twigs of several species of Rhus, containing tannic acid. It is sold in the form of crushed leaves or as a powder (15-20% tannin).


Goldsmith in North India


In North India the gold or silversmith is known as the sunar, a name derived from the Sanskrit suvarna kar, or one who works in gold.


A term applied in Borneo and Kalimantan to weft wrapping. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia it is an alternative spelling and pronunciation of songket, supplementary weft weaving.


Literally heard; Orally transmitted teachings.

Supali diya

Oil lamp in the shape of a winnowing tray


Winnowing tray in Tamil Nadu

Supplementary warp (weaving)

A decorative weaving technique in which an additional set of warp threads is woven into a textile to create an ornamental pattern additional to the ground weave.

Supplementary weft (weaving)

A decorative weaving technique in which extra ornamental weft threads are woven int a textile between two regular wefts to create patterns additional to the ground weave.


Long slender-necked spouted vessel



Surface roller printing

Rotary printing from cylinders patterned in relief; it was used for traditional chintz to give a hand block effect, but is now seen only in specialist firms and in the wallpaper industry.

Surma dani

Container for antimony oxide, used as eye cosmetic.

Surya bimba

Image of the sun






Wielder of strings, architect


One who works in gold, goldsmith


Gold alloyed with copper


Brocaded border design of Maheshwari sari

Svastika aripana

Type of aripana or floor painting done by the women of Madhubani, Bihar, consisting of 41 interlinked swastikas. It is usually drawn near the auspicious tulsi plant or holy basil.

Swarnakars/ goldsmiths

The traditional jewellery makers of Bengal belong to this caste of. One of the nine traditional craft castes of India.


Auspicious Hindu symbol, it turns in the reverse direction to the Nazi swastika!


A sample or specimen of a cloth design.


A wooden tub, half-filled with thickening or old dye-paste to give resilience, over which is stretched a water proof covering and on which is resting the sieve 0 a drum stretched over tightly with woollen cloth. The colour is spread on to the sieve and the block pressed against it before printing.


A smooth narrow wooden slat, inserted into newly opened sheds of warp threads and used to beat in each newly inserted weft.

Synthetic dyes

Dye in which the colouring agent is chemically manufactured. The first synthetic dyes were developed in the mid-19th century, and many types have been invented since then. A few of the compounds synthesized are the same as those found in natural sources (for example, indigo). Synthetic dyes are much easier to use and give the dyer more control over results than natural dyes.

Synthetic dyes / Chemical dyes

All dyes, natural or synthetic, are chemicals, but the term "chemical dyes" refers to those synthesized in the laboratory. Aniline is a chemical substance derived from coal-tar. Discovered in 1856, it was the first synthetic dyestuff. The applications of a number of dyes produced from aniline changed the world’s dye industry. It is sometimes used as a general term for synthetic or chemical dyes.

Synthetic fibres

A general term for artificially-made fibres. More specifically the term refers to mechanically extruded thread; usually long, fine, structurally continuous filaments obtained by a chemical process from petroleum and coal-tar by products.


Taabiz par

Amulet border pattern resembling an amulet design.

Taar pati

Slab for drawing wires


A raised, straight strip about ¾ in. wide and 6-8 in. long cut into the steel collar (which is shrunk into the neck of the steel cylinder) and finally copper coated. Its purpose is to provide a key for locking in the mandrel.

Tabby weave

The simplest basic interlacing of warp and weft threads in a one-over-one-under plain weave.



Tablet weaving

A band weaving process in which warps are threaded through holes punched in tablets or cards which are turned to create shed openings for the weft to pass through.


Carpenter belonging to the Kanmalan community of artisans in the South




A general term to describe the making of a garment by cutting and sewing.


Refined silver in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh


Administrative unit.


District of administration in Kutch, Gujarat.


A sword with long curved blade, commonly used in north India.




To stretch, also a verb for weaving in Sanskrit


Town near Dacca, Bangladesh. In India, Jamdani saris woven in west Bengal are known by the trade name ‘Tangail’.


Woman’s woollen loin cloth of the Bharwad caste , Saurashtra, Gujarat.


Narrow horizontal borders in a Kashmiri shawl

Tannic acid

Found in oak galls and many other plants. Used as a mordant and fixing agent for natural dyestuffs.


A stringed instrument, used to provide a drone accompaniment for a singer or instrumentalist.








Embroidery design for churi, Gracia Jat, in Kutch , Gujarat.


Terracotta pan for cooking vegetables

Tapestry weave

A type of weft-faced plain weave in which the weft yarns are discontinuous, turning back at the edges of each colour area, instead of extending continuously from selvedge to selvedge.

  • Slit tapestry weave: the discontinues weft yarns turn back around adjacent warp yarns, forming slits between the colour areas.

Tarakashi / silver filigree

Cuttack, in Orissa, has long been famous for its very fine filigree wire or web work in silver. Silver wire is first drawn in varying thickness and pressed and twisted into different forms and shapes. First the main ribs are fixed and the interspaces are, then, filled in with the delicate tendrils of finer wires according to the design. In Cuttack, the flower motif predominates. In addition to silver ornaments, attardans or rosewater sprinklers, boats, bowls and decorative animal and bird, especially peacock, figures are some of the articles made in the filigree technique.

Tarang kati

Long wooden rod with six horizontal divisions, each painted with mythological divisions, each painted with mythological figures. An important ritual accessory in parts of Maharashtra


Inlaying of gold or silver wire into previously engraved beads on a metal surface.

Tarkashi / filigree work

Orissa and Bengal jewellery is the best known. The Maukhali area of West Bengal can match the best of the filigree work or Orissa in craftsmanship.


Decorative fabric wall hanging, hung above interior niches; sometimes called l’kania in Kutch, Gujarat.


A cloth having warp and weft in metal wire.


Type of wild silkworm producing raw silk. Tassar worms are fed on any tree in hilly tracts and produce a variety of silk that is stiff in texture


In the South the gold or silversmith occupation is dominated by the Tattans or goldsmiths of the Kammalan caste, also known as Visvagnas or Daivagnas.

Tearing (or tiering)

The job of spreading the printpaste evenly over the woollen sieve.

Teen gomi Maheshwari bugdi

Type of brocaded border design of the Maheshwari sari

Teen kani

Triangular pattern on the sheetal pati of Assam, Bengal

Teh nishan

Technique wherein gold or silver sheets are embedded onto a previously chased metal surface

Teh-nishan / lala technique

Where gold or silver sheets are embedded onto the surface of the alloy, previously chased and hammered into place.

Telia rumal

Lit. oiled kerchief. Square double-ikat headcloth or loin cloth from Andhra Pradesh.

Telia rumals

Telia means ‘oily’. Refers to the ikat handkerchiefs of Andhra Pradesh where the yarn is dipped in oil.

Tella puniki

Glotia rattle formis, wood used for making toys.


Stitch in Chikan embroidery.


Anything made by people from fibrous materials. The term includes fabrics made of adhered fibers like felt, items made of relatively unmodified plant materials like baskets and mats, fabrics made of spun yarns such as knitted and woven cloth, and items made of synthetic linear elements such as nylon window screens.

  • Textile structure: The relationships of the elements in a finished textile. For example, plain weave and tapestry weave are structures found in woven textiles.
  • Textile technique: A method or process used to create a textile. Different techniques can produce the same structure. For example, a cloth woven on a loom in plain weave can have the same structure as a basket interlaced using only the hands.


(Hindi) Roll of cloth of standard loom length.


An essential jewellery component of many South Indian weddings. It is a gold necklace consisting of a numerous emblems of which the thali, usually a phallic symbol, hangs in the centre. In the coastal regions of Kerala and Karnataka, the cylindrical bars are of gold.


Metal plates of brass, bronze, stainless steel used for serving meals.


Literally imprint, probably a derivation from the word sthapana, meaning installation.

Then check

Square or rectangular pattern on the sheetal pati of Assam, Bengal


Partabgarh in South Rajasthan has a very special technique called theva in which extremely fine work in gold leaf is done on red, green and blue glass. The pattern is first painstakingly punched out on gold leaf embedded on lac. Coloured glass of the same measurement and encased in a frame is then heated and, while still hot, the gold film is slipped over the edge and pressed onto the surface of the glass. The article is reheated until a sort of fusion takes place between the two. Silver foil is placed beneath the glass to give the surface a uniform glow. From elaborate hunting scenes to intimate rasa lilas, intricate patterns are made on the surfaces of plates, caskets, panels and ornaments in this technique.


Any agent used to ‘stodge up’ the liquid colouring-matter and to prevent its spread by capillarity to unwanted areas of the cloth. It can be made of natural starches or gums or of artificially made ones.

Thol Pava Koothu

Shadow puppets of Andhra Pradesh

Tholu Bomalatta

In Andhra Pradesh the Tholu Bomalatta shadow puppets are made from goat, cow or buffalo skin, these shadow puppets are sometimes more than five feet high. They are translucent, stained in vegetable dyes and are extremely stylised in facial and garment rendering.This tradition of travelling shadow puppet theatre typically enacts the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata.


A simple continuous aggregate of fibres that is suitable for textile construction. The composition of threads varies from single strands of fibrous material, untwisted but knotted to achieve length to spun yarn which is plied or twined for added strength and thickness.

Three-dimensional couched embroidery

Raised couched metal thread embroidery which is worked over padding or a card cut to the shape of the pattern to achieve a three-dimensional effect. See also couching.


Each projection or insertion of the weft shuttle and bobbin through the shed opening in the warp threads. See also shuttle.

Tie and dye (Tie dyeing)

A process of dyeing fabric by hand while at the same time introducing a pattern. Areas of the fabric are tied tightly to inhibit penetration of the dye. After dyeing the tied areas are untied, revealing the pattern as a pale motif on a dyed ground.


A variety of spiral wire.


A sacred sign painted on the forehead. Also, caste mark


Flat wire.


Coarse decorative thread embellished with rough pieces of gold, silver or imitation metal leaf.


A kind of stand with three legs.


Picture scrolls of Gujarat, literally meaning "recording" or "remark", they depict many legends in a single scroll, unlike the narrative painting traditions of Bengal and Rajasthan


Embroidered border.

Tirupati koyya bommalu

Tirupati wooden dolls


A tool used exclusively in Java for drawing with wax. It consists of a copper or brass receptacle having one or more spouts, which is mounted on a bamboo or reed handle.

Tjap (block)

A wax printing block made entirely of metal strips and open at the back. It was introduced in the latter half of the nineteenth century to facilitate speedier production in Java.

Toby printing

A method used in block printing when the different colour areas of a design were clearly separated from each other; the colours were applied by means of a divided sieve and were thus printed at the same time from one block.


Tribe of pastoralists centred around Ootacamund in the Nilgiri hills, Tamil Nadu.


Button-shaped gold-embossed ear ornaments of Kerala


(Bengali) Bridegroom’s head dress.


Embroidered door-frame hanging of Gujarat

Traditional dyes

Dyestuffs obtained from natural plant, animal and mineral substance.


Slightly twisted raw silk, used for weft.

Transfer printing

A new textile-printing method in which the pattern is printed on to a paper web and transferred by a process of sublimation (under heat and pressure) to fabrics mainly of man-made fibre.

Treadle loom

A loom in which the heddles are alternatively opened by used of a foot-operated treadle. Also known as a foot-operated heddle loom.


"Age of threads", the second age of Hindu mythology


Three jewels.


A resist dyeing and patterning process in which the cloth is stitched, gathered and tucked tightly before dyestuffs are applied so that dye cannot penetrate the reserved areas.

True dyes

Natural dyes that are lightfast, such as madder reds and indigo blues.


Short bunches of the fibre secured in the basic fabric.




Sweet basil considered to be the sacred plant of the Hindus


Corner motif.


Traditional basket makers cum cultivators, in central tribal India


A fugitive yellow dyestuff obtained front he rhizome of the Curcuma domestica plant.


Woven border

Twill weave

Weaving or cloth patterned by a regular diagonal alignment of floating threads.


Two or more weft (or warp) elements worked together by spiralling around each other while encircling successive warps (or wefts)

Tyrian purple

A purple colour obtained from certain shell fish, such as Buccinum and Purpura. It is mentioned by Pliny as being discovered in 1400 B.C. It was a lost art in the Middle Ages.





Spittoon in Urdu




A ferocious female diety of the bhuta cult of spirit worship in coastal Karnataka


Embroidery or patchwork


The part of shoe/juti.


Language used by Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, and the national language of Pakistan.


An important vessel made by the Moosaris in Kerala


A teacher.



A semicircular arch-like halo around the cire perdue icons of Bastar, Madhya Pradesh


Metal serving bowls from Gujarat


A ‘vehicle’: a particular animal or bird with which the major Hindu deities are associated.


Mizo bamboo pipe


Acorn cups of certain species of oak from South Europe, containing 25-35% of tannic acid.

Valu uli

Type of chisel used by craftsmen of Tirupati

Vanchi vilakke

Oil lamp in Kerala



Vat dyes

Fast textile dyestuff which are insoluble in water but and have to be converted by chemically to be absorbed by the fabric. The dye has to form compounds soluble in Alkalis when reduced, that is when the oxygen is removed. In this state dyestuff is deposited on to the fibres in the dye vat and on contact with the air reverts to its insoluble, stable compound form. Indigo and shellfish or Tyrian purple are the only natural vat dyes. This class of dyes has a good all-round fastness properties.

Vegetable alkali


Vegetable dyes

Dyestuffs obtained from naturally occurring plant material.

Vegetable fibres

Fibrous plant materials which can be used for the construction of thread and felted fabric. See also abaca, bark-cloth, cotton, hemp, pina.


Creeper motif in the painted pottery of Kutch, Gujarat


The name given by the Gracia Jats at Jura to an embroidery stitch peculiar to the Jats of Kutch, Gujarat.


A fabric characterised by a woven pile.


Bamboo or bamboo flute in Sanskrit


Acetate of copper


See Sable (ground).


Scorpion motif in the painted pottery of Kutch, Gujarat


Buddhist monastery




Oil lamp, in Southern India


A stringed instrument


Maker of the universe and architect of the gods

Vishwakarma Puja

Annual propitiation of the deity Vishwakarma on the tenth day of the Dusshera festival. On this day all crafts persons worship their tools and implements.

Vohra gaji

Traditional motif of the patola sari


Embroidery technique where areas of satin stitch are separated by a narrow strip of unworked fabric; a common feature of Chinese embroidery, also found in Swat and Indus Kohistan.


Thin semi-transparent woven fabric.


Ritualistic invocations through drawn signs and symbols; vow fulfilment through codified tantric symbolism.



Parallel threads that run longitudinally on the loom or cloth.

Warp beam

A board or rod which holds the warp threads in a frameless backstrap tension loom. It may be a flat board around which a discontinuous warp is rolled, or a bamboo roller for a continuous circulating warp.

Warp ikat

The ikat-resist dyeing process applied only to the warp threads so that the warp threads are patterned before weaving. The fabric is woven to achieve a predominantly warp-faced weave. See also ikat, warp-faced.

Warp printing

The printing of warp threads before weaving, which gives an indistinct design when the weft threads are introduced.


Woven fabric in which the warp threads conceal the weft.


To wind or string the warp threads on to a frame or loom by laying out threads of equal length parallel to each other. See also warp.


A resist dyeing process in which a substance such as hot wax or rice paste is applied to the surface of fabric as a resist to dyes to form undyed areas of pattern. The resist is removed by boiling, melting or scrapping after dyeing. See also canting, cap, block printing, resist dyeing, stick batik.


To interlace warp and weft threads in a specific order with the aid of apparatus, usually a loom, which facilitates shed openings.

Weft (Woof, Pick)

The yarn in weaving that runs from selvedge to selvedge, at right angles to the warp threads.

Weft ikat

The ikat-resist dyeing process applied only to the weft threads so that the weft threads are patterned before weaving. The fabric is woven to achieve a predominantly weft-faced weave. See also ikat, weft-faced.

Weft twining

Two sets of threads worked together by spiralling around each other while encircling successive warps.

Weft wrapping

The encircling of wrapping of passive warp elements by weft threads to create a pattern. The weft threads can be either the sole wefts in the fabric or supplementary to regular wefts in a ground weave. The weft threads, usually discontinuous, can be wrapped with the fingers, a pick or a needle. See also sungkit.


Woven fabric in which the weft threads conceal the warp.

Wet out

To damp before putting the yarn or cloth into the dye.

Winnowing fan / kulo

A bamboo winnowing fan, kulo, is a multipurpose implement in the hands of the village housewife. Apart from winnowing the paddy and wheat, it is used in separating the husk from grains after the paddy is dehusked in the household husking pedal. It is also used in the kitchen to clean and dry all kinds of grains and condiments. The kulo is also a sacred adjunct to almost all folk rituals and ceremonies in Bengal.

Woven beading

The threading of small beads on to the weft yarn before it is inserted into the warp.



Fire sacrifice


Mythical lion


Painting of Yama, the lord of death

Yogi (f. yogini)

An ascetic, or practitioner of yoga.





Makers of embroidery.


A speciality of Bidriware from Lucknow where a characteristic inlay called zarboland when silver is inlaid over a lead pad so that the pattern stands up from the surface.


Zari embroidery.


Gold and silver wire thread.

Zari patti bugdi

Border of Maheshwari sari with some zari or gold threads.


A type of embroidery.


In Bidriware, where the inlay is cut on to the metal to fill the depressions so that it is level with the surrounding area, it is known as ‘zarnishan’.


The women’s quarters of a palace


Saddle cloth.

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