Use of Gold in Textiles
|Singhal, Divya is a PhD scholar in the Department of Fabric and Apparel Science, Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi. The area of her doctorate study is the conservation of brocaded textiles in museums. A gold medallist and a meritorious student she has a passion for textiles and believes in combing technology advancement along with the transfer of benefit to traditional craftsperson's. She has worked as an Assistant Professor at Lady Irwin College for over a year before opting for further studies. Her M.Sc. dissertation was in the area of conservation of textiles focused on wet cleaning of museum textiles.
captured human imagination since time immemorial. It has provoked a powerful
response in humans. It has been used for embellishment and adornment of
human body since the ancient times. This adornment was not only limited to
body in form of gold jewellery but it was also used to decorate the attire
worn by the man. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy has described adornment in following
of anything unadorned is not increased by ornament,
more effective by it……..a thing is ritually transformed
and made to
function spiritually as well as physically.”
Gold was one
such means of adornment which was used in various ways to adorn the body as
well as the clothes worn. It was the noblest metal and enjoyed a special
place in the lives of ancient people. Some civilisations considered it to be
related to the sun because of its colour and thus worshipped it. Hindus
believed it to be created by the fire god- Agni (Rivers, 1999).
considered as a symbol of royalty and wealth and was used in various ways to
decorate the fabric. Gold and silver pigments were painted and printed onto
the fabric to give it a shimmering look. Gold and silver threads were used
to weave luxurious patterns into the fabric and the glittering patterns of
gold embroidery combined with silk threads and semi-precious stones gave the
illusion of gold embroidery on the body of the wearer.
USE OF GOLD IN TEXTILES
history of how and when gold started being used for decorating textiles is
not easy. But there are some sources of evidence which depict that
embellishment with shining objects was a worldwide and ancient practice.
Victoria Z. Rivers in her book “The Shining Cloth-Dress and Adornment”
has pointed out that “Traces of textiles and other artifacts embroidered and
decorated with gold were depicted in Assyrian bas-reliefs, frozen in the
tombs of Scythian nomads, unearthed with the treasures of the Pharaohs, and
preserved with the burial goods of the Andean cultures’ high priests and
nobles. The quest for lustrous, seemingly magical silk and other valuable
goods resulted in interaction between different cultures and civilisations
and brought new-found wealth which created cities, empires and fortunes.”
believed that the ancient civilisations associated gold with the almighty
power, i.e. God. Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Andeans respected gold and
some considered it to be the sweat of the Sun. Hindus believed to be created
by the fire god-Agni. Different civilisations attached different
meanings to it. Some people feared it too. Indonesians believed that mining
gold was a theft from the earth. West Africans believed that the gold had a
spirit of its own which could drive a person insane (Rivers, 1999).
date of origin of gold mining and its use in ornaments and textiles is not
known but the archaeologists have found evidences from different ancient
civilisations which suggest that use as well as trade of gold was very
important in those times. Bas-reliefs, sculptures and burials from some
early civilisations depict the use of gold in decorating the clothes worn by
the kings and nobles. For instance, people of Elam used golden squares,
circles and rings to adorn their solar deities. In the Babylonian and
Assyrian cultures, design forms like rosettes, eight-pointed stars and
crenelated shapes were used to adorn the clothes of gods and kings.
became well-known for its gold work clothing by the first century B.C.
Persians were skilled in incorporating gold and silver along with silk to
form a prestigious fabric. This fabric was so much valued that the Persian
rulers used to give these precious textiles to the subjects for their
meritorious service instead of awarding medals.
Japan also started using gold and silver in their textiles by first century
B.C. Infact Chinese were very highly skilled in creating highly refined
textiles using gold and silver. Their sophisticated technologies and their
proficiency in sericulture helped them to maintain a monopoly on the silk
and gold thread trades until the sixth century A.D. (Rivers, 1999).
GOLD IN INDIA
Gold cloth existed in the ancient history similar to other civilisations.
Stories of golden dresses of gods have been told since the vedic
times (1500 B.C.) in India. It was the popular belief that the fire-god,
Agni or Hiranyakt, created gold and it was associated with sun.
Gold was also named as Hiranya after the fire-god. Being
associated with the sun, gold was valued for its purifying and life-giving
powers. Gold was also associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and
several other Hindu deities. Gold had a religious importance in India.
People used garments which were combined with gold in worship rituals as
they expressed purity.
Not only was
the cloth of gold from India important religiously, it was highly valued in
other parts of the world also. The craftsmen used gold threads to weave and
embroider intricate patterns on the fabric. It is said that trade of exotic
silk and gold-thread weavings from China and India was vigorous from the
seventh century to fifteenth century. Broach and Cambay were the ancient and
famous seaports of India from where various magnificent Indian textiles like
ikats, golden brocades and batik cloths were traded to other
parts of the world.
travellers like Megasthenes, Curticus Rufus Quintus and Ptolemy mention the
exquisiteness of fabrics made in India using gold. Megasthenes who was the
Seleucid envoy at the court of Chandragupta Maurya has written a detailed
account of the country at that time. Highlighting the love of Indians for
fine garments he wrote, “They wore dresses worked in gold, adorned with
precious stones and also flowered robes of fine muslin.” A mention was also
made by Megasthenes that “The kings wore robes stitched in fine muslin with
beautiful embroidery in gold and silver.”
explains that Vasco-da-gama, a Portuguese invader had worn a gold
embroidered muslin robe and tied a gold embroidered silk turban and used to
rest his head on cushion that was finely embroidered with metal wire (Naik,
described the beauty of Indian brocades very beautifully through the
following lines in Odyssey:
A robe of
military purple flowed
Over all his
frame; illustrious on his breast
double-clasping gold the King confest.
In the rich
woof of a hound, mosaic drawn,
Bore on full
stretch, and seized a dappled fawn;
Deep in his
neck his fangs indent their hold;
and struggle in moving gold.
Fine as a
filmy web beneath it shone
A vest that
dazzled like a cloudless sun.
train who round him thronged to gaze,
wonder, sighed unwilling praise.’
believed that Homer was explaining the popular
design of Indian brocades and referring to these lines, Sir George
Birdwood says that weaving of silk with gold was known to Indians since
prehistoric times even before the date of
the two great Indian epics talk of woven cotton, silk and woollen
fabrics which were costly and decorated with gems and gold. Reference
has been made to the
which was a shining golden cloak and
which was a south Indian fabric having a fringe of woven pearls.
also said that gold-embroidered robes were presented to distinguished
guests in the court during epic period. The story about the
sacrificial ceremony in
mentions woollen blankets inlaid with threads of gold which were gifted
GOLD IN TEXTILES
has been incorporated in textiles in various forms from early times,
because of its comparative rarity and its material properties of
malleability and ductility which makes it valuable. A single ounce of
gold can be beaten into sheets so thin that when placed side by side
upon the ground, they will cover 250 square feet. It is equally ductile.
The same weight of metal can be drawn into a thread so fine that it will
stretch over a mile in length (Gupta, 1996). Gold has been converted
into fine wire called zari to be woven with other fibres like
silk and cotton and to do embroidery. It has been made into various
small pieces of decorations like salma, kora, dabka,
gijai, chalak, tikora, kangri, champo,
kinari which are used in zardozi embroidery. Gold has also
been used for printing and painting of textiles in the form of pigment,
powder or leaf (warak).
Zari used for gold wire is derived from a Persian word
Zar which means gold. The history of gold and silver thread
manufacture, known as the zari industry, is as old as that of
Indian silk. Although many references are available in Indian scripts,
literature, epics and travel documents, the origin of metallic thread
seen in the fabrics has not yet been traced. However these references
suggest that the craft existed in ancient times. George Watt in
Indian Art in Delhi, 1903, has pointed out that the references to
gold textiles in most of the ancient writings of India necessitates the
knowledge of the art of gold wire making in ancient times.
Manufacturing of zari is a long and elaborate process
comprising of several stages. The first stage is called potai
or pavthan, which involves bar making and wire drawing.
Silver was first converted to a bar about 45.7 cm long and 1.8 cm
thick and the metal bar was known as pasa. The gold leaf was
wrapped around the bar and heated in a furnace, till there was
complete fusion of the gold leaf with the silver bar. The thickness
of the gold leaf varied according to the requirement of gold thread,
from pale yellow colour to a rich gold colour. In the next process,
tarkashi or tania, the bar was drawn through a series
of holes using a flat, perforated steel plate called jantri.
The holes were of gradually decreasing size, each hole tapering
slightly in its passage through the plate. Before drawing the bar
was heated to make it soft. The repeated process of drawing resulted
in obtaining a wire as fine as human hair. The fused coating of gold
on the silver bar remained uniformly on the wire,
OF ZARI MAKING
The third and the last stage of wire drawing is badla, the
flattening process. The fine wire was then flattened by hammering on an
anvil. The flattening was made uniform by skilfully adjusting the motion
of the wire across the anvil. The flattened wire was subsequently wound
the length of which ran into several kilometres. The wire is then bent
according to the shape required for the particular design.
round a silk thread. This was done to make the wire appear thicker
than it is and to impart flexibility and strength to thread for
being woven. Silver wire was produced by the same process without
gilding the bar with gold leaf. The gold thread of silver, gilded by
COATING OF SILVER WIRE WITH GOLD
silk thread core, was known as pure zari or sona
in his book ‘Study
of Contemporary Textile Crafts of India:
Brocaded Fabrics of
mentioned the following
varieties of gold thread manufactured and used:
gold thread or pure gold zari: Silver wire is wrapped around
silk core thread and then gilded.
thread no.1 or real zari: silver wire is wrapped around spun
silk or mercerised cotton core thread and then gilded. This is
slightly coarser than pure gold zari.
thread no.2 or test ka pucca zari: copper wire is
wrapped around spun silk core thread and then gilded.
thread no.3 or kela zari no.3: copper wire is wrapped around
art silk core thread and then coated with chemical gold colour.
silver thread or real silver zari no.1: silver wire is wrapped
around silk or art silk core thread.
thread no.2 or silver zari no.2: copper wire is wrapped around
art silk core thread and then silvered.
zari or half zari: copper wire is wrapped around
silk or art silk core thread in different colours and then silvered.
The copper wire spirals are comparatively wider apart. This is not
made now unless specifically ordered.
gold thread or haldi zari: silver wire is wrapped around
mercerised cotton core thread and then coated with chemical golden
or table zari: silver wire is wrapped around dyed golden orange
mercerised cotton core thread and then coated with chemical golden
from the zari thread there are other materials which are used for
Brocade weaving and embroidery. Following is a list of the items
produced using metal threads:
The flattened wire of metal made after the drawing step.
or Kasab: The wire when twisted on core of silk or
cotton becomes Kalabattu.
a flat wire which cannot be threaded and is stitched on to the
A circular thin stiff wire, so called because of its resemblance to an
insect of that name.
A wire coiled in a zigzag manner and is used as an applique and is
also stitched on.
Coiled thin wire through which a threaded needle is passed. It is tied
to the surface and has shine and polish.
A small round metal piece which when set in an embroidery looks like a
star, and used mostly in floral designs.
Thicker Kalabattu is braided gold-thread, used in the
border, while the thinner variety is used at the end of laces of
purses, tassels, strings, etc.
Gold thread spirally twisted for use in curves and convolutions in
Dull zari thread.
Lustrous zari thread.
Making of Warak
is the thin sheet or leaf of gold or silver which is made by pounding.
It is commonly seen as the top decoration on many Indian sweets and
pan. This leaf is not limited to the decoration of food items only,
instead it is used to decorate fabrics through a very specialized form
of printing known as warak printing or gold leaf printing.
The making of warak requires great skill. It requires special
tools and is an arduous process. In order to make warak a roll of
gold or silver strip is taken which is generally 2 cm in width and 3
meters in length. This strip weighs 10 grams. Pieces of gold or silver
are cut from this strip using an iron knife called falwa and
pounded to convert them into wafer thin sheets called warak. Each
leaf of warak is about 10 cm wide and 15 cm long. The pieces of
gold or silver are placed between layers of parchment or thin membrane
which is obtained from sheep, goat or deer hide. The layers of thin
membrane are lined with finely powdered soapstone to prevent the
sticking of warak on the membrane while pounding. A hide-pouch is
made from the soft thick skin, in which all the layers of thin membranes
alternated with gold or silver pieces are kept during pounding. The
stack of gold or silver pieces with the layers of membrane is held
firmly from the edges using bamboo tongs called chimp. This stack
is then placed in the hide-pouch which is kept on a stone slab and
pounded with a special mallet for about seven to eight hours and the
position of gold or silver piece is changed twice in between this
process. At the end of seven to eight hours of pounding the small piece
of gold or silver is converted into a thin leaf which is called warak.
The bag is now opened and each leaf of warak is carefully kept in
sheets of kite paper.
OF DECORATING THE FABRIC
Converting gold into zari or
warak is the first step towards ornamentation of fabric using gold.
The zari and warak work are the raw materials which are
used to produce masterpieces of art. The gold wire or zari is
used to weave exquisite brocade fabrics or it is used with other pieces
of decoration in zardozi embroidery. The gold leaf or warak
is used for printing on fabric thus producing attractive patterns on a
WEAVING WITH GOLD
Craftsmen in ancient India were skilled in the art of
drawing gold and silver wires of extreme fineness which could be used to
weave a fabric producing literally a ‘cloth of gold’. These zari
threads were combined with silk and cotton to produce different types of
beautiful fabrics. Indian weavers were renowned for producing marvellous
effects by weaving intricate patterns in gold and silver brocades. The
weaving of silk or cotton with zari goes back to Vedic times as
there are many references of this dazzling fabric in different Vedas.
Rig Veda mentions the term ‘Hiranya’ which has been interpreted
as the earliest equivalent of a brocade fabric. Mentions about fabric
made of silk and gold have also been made in Indian epics like
Ramayana and Mahabharata.
is a term which suggests a fabric with a woven pattern that is purely
decorative and independent of the base fabric. This is possible by the
use of extra weft yarn or extra warp yarn and the base fabric is
generally woven in satin, twill or tabby weave. Although a fabric made
of any fibre, such as wool, linen or cotton can be decorated using this
technique, the term brocade is generally restricted to richly
designed fabrics woven with silk and gold or silver zari.
Brocade fabrics are either loom-finished or in yardage form. The
loom-finished fabrics comprise of saris, odhnis, pankhas, patkas,
etc. The brocade yardage serves as dress material, upholstery, curtains,
The various types of gold brocades produced are the following:
This is a patterned zari brocade used as dress material. It is
an expensive and fashionable fabric used to make ceremonial outfits.
In this type of material the gold or silver zari butis
are outlined with coloured thread resembling meenakari or
It is a variety of gold and silk brocade in which the ground is worked
with an extra warp of gold badla zari and the pattern
created with an extra weft of silver badla zari or vice
versa. These fabrics are used for making wedding robes, hangings, etc.
and are sold by their weight instead of the yard.
This material is lighter and used to make expensive garments and
saris. The silk background is patterned with zari.
It is a very fine, transparent and light weight material produced by
using single silk warp and single gold weft. The main application of
this fabric is in producing turbans, veils, saris and
weaving of silk with gold was prevalent in many parts of India like
Ahmedabad, Surat, Paithan, Aurangabad, Hyderabad, Murshidabad, Delhi,
Lucknow, Tanjore, Kanjivaram, Madras, but Banaras was the main centre
and the Banaras brocades were the most famous and formed a separate
class. Each centre had its own speciality (in terms of technique,
colours and designs used) in producing the brocade fabric. The various
characteristics of the fabrics produced at different centres can be used
to easily identify and distinguish each style.
also called Kashi or Varanasi, is a city which is famous for
its unbroken tradition of producing the dream fabric i.e. the
Kinkhab or Kamkhwab. The Banaras brocades have
derived their name Kamkhwab from the fact that these
fabrics are so splendid and elegant that ‘a person cannot dream of
it if he has not seen it’. The term Kinkhab means
‘golden dream’ signifying the extensive use of gold and silver
thread which sometimes overshadowed the silk background completely.
The brocades of Banaras have been famous since the ancient times as
seen in some literary references. According to Buddhist literature,
fabrics made in Varanasi were pleasant to handle,
beautiful to look at, and expensive and were greatly popular with
rich and discerning people all over the country (Agrawal, 2008). The
process of brocade-making was intricate and elaborate. In order to
weave a richly designed brocade about six to eight months were
required. A great deal of workmanship was required to produce a
kinkhab. The gold and silver threads were wound on small
bobbins and introduced as extra weft in order to create the pattern.
The designs used in brocades of Banaras can be broadly classified
into five types:
or pictorial designs which consisted of mythological scenes,
animals and birds motifs and portraits or pictures as well.
referred to the running patterns of flowers and leaves all over
the ground fabric. The various designs under this category were
adibel, daurbel, khajuribel, genda ki bel, cane patte ki bel.
designs were sprigged designs which were not connected with each
other. If the motif was small it was called a buti and if
it was big then it was called buta. Some of these designs
were ashrafi, keri buti, chand tara, jhar buti.
Next category consisted of geometrical patterns made
up of vertical, horizontal, diagonal and horizontal stripes.
or the hunting scene was the most popular design which was very
elaborate and consisted of animals, birds and human figures.
is one of the oldest cities in the Deccan region, situated on the
northern bank of the river Godavari (near present day Aurangabad).
It was the centre of ancient Dravidian culture and praised for its
wealth and prosperity by the ancient historians and travellers from
the west. The most renowned creation from this region is the
paithani sari which is a gold and silk brocade. The weave is
subtle yet rich. On a zari warp the weft is interlocked in
different colours producing a fabric which shimmers like a mirror.
This is the most distinguishing feature of this fabric. The closely
woven and shimmering golden background has various stylised designs
like tree of life, parrots, swans, peacocks and flowers which glow
Kanchipuram, the temple town and abode of goddess
kamakshi, was a famous brocade weaving centre of South India
since ancient times. The fabrics produced here were known as
Kanchivani. The traditional saris and dupattas had
a fine cotton ground with a silk and zari border and pallu.
Intricate patterns are woven into the body using gold thread. The
characteristic feature of a kanchivani sari is the
wide and contrasting borders. The border designs and colours are
fairly different from that of the body. The sari is woven
using three shuttles, one for the main body and two on the sides for
the brocaded borders. The part where the body meets the border meets
the body is sometimes marked by a zigzag line. The predominant
designs include bird and animal motifs like deer, peacocks, horses,
bulls, parrots, elephants and sun, moon and star motifs. Mostly dark
and bright colours like red, blue, purple, orange, yellow and green
is an ancient town near Gwalior in central India. It is famous for
its exquisite textiles. The weavers of Chanderi produced gold and
silver zari patterned fine cotton and silk turbans, sashes,
dupattas and saris which were popular among the
Mughals as well as the neighbouring states like Rajasthan, Gujarat,
Maharashtra. The cotton ground of these fabrics was of unusual
fineness and delicacy; it was usually white (colours were also used)
and had silk and zari borders which were very beautiful. Very
fine and intricate floral creepers were used to ornament the
borders. Pallu was decorated using floral butas
arranged in horizontal bands. The borders and pallu were
woven on a solid gold zari ground, and designs were inlaid in
coloured silk threads giving the effect of jewels worked into rich
gold ground resembling enamel work.
Other than the above mentioned brocaded textiles there are many
different fabrics produced in different parts of the country which
use gold zari in some form or other. It is either used to
enhance the borders and pallus of saris (Maheswari,
Dhrmavaram, Tanchoi, Ikat, etc.) or used to
make small butis all over the fabric.
EMBROIDERY WITH GOLD
the fabric using metal wire embroidery is of ancient origin as is
evident from various texts and epics. Embroidery using gold and
silver wires is known as Zardozi and the community which
practice this craft is known as zardoz. The earliest
reference of objects embroidered with gold is found in the Vedic
age. Although the exact date of origin of this craft is unknown but
the zardoz community of Delhi have a popular myth to relate.
The story is as follows: “Once a mosquito found entrance to a king’s
head. The fluttering of this mosquito caused the king severe
headache. Every kind of treatment had failed. Finally paigamber
himself advised the head hakim in his dream that the king would be
cured of his headache if he is hit by a shoe in the area of pain.
The hakim narrated his dream to his associates. They executed a
plan. A shoe decorated with pure gold and silver threads was ordered
to be made for the purpose. The king was hit with the shoe. This
killed the mosquito, curing the king of his ailment. He appreciated
the artistic outlay on the shoe and desired to patronise the work.
Other emperors and nobles followed him (Gupta, 1996).”
Various mentions have been made about cloth embroidered with gold in
ancient texts. Rig-Veda mentions a term atka which
symbolises a sewn garment embroidered with gold thread. The term
hiranyair vyutarn indicates a garment which was worked
with gold and reflected like sun. Valmiki’s Ramayana
mentions a term swarnatantu nirmita, which means
decorated with gold wire. Mahabharata also has numerous
mentions about the cloth decorated using gold wires. Mention has
been made about maharhavasthambra which was a costly robe
used at the time of marriage of the five Pandavas with
Draupadi. All these references indicate beyond doubt that
embroidered costumes worked in gold, silver and precious stones were
part of luxurious tradition during the epic period.
The zardozi embroidery is done on a karchob which is a
rectangular wooden frame supported on two tripods which are called
tipai. Karchob is also known as adda. This
frame allows the craftsman to sit on the floor and work. This
embroidery is also called karchobi which means framework.
Apart from karchob, the other tools required for this
embroidery are the following:
Scissors which are small in size. Traditionally artisans used a
piece of glass or chinaware to cut the threads.
Needles of various
is a small wooden tool used for wrapping tilla on it for
is a small crochet-hook-like needle, with a fine notch on one edge,
and the other edge fixed into a wooden handle for smooth
functioning. It is used for hath ari work.
Hammer and dabber are other wooden tools which are used to beat the
embroidery portion. The dabber is put under the surface for support;
and the hammer gives light strokes on the upper surface. This light
beating gives a lustrous look to the embroidery (Gupta, 1996).
first step is tracing of the design on paper with a pencil. Once
the design is traced small holes are punched on it at close
intervals which would enable the design to be transferred on the
fabric. Once the design sheet is punched, it is placed in
position on the fabric to be embroidered. In order to transfer
the design on the fabric, the paper is smeared with a powder of
either zinc, indigo or khadiya mixed with water. The
power is chosen according to the colour of the fabric on which
the design is to be transferred. The solution passes through the
holes and design is transferred on the fabric. Traditionally
this work of drawing the designs was done by nakkash who
were professional artists. But nowadays the artisans of
zardoz community make the designs themselves and these
design drawings are known as khakhas.
After tracing the design the fabric is put in place on the
karchob and stretched properly to assist the craftsman in
carrying out the embroidery. The craftsman then lays the
different varieties of zari thread and other metallic
decoration pieces on the fabric as per the requirement of the
design. In order to carry out this process the threaded needle
moves upward from the wrong side and then from the surface to
PROCESS OF ZARDOZI
are some distinct styles which can be seen in zardozi
or zardozi is the heavier and more elaborate work
done on velvet or heavy satin with badla. This type of
embroidery was generally used for decorating coverings of
different types like tents, coats, furnishings, animal trappings,
shoes, umbrellas etc.
is the lighter work which is generally done on finer fabrics like
silk, muslin etc. which were more suited for apparels and other
related accessories like dresses, veils, caps, scarves, belts,
purses etc. This work requires minute skill and rhythm. The
appearance is very pleasing and gives a glittering effect on the
fabric. Hazara buti or thousand dots is a special
design of this style.
is another important style where silk threads are used with
zari and it resembles enamel done in gold.
is considered to be one of the oldest styles which is done using
Another style is tilla or marori work
in which the zari wire is twisted on the surface and a
needle is pushed down to stitch the zari on the fabric.
work is the most popular style in which the gold border is cut
into different shapes and sewed onto the fabric.
zardozi embroidery has five basic designs which have further
variations. They are:
or tanke bandi ka kaam which
comprises of geometrical patterns. Here the stitches are counted
and the design is made. Some jali designs are chandi
ki jali, chakle wali jali,
suiyo wali jali.
designs which refers to the filling work as the name suggests.
or patti and phul motifs.
or pankhi motifs.
or janwar designs.
embroidery has been used since ancient times to decorate the
apparels and other accessories of a costume. The use of zardozi
was not restricted to apparel and costumes only, it was very popular
for ornamenting furnishing items also especially during Mughal
period. Zardozi was done on tent hangings, kanats,
covers, spreads, trappings, umbrellas, carpets, badges, banners,
uniforms, etc. Unstitched fabrics which were used as costumes or
accessories like belt, patka, kamarband, shawl,
misir, chunri, sari, etc were also decorated using
is practised in many parts of the country which include Srinagar,
Agra, Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Bareilly, Ajmer and Jaipur as the main
centres. Other places which are lesser known are Hyderabad, Mumbai
PRINTING WITH GOLD
of fabrics has been practised in India over many centuries and
textiles printed in India were famous all around the world. Indian
artisans were masters in printing the cloth using various styles,
i.e. direct style, resist style, discharge style and mordant style
of printing from very early times. A special type of printing which
employed the use of gold or silver leaf called warak printing
was a specialized form of printing done majorly in Rajasthan and
gave glittering effect to the cloth. Another method which utilised
gold or silver dust was called khadi printing or chamki
printing was also practised. Both these methods gave a royal look to
the dress and were very famous among the royalty. These techniques
are practised majorly in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer, Ajmer and Udaipur.
Presently instead of pure gold and silver other metals are used to
produce the same effect at cheaper rates.
type of printing is characterized by the use of gold or silver
warak or leaf. This technique of printing is expensive and was
popular among the elites since many centuries.
basic tool required for any printing to be carried out is a printing
table which is padded using layers of blankets. On the topmost layer
a fabric is spread which acts as back grey. To hold the printing
paste a square tray is used in which a layer of felt is spread at
the base and the paste is spread on it. Wooden blocks of various
designs are used for printing. A small pouch filled with cotton is
used to apply the warak. A rolling pin and a marble slab are
required for polishing the printed fabric. An adhesive paste made of
saras (gum) and white zinc powder called safeda is
used for pasting warak onto the fabric.
first step is to spread the fabric on the printing table and
smoothen out all the creases. Next the wooden block is pressed on
the adhesive paste in the tray and then stamped on the fabric at the
desired location. Once the design is outlined on the fabric warak
is applied onto the design by inverting the kite paper in which it
is kept. Then the paper is lightly patted with the pouch filled with
cotton which enables the warak to adhere to the paste and the
paper is then lifted carefully. Once the warak pasted on the
fabric dries, the un-pasted warak left on the non-design area
is removed using a brush. This leftover warak is kept
carefully and used to make gold or silver dust used in khadi
printing. After the whole fabric is printed, it is spread onto the
marble slab and burnished using a rolling pin. This step gives the
printed fabric a beautiful glossy sheen.
Some of the popular designs used in warak printing are
keri-ki-bel, keri-buti, genda, jawar bhat and religious deities
like Krishna and Radha as seen in temple hangings.
printing is popular for its use in pichwais or temple
hangings. It is also done on dhotis, safas, saris
and other ceremonial cloths.
KHADI PRINTING OR CHAMKI PRINTING
or chamki printing utilises gold or silver dust to add
glamour to the plainest of textiles. This type of printing was very
famous in earlier times and was extensively applied on the costumes
printing requires a special kind of block which is made of brass and
one end of this block has the design perforated on it. This block is
known as sancha. A wooden datta which is carved in a
way so that it matches the contours of the sancha exactly is
used along with it. The two together are used to stamp the design on
the fabric in a syringe like action. A wooden table which is padded
using blankets serves as the printing table. A brush is used to
spread the gold or silver dust evenly on the design. The printing
paste is thick viscous paste called rogan and contains white
lead, zinc powder and an adhesive resin.
The fabric is stretched on the printing table
and all the
The printing paste is
slightly heated and poured into the sancha. The wooden datta is then inserted into the sancha and with a
syringe like action is pressed out through its perforated end. The
paste is then stamped on the fabric and forms an adhesive layer. On
this the gold or silver dust is sprinkled and spread evenly with the
help of a brush. Excess powder is collected back and resude. The
process is repeated till the whole fabric is printed and then it is
left to dry.
common motifs used in khadi printing are phul, buti,
chandani, mor, mogra, keri and khaja.
printing was very famous for decorating apparels like odhni,
sari, turban, ghaghara, kanchli, angrakha, jama, etc.
use of gold in textiles is an ancient art. It was used to depict
one’s wealth and status in the society. Gold was converted into
zari threads to be incorporated in the fabric while weaving and
embroidery. It was also beaten into sheets and converted into powder
which was used for printing on the fabric. Almost all the aspects of
fabric construction have used gold in some form or other. With the
passage of time changes have taken place in traditional methods as
well as the raw materials used. Due to the high cost of gold and
silver, imitation zari was introduced which had copper in it. This
resulted in decline in the quality as well as appearance of the
fabrics produced. Modernization also resulted in use of powerloom
instead of handloom as it is fast and cheaper. The printing with
gold leaf and powder also underwent the changes with time. Cheaper
metal powders and flakes of mica replaced pure gold and silver in
the printing of fabrics. Although one can see that the designs have
remained more or less traditional which depict the essence of the
craft. Efforts are being made by government and various NGOs to
bring back the traditional methods and materials back into practice.
paper was written under the supervision of Dr. Simmi Bhagat,
Associate Professor, , Department of Fabric and Apparel Science,
Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi
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