Millennium Post

Quilts of India: Timeless textiles

As a Rabari bride-to-be sews a gudri (quilt) to take to her groom’s house, she sings, ‘Who has stolen my gudri with the priceless tassels and bells?’ The language of quilts articulates Rabari’s artistic expression that is relevant to her and her community. Her electric imagery not only draws upon a host of exquisite themes but also the objects and events of her daily life. For generations, quilts depicted village life and narrated stories of how it is considered auspicious to gift a quilt, sewn with old clothes of the family, for the daughter who gets married. It is as if quilting ties these people to one common thread and talks to them in their own language.
Quilts of India: Timeless textiles by Patrick J Finn introduces the remarkable, yet overlooked, quilts of India and raises them out of obscurity. The book tells the story of women and saints, families and famine, worship and war. The quilts also provide a means to consider the indigenous roots of the culture,
history and religion of the most
maternal land on earth – India.
A heavy book with 400 plus photographs, it tries to explore the practice of quilt-making and life of quilt-makers across India. It is the first extensive survey of Indian quilts compiled, identifying and exploring the historic and contemporary meaning of quiltmaking. Photographs, captured in rural villages, museums and urban settings, present the richness of this pervasive textile tradition. From the simplest utility quilt to the most elaborate Indo-Portuguese coverlet, the book details the diverse designs, varied techniques and multiple uses of the 25 unique quilting genres.
Finn, through his tireless fieldwork, travels across India – Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa – to discover the efforts of various craftsmen who have kept this tradition alive till date. Much of the book incorporates first-hand stories and interviews of quilters and conversations with textile professionals and museum curators. Variations of the simple gudri, with its lines of running stitch, appear across most of the subcontinent, but other regional quilts like the sujani of Baruch in Gujarat, with wadding inserted into double weave pockets while on the loom, the ledra of Jharkhand with their dynamic designs derived from folk and rock art, or the sujani of Bihar with figurative designs illustrating the everyday life of the women who make them, show what a vibrant and varied tradition quiltmaking is.
It’s astonishing to know how the most humble designs can produce the most superior quality. Pardon your words if you think a quilt was simply a layered cloth sewn together to keep a person warm!
Written for a general audience as well as the most ardent professional, the book provides an intimate look into the fabric of Indian life through quiltmaking. Interactive text with some beautiful shots of quilts and quilt-makers makes it a fascinating read.

Mind Blowing Facts
The magical carrier of the snake charmer is quilted and embroidered by using the snake skin and finishing with the scared cowrie, sea shells, a mother’s
protective shell.
The embroidered quilt of the indigenous people of Gujarat, which occupies the central place in the rounded hut, is the
powerful cloth, which protects their traditions, their family and their community.
In earlier times the wholecloth was made from hand-loomed khadi but today light and durable
synthetics have replaced it.
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