Places Visited: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad
Textiles are among the most vibrant expressions of a nation’s cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more true than India. Visit any Indian shopping district or handicraft emporium and you’ll encounter an extraordinary wealth of living tradition, from glittering, gold-encrusted wedding sarees to humble, hand-loomed cotton garments.
Whether Benarasi brocade to Orissan ikat, each region, community and tribe retains its own handicraft traditions, many of them dating back centuries. This fact is especially apparent in the northwest of the country, where the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat provide the focus for our short, textile-oriented tour.
We start by plunging into Delhi’s Kinari Bazaar, renowned as a source of traditional fabrics and jewellery. Watch block-printers and dyers at work on the outskirts of Jaipur, the fabled ‘Pink City’, whose bazaars are filled with luminous patchwork bedspreads, mirror-inlaid wall hangings and exquisitely embroidered cloth from across the region.
Further south in Gujarat, Ahmedabad was once dubbed ‘Manchester of the East’ for its pivotal role in India’s cotton trade. Today it’s the home of the fabulous Calico Museum, whose collection of antique and modern textiles ranks among the finest in the world. It includes Kashmiri shawls that took three years to make.
In the course of this trip, you’ll have the chance to experience some of India’s most iconic monuments, including the Taj Mahal, the Mughal's deserted sandstone capital at Fatehpur Sikri and romantic Amber Fort – all of them sumptuously embellished with ornate carving and inlays of semi-precious stones. Opportunities to shop for fine fabrics will be numerous and seriously tempting: we recommend you keep plenty of spare room in your suitcase.