Tangaliya Shawls of Gujarat:Weaving Magic With Some Hands And A Lot Of Heart

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

By Himakshi Phukan

How immensely skilled those artisans were! Every inch of their special creation reminds us of the blooming love story that led to the birth of this special craft! Love is reflected through the purest form of art: weaving a thousand feelings into some exquisite dots, leaving an imprint of love to conquer the hearts of anyone it comes across".

When it comes to Indian fabric and handmade crafts, every word would fall short to define the excellence of art and the artist as well. One significant variety of Indian fabric is the Tangaliya Fabric, it’s a unique way of weaving with elaborate textile design patterns that throw light on the single-mindedness of the artists. They were passionately driven by their goals to complete their innumerable works with precision.

Placing The Art Form

It is in congruence with the idea of “Art for Art’s sake” which had a French origin but became a central idea of the British Aesthetic Movement in the 19th century. The deep-lying fact behind this popular idea redefines the aesthetic value of art, how it stands out apart from the political, historical, religious, and social aspects of life. Tangaliya textile handicraft with its traditional aura of weaving technique adds aestheticism to this form of art.

Saurashtra, Gujarat has to offer a wide array of chronicles behind the creation of Tangaliya Fabric which enriches the cultural background of this peninsular region and its community. The journey of this fascinating craft centers on the story of a young couple who married each other without the consent of both the families due to some existing cultural differences between their communities(Bhadwad & Wankar). The holy union of the shepherd community’s boy and the weaving community’s girl was not accepted by the boy’s family and he had to stay with his in-laws. Though sheep rearing was his daily profession, his new profound interest in the art of weaving with the help of sheep’s wool led to the emergence of Tangaliya textile craft. Whoever thought that their holy union would bring a gift of treasure to serve their very own people!

Tangaliya crafts flourished during that time in the form of shawls used by men while herding sheep and skirts wrapped by women. The Bhawad community was the source of providing raw material i.e wool and the Wankar community wove Tangaliya shawls for them. It represents the mutual relationship shared between Bhadwad and Wankar community.

Words are less to describe Tangaliya weaving and craft. Every morning I wake up, start the day by remembering God in my prayers, begin the auspicious work of Tangaliya weaving and devote my entire time to the loom” says Baldev Bhai Rathod, a Tangaliya weaver from Surendranagar, Gujarat.

The 700 years deep-rooted tradition of the Wankar and Bhadwad community is keenly preserved by the newly formed Dangasiya community in the district of Surendranagar, Gujarat. Considering the weavers of the Dangasiya community as the Tangaliya weavers of the next generation, they are equally advanced and well equipped with a traditional loom found in every household. As the entire process of Tangaliya weaving is carried out on the traditional loom, the warp(the vertically organized threads) and weft(horizontally organized threads) are the two major components required to weave Tangaliya fabric.

Using raw materials like wool, cotton,acrylic, and silk(mulberry & eri) yarn, the extra weft is twisted over the woven fabric on the loom by forming small dots or “daana” into different geometrical shapes and patterns giving a new texture to the fabric ‘beads embroidery’.This eccentric quality sets it different from the production of other Indian textile handicrafts. The detailed formation of dots, beads, or ‘daana’ for which Tangaliya weaving is also known as Daana weaving, requires the artist’s focus, determination, good eyesight, and high concentration to get a fruitful result of their hard work.

Unfortunately failing to attract the attention of the common masses, Tangaliya fabric was on the verge of extinction.The Central Government of India has recognized its importance in Indian culture and its contribution towards the development of the Indian textile industry for which it has been given Geographical Indication Tag (GI TAG). National Institute of Fashion Technology(NIFT) has also taken the initiative of reviving the lost identity of Tangaliya and working towards sustainable development.

The traditional Tangaliya products were known for their use of specific colors like red, black, white dots and basic patterns like ladwa, mor, ambo, etc. on shawls and skirts. Today’s market has a wide collection of Tangaliya handicrafts ranging from tangaliya sarees, shawls, dupattas, cushion covers, blouse pieces, stoles, suit pieces, tunics with vibrant colors, and newfound motifs. Earlier, Tangaliya weavers had a strong connection with Mother Nature, keen believers of religion, and engrossed in their daily life activities. It had a deep impact on the minds of the weavers to articulate new ideas, transformed into motifs, while on the loom. Traditional Tangaliya was of three types, Zalawadi made with white and maroon daana, Halari and Bhadar made with colorful daana. Further, depending on the quality and nature of designs and colors,Tangaliya fabric is categorized into Ramraj features the substantial daana work with bright colors on black fabric with maroon horizontal lines in it, Charmalia has a unique combination of maroon and black fabric with white daana on it, Dhunslu for older women is known for its simplicity on black fabric with white and maroon daana, Lobdi used for headgears features white daana on maroon fabric. Nowadays, cotton is used as a raw material instead of wool because of its availability, durability, and high demand in the Indian market. Cotton and machine-made acrylic yarn, available in different colors, is cheaper than wool which lowers the economic cost of the entire weaving process. With the advent of technology and rapid urbanization, new patterns like aeroplanes, buildings, houses, etc. have evolved which brings a twist to the age-old handicrafts that serve as a ‘cherry on the top’.

The rich tradition of Tangaliya weaving and the formation of beads embroidery is highly practised while weaving Tangaliya shawls made from wool which provide warmth and comfort to resist cold in the chilled winters. The heavy daana work on the Tangaliya fabric doesn’t allow the air to pass through the cloth, the pores are densely blocked and maintained.

With the growing awareness of Tanagaliya textile craft and products in contemporary times, the Tangaliya weavers have got a chance to revive their means of livelihood which was once threatened due to the low market value of the products. Along with the flourishment of Tangaliya handicrafts in Indian markets, various online sites are coming up with a good collection of Tangaliya products that are trying their best to meet the needs of the Tangaliya weavers. It is fortunate to witness the rising population of youths who are concerned and interested in knowing about the untold stories of the past. Though the stories didn’t pave their way to be a part of the social and history course books in schools and colleges, yet hold a significant place in the History of Indian art and craft tradition. Both the Central Government and NGOs registered under State Governments are providing aid to the Tangaliya weavers community to purchase looms and to increase the production of Tangaliya handicrafts.

Various handloom exhibitions and trade fairs in India have taken up the idea of presenting the lost art of Tangaliya handicrafts to the people. Smriti Irani, being the Union Minister of Textiles in 2017, while interacting with the weavers of Surendranagar announced the formation of the Tangaliya weavers association to work for their common goals. She appreciated the alluring beauty of Tangaliya art which involves painstaking labor and she further commented that it should get recognition in the international platform.

The present scenario never fails to uplift the mood of Tangaliya weavers as they have been able to deliver and share their bundle of happiness with their customers who are extremely in love with their divine work. Accumulation of beautiful Tangaliya handicrafts has become an ideal corner of pleasure in many Indian households. It welcomes guests from every part of India and gains attention for their vigorous grandeur hidden behind, by creating an illusion of simplicity among the people. “How cannot you praise the great work of our Indian craftsmen who are working day and night with utmost dedication and accuracy to produce fine output for their people! How cannot you cheer for those who are turning far-fetched dreams into reality! How cannot you encourage them who are the real heroes behind every story of our country’s economic success! How cannot you unite with them who are the saviours to protect our culture and tradition!”

Spreading Love through the story of weaving beads (out of love). Explore the vast collection of Tangaliya textile handicrafts and support our artisans by visiting our website, Some Hands With Hearts .

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