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The relationship of current textiles to the cultural heritage of India

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  • Textiles are one material aspect of Indian life influenced by the nationalistic movement. They fit into a larger attempt to create a united and singular image of the country. As the creator of a national image, the central government encourages belief in ancient philosophies which hold beauty as a creed. Village life is idealized. Direction of the textile industry reflects self-pride and typifies nationalism, as idealistic goals are set and realistic advice of foreigners is disregarded, India, in aiming for new heights, attempts to relate historical achievements to the present. Her interest in the past calls for continuity of its spirit, rather than imitation of its objects. However, as village life has been quite static, ancient forms as well as attitudes from that level of society continue to exist, represented by the textiles. This makes it easy for the nationalist to encourage relationships to cultural heritage through current goals and products. The dominant place of religion, the caste system, and the arts explain why textiles of India have developed and remained as a craft. The handloom weaver is protected by a cottage industry plan. The Indian says the acceptance of modern methods of dyeing and machine spinning are an example of the ancient tendency for assimilation of outside influences into the tradition. Village textiles that relate directly to the past have designs applied through embroidery or traditional dyeing techniques. Specific illustrations are the patolas, tie-dyed fabrics, and phulkari and Kutch embroideries. The renowned textiles which reached their peak under the Mogul courts are important in legends of India. However, there is no attempt to revive production of those items. Actual samples of a Dacca muslin, a Benares brocade, and Kashmirian shawls represent the intricate work and more subtle styles required by royal patrons. From the Indian viewpoint the present relationship of current textiles to the past is realistic and genuine. To the outsider plans seem economically inappropriate to our times.
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