The Indian Culture: Textiles and Trade

From our visit to the Asian Civilizations Museum, we learnt much about the Indian culture, especially relating to textiles and textile trading. It was evident from the many fascinating displays of hanging textiles, spreads and fragments that India's cotton textiles were of a high quality, and that, many years ago, India led the world in the production of these textiles, both in terms of quality and in terms of technique.

When India Clothed the World. (Based on Asian Civilization Museum.)

Two thousand years ago, India led the world in the production of cotton textiles. The Romans called Indian cotton "woven air" in praise of its lightness and quality. Indian artisans continually refined quality and techniques, and created more sophisticated decorative motifs while increasing productions. By the mid- 17th century, millions of yards of cloth a year were being made in India - mainly in Gujarat and on the Coromandel Coast. The cloth was traded to other parts of the subcontinent, and as far afield as Japan, Southeast Asia, West Asia and finally, Europe.

High quality materials and a colour-fast dying process made Indian textiles especially attractive. Many of the deigns on the textiles derive from local traditions, but as the market developed,modifications were made to suit regional tastes. Production involved considerable technical and artistic skill, as the textiles in the museum clearly reveals. They are drawn from a major collection acquired a few years ago by the Asian Civilisations Museum, which has made Singapore one of the few places across the world with a collection of these extraordinary textiles, which were mostly found in Indonesia. The people there had carefully preserved them in isolated traditional communities. Up till now, they continue to fascinate people with their intrinsic quality as well as their beauty and sophistication.