Indian hand woven fabrics have been known since time immemorial. Poets of the Mughal durbar have often likened our textiles to baft hawa (woven air), abe rawan (running water) and shabnam (morning dew). So, it's no surprise that the western world was quite taken by the fabrics woven in India.
One of the oldest Indian fabrics in recorded history, is called Calico, a typically plain white or unbleached fabric made of cotton threads. The fabric got its name from the city Kozhikode in Kerala, termed as Calicut by Europeans who visited India for fabric trade during 11th century.
It was mentioned in Indian literature by the 12th century when the writer Hēmacandra described calico fabric prints with a lotus design. By the 15th century Calico from Gujarat made its appearance in Egypt. Trade with Europe followed from the 17th century onwards.
The traditional weaver clan Chaliyans used to weave the plain fabric and printing on fabric was done in western and northern India. These printed fabrics became popular in Europe as Calico prints, also termed as ‘Chintz’. With time, Europeans became fascinated by these fabrics and began taking Chintz printed fabrics with them for themselves. Soon they realized the great demand of these fabrics at homeland and Chintz fabrics became a commodity of interest across Europe. Due to it's growing popularity, a Calico mill was established in Ahmedabad in 1880, and was run by Ambalal Sarabhai for 50 long years.
Although now a forgotten word, Calico once represented the pride of an entire civilisation, and the triumph of Indian craftsmanship in the western world.