With its rich history, jewel-like colours and deep religious significance, the Mashru textile is perhaps one of the oldest and the finest textiles in the country.
The word ‘Mashru’ comes from the Arabic word ‘sharia’ which means ‘permitted by Islamic law.’
In the olden days, the Islamic law forbade the Muslim community from wearing silk. As a solution, weavers designed a new kind of fabric which exuded luxury, while remaining within the confines of the law - a fabric combining the opulence of silk, and the comfort of cotton. With the silk yarns on the outside, and the cotton yarns worn against the skin, Mashru was deemed lawful.
While it was originally brought to India by the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the sixteenth century, Gujarat became the first weaving centre for Mashru in India. By the turn of the century, it was woven in mainly three regions - Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Deccan India.
Although similar in technique, Mashru textiles from each of these regions displayed distinguished patterns - the Gujarati Mashru had stunning bold stripes and dotted patterns, Mashru made in the Deccan region (Andhra Pradesh, Tanjore and the Madras province) consisted of Ikat patterns, and Mashru from Uttar Pradesh were more densely woven, and were simpler in pattern and colour. Due to its lustrous appearance, Mashru became a favourite among the Indian royalty.
Over time, the Mashru designs have become simpler and more contemporary, but its rich allure remains.