UNESCO launches list documenting 50 iconic Indian heritage textiles

India’s textile traditions have a significant social and cultural footprint on communities, many of which even have their identities tied up with the textiles they weave. Each region in the country has its own textile tradition which is unique. This living legacy has been passed down through generations, and includes the vocabulary and knowledge used to describe both the style and the end result.

In order to raise awareness about this intangible heritage, UNESCO released a publication that documents 50 iconic and exclusive heritage textile crafts of India. Among the 50 are the following: Toda embroidery and Sungadi from Tamil Nadu, Himroo weaves from Hyderabad, Bandha tie and dye weaving from Sambalpur in Odisha, Khes from Panipat, Ilkal embroidery from Karnataka, Lambadi or Banjara embroidery from Thanjavur, Kunbi weaves from Goa, Mashru weaves from Gujarat, Patola from Gujarat, Himroo from Maharashtra, and Garad-Koirial from West Bengal.

According to UNESCO, one of the major challenges to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in South Asia is the lack of proper inventory and documentation. With Handmade for the 21st Century: Safeguarding Traditional Indian Textiles, UNESCO hopes to bridge the gap in documentation. The book also looks at the reasons for the dwindling popularity of the textile traditions. Apart from highlighting these endangered textile crafts, the publication also recommends ways to revitalise them – from policy to grassroots micro-interventions.