Traditionally worn by both men and women in cultures from South America to Asia, the shawl (and how it is worn) has long been an expression of taste, style and personality - each one with a unique story. And closer home, each one a celebration of rural Bengali craftsmanship.
The hot, humid climate of the Ganges delta inspired artisans to produce the most diaphanous fabrics possible, contributing to the ancient art of hand-weaving in Bengal, that dates back to when cotton fabric was exported to Roman and Chinese empires; Ptolemy even mentions the region in his writings.
Weaving is still alive in Bengal, and it is common to hear the flying shuttles of local handlooms being worked tirelessly as one walks through the streets of a village, with some shawls, from the famous looms of Bengal, being so light and diaphanous that the Romans called them ‘woven air’.
For each shawl that they produce from their loom, the weavers of Bengal remain infused with pride over the cleverness of a new technique, as they believe that a shawl is much more than just a piece of cloth – it is an idea that may be draped over the body.
Embroidery is a rural art form of Bengal that is famous the world over, and the rural folk use this skill to design exquisite hand stitched kantha shawls – with are often presented to official guests visiting the state, which in turn helps promote the cottage industry.
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