Traditional Textiles


Published: March 21, 2020


The charming beauty of the valleys of Uttarakhand is complemented by the elegant and colourful crafts of Garhwal and Kumaon. Weaving is undoubtedly one of those traditional crafts that are deeply connected with the lives of the local hill people and their rich cultural heritage. Mainly famous for its woollen fabrics, the Himalayan weaving tradition in Uttarakhand also produces beautiful cotton and silk goods.

Largely, it is the Bhotia Himalayan weavers community which dominates the weaving industry of Uttarakhand. Apart from the Bhotiyas, there are also other weaver communities like the Rompas and the Kolees in the area. The industry turns out a great variety of textile products ranging from routine objects  like socks, caps, scarves, sweaters, mufflers etc. to more specialized items like shawls or carpets.

The serenity and the grace of the Himalayas are perfectly matched by the traditional textile designs which are handed down from generation to generation.  At times, the motifs used by the traditional weavers of Uttarakhand show interesting influences of the neighbouring states of Tibet, Nepal and China. However, in spite of these influences, the traditional textiles of Uttarakhand always reflect a unique ethnic character of their own.     

The Himalayan climate of Uttarakhand and the local sheep rearing practices have largely contributed to the natural development of the woollen industry in the region. The weavers are mostly rural women from hill tribes who produce beautiful hand-woven products with the help of surprisingly primitive tools and techniques. It is simply amazing to see how the people in these Himalayan villages have been quite successful in keeping alive some of their age-old craft techniques and methods.

Every year, the nomadic Bhotiya weavers spend the winter months in Dunda in weaving their clothes and the summer months in selling those clothes in different seasonal fairs and tourism sites of Uttarakhand or harvesting fields in Harsil. While in Dunda of the Uttarkashi district, they weave gorgeous traditional patterns on their crude upright or pit looms, using Charkha-spun wools. Traditionally, the Bhotiya weavers rear their own sheep for wool in the grazing plains of Harsil. In the winter, when the sheep grow fat and have fully gown hair, the Bhotiyas come down to Dunda to begin their weaving activities. The Dunda weaving cluster in Uttarakhand is famous for the carpets and pashmina shawls made by the Bhotiya weavers. 

The rugs and pashmina shawls of Munsyari are also widely acclaimed. Like Dunda, it is another significant site of the traditional Bhotiya weaving. Munsyari produces some of the finest cashmeres in the world. The dunn which is a type of rug and the thulma – a unique bedspread – made by the Bhotiya weavers of this small Uttarakhand town deserve much appreciation for their exotic beauty.

Gorgeous pashmina shawls are also produced by the local weavers at the shawl factory of Kausani. Kausani shawls and stoles have become quite a legend among the tourists and the craft-enthusiasts from all over the world. The local village artisans spend much time and care on their traditional wooden handlooms to produce these items. The shawls are made of superfine Angora rabbit wool and come with a variety of designs ranging from simple colour patterns to lavish embroidery works.


 The term embroidery is basically defined as the method of ornamenting a piece of clothing with needlework;or embellishment with fanciful details.Thus embroidery is regarded as the art of decorating textiles using a needle and thread.Embroidery of Uttarakhand has earned its fame because of the versatility of creations by the artisans.The artisans of Uttarakhand use an array of stitches that are used to decorate the items.The most important centres of embroidery work of Uttarakhand are located in the Uttarakhand regions and are admired for the creative excellence.The embroidery of Uttarakhand is one of the main sources of income for different other communities.Today, even though embroidery is amongst the most traditional methods of decorating clothes,it is still as popular.Designs may date back to ancient times,or the modern geometric modern day designs,but all the same embroidery continues to be one of the common ways of decorating clothes.In fact,specialists feel that today,there is much more scope for creativity and innovation,because of the acceptance level.

This has ornamentation of tikris and beads,which make them,look attractive.This type of embroidery is done on a frame of wooden beams.The fabric is worked upon with a long needle,threads,tikris and beads.Multi sized frames are used,usually about 1.5 feet high,to secure the cloth on which the design is sketched with a stencil. One hand secures the thread under the cloth to the needle while the other hand moves the needle on top of the cloth with ease.Decorative tikris and beads are attached to the cloth with the needle.

Another embroidery pattern is the jaali or net embroidery in geometric or floral shapes and is done by pulling the warp and weft threads and fixing them with minute buttonhole stitches.The finished products dominantly comprise items for household use like curtains,bedspreads,furniture covers and dress material.

Raw Materials used:-

The fabric is worked upon with a long needle,threads,tikris and beads.Multi sized frames are used, usually about 1.5 feet high,to secure the cloth on which the design is sketched with a stencil. One hand secures the thread under the cloth to the needle while the other hand moves the needle on top of the cloth with ease.


As embroidery is not so technical craft to follow procedure but then also small process like:

  • The motif is made on the tracing screen for symmetrical marking and uniformity,like the Khaka.
  • The motifs are marked on the fabric with a marking mixer(liquid) for embroidery work.
  • Now set the marked fabric very tight from all directions.(Saree,Dress materials,etc.)On Wooden frame(it can be done without frame also).
  • It will work easier to do embroidery with the help of frame to reduce tension and get pucker less product.
  • The desired motif is neatly embroidered with different stitches(Pakko,Kachho,Soof,Rabari,kharek etc)to  achieve desired motif.
  • The result can be many colors and is easy to make.

Set the fabric(Saree,Dress,material,etc.)on Wooden frame(it can be done without frame also) according to the design with desired allowance for the product.The motif is made the tracing screen for symmetrical making and uniformity,like the Khaka.The motif is marked with a marking mixer in a liquid form (Kerosene and gali powder) whether for embroidery the desired motif is neatly embroidery with different stitches to achieve desired motif.

Embroidery designs are prepared by fixing small round shaped mirrors to the material with the help of the buttonhole stitch,the outline being sketched by hand.Silken thread is used for the stitching done in stem or herringbone,closely worked.Flowers and creepers are patterned against a dark background.


Techniques vary with the community and region.The term embroidery is basically defined as the method of ornamenting a piece of clothing with needlework; or embellishment with fanciful details. Thus embroidery is regarded as the art of decorating textiles using a needle and thread.This includes the hand and machine embroidery methods.And till date,hand embroidery continues to be an expensive and time-consuming method.However,in spite of this it is preferred because of the intricacy of the handiwork involved.


Traditional female costumes of Bhotia Tribe Females of Bhotia tribe mainly wore Honju, Chhua andPangdin as their traditional garments Costume of Bhotia community shows influence of both Bhotia and Tibetan culture. Bhotia people weave their personal apparels at their home itself. Other Female costume mainly includes ghagra (coloured gathered skirt), ghunghati (white head gear with brocade patch), chuba (long sleeved woollen coat up to ankle).

1. Honju- Honju is the principal, all time worn garment of the women of Bhotia Tribe with very little variations in its features. This garment is a modified form of Indian women’s ancient upper garment Choli, which got its present shape by incorporating various features of the British garment ‘Blouse’, which was introduced in India by the British ladies. It is a waist length blouse like garment of silk fabric. Sometimes, printed cotton is also used for the construction of Honju. This semi-fitted anatomic type of garment was front-opened for ease of wearing. Small sized buttons were used as fasteners and mostly color of the buttons matched with the garment depended on the availability. Due to cold climate conditions usually low round neckline are constructed,but sometimes square shaped, low neck lines and collar are also made. Darts were used to add fullness at the bust. Silken Honju is the full sleeves blouse but casually three quarter length is constructed, so that it can protect the wearer from the harsh working and climatic conditions as well as did not create hindrance in the movements of hands during the work.

2. Chhua- Chhua is a loose gown type garment. It is darkcolored wrap dress garment fastened near the waist, tightened with a belt. Chhua was ankle length, sleeveless garment which is mainly made up of woollen fabric. Itwas front closed with V-shaped deep neckline or a flat collar. It had straight front and back lower end. It was worn over the blouse (Honju) and was a sleeveless garment from which the sleeves of the blouse can be seen. Chhua was generally made from a plain coloured fabric over which a colourful striped cloth was worn which enhances the beauty of the garment.

3. Pangden- Pangden was considered as the traditional and principal garment for the married women. This garment resembled with an ‘Apron’. It was tied at the waist and length is till the calf. Pandgen was made up of multicoloured woollen cloth and worn in the front part. The garment is designed with colourful geometric designs which are usually worn by wedded/married women. A long piece of cotton or silk cloth belt is tied on the waist known as kamarband.

4. Ghagra- Ghagra was considered as traditional lower garment of old women of Bhotia tribe. The traditional Ghagra of Bhotia women was stitched like skirt. The waist to ankle length Ghagra was of circular silhouette with lot of fullness and was made up of 3-4 meters of fabric only. A waist belt was used into which string passed and tied around the waist to adjust the fullness at the waist using gathers. Lower edge of the garment was mostly finished by attaching pleated narrow band of the same material. This was worn with the blouse (Honju) illustrated in the Plate- Some women still wear ghagra inthe ceremonies.

Traditional Male costume of Bhotia Tribe

1. Bakhu- The traditional outfit of Bhotias men is called a Bakhu (similar to the Tibetan chuba, but sleeveless) which is a loose cloak type garment that is fastened at the neck on one side and near the waist with a silk/cotton belt. Male members array the Bakhu with a loose trouser. This traditional outfit is complemented by embroidered leather boots by both men and women. The Bhotia man underneath a Kho (Bakhu) wears a double-breasted and high-necked shirt

2. Chhuba- Chuba is also a male costume. It is a long capacious robe with wide, elongated sleeves which hang almost to the ground. This is caught up at the waist by a woolen girdle, so that its skirts reach only to the knees and its upper folds form an enormous circular pocket round its wearer’s chest. This is called the ampa, and in it are stowed a wide range of implements — an eating bowl, a bag and many other small necessities. Many chubas are made of wool, either the plain gray wool; originally they were the un-dyed white colour of thesheep’s wool.

. Accessories

Females of Bhotia tribe did not possess a range of accessories. They only had very few items to which they could attach the term accessories. Some of them are as follows:

 Purses: Purses were used to preserve hard earned money and personal belongings. These functional types of purses were usually hand stitched by the women from the old, discarded fabric. Usually women were not carried purse along with them in religious and other ceremonial events. Wrist watch: Very few providential women had wrist watch, for which they used to be very protective.

 Stick: Old aged women used to take walking stick with them for the support during walking, but they were not fashionable one but only of functional type.

 Jewellery: The Bhotia women folk have a preference for earrings and neck ornaments. Neck ornaments studded with stones like Mani, Yu (blue turquoise stone), gold, silver considered to be most sacred and precious stone. Necklaces of various designs are called as the CHURRU, KHOU, MUNGA FROJU, FASO etc. The Bhotia namesfor different items of ornaments are the TEN-DARB(earring), THE ZUKU (ring), THE DEN (bracelet) etc. various types of semi-precious stones are also used in traditional jewellery designs. The photographs of the jewellery are show.

Head dress:

a) Pattu: Females of Bhotia tribe covered their head for the protection from sun while working and to show their respect to elders. This is rectangular piece of cotton or wool fabric which was worn over the head, so that it will cover upper part of forehead and then tied at the back of the head and is decorated with various stones like Munga and Moti.

b) Ghunghati: Ghunghati was the main head gear of old women of Bhotia tribe. It was the white coloured head gear which is patched with brocade. It covered the full forehead and then tied in different styles. This ghunghati head gear was worn with the traditional female costumes like honju, chhua, pangden etc.


Sompa: In the past, Bhotia traditional shoes represent the status symbol of the person in the community of the wearer, or what village or what is the kind of job he has. It is not like any other shoes you know which has the left and the right pair. Sompa shoes are identical, they neither have left or the right. Thus, it is quite hard to manufacture. There are different styles of Bhotia’s shoes such, the Sompa shoes, Galuo and Duozha shoes. They are handcrafted and made of natural materials such as pulu, furs and woolen clothes; it is comfortable and colorful as well.

Sompa Tinyima is a kind of Sompa shoes that bears patterns of nobility and wealth; these are worn by noble women in the past. Sompa Tiri is for the working class women, Sown with thick thread and linen. The soles are made of locally hand- crafted linen. Herder’s shoes are usually made of animal’s skin and other materials unlike the Farmers, which favors woolen shoes. Monks and priests wore the Gyiachin shoes, meaning rainbow. It has a religious meaning hence worn by monks and was front closed with V-shaped deep neckline or a flat collar. It had straight front and back lower end. It was worn over the blouse (Honju) and was a sleeveless garment from which the sleeves of the blouse can be seen. Chhua was generally made from a plain coloured fabric over which a colourful striped cloth was worn which enhances the beauty of the garment.


The state of Uttarakhand has a rich tradition of various arts and crafts like painting, wood carving, jewelry making, candle making, decorative temples and of course performing arts like music and dance. Their inspiration was obviously the lush green surroundings, the turquoise sky and the snow filled mountains which could make anyone poetic. The tranquil environs form a base for a treasure-house of artistically inclined people.

The most prominent craft of Uttaranchal is wood carving. Every Garhwali home, let alone the palaces, has an intricately carved wooden entrance door. Talking of palaces, the most notable wood-carved architectural wonders are the Chandpur Fort, Temple of Srinagar (Garhwal), Pandukeshwar (near Badrinath), Devi Madin (near Joshimath), and Devalgarh Temple. The next in line are the fine-arts including the Miniature Paintings and Aipan & Peeth.

The miniature paintings have Mughal influence but Uttaranchal has its own school/style of painting called the Garhwal School of Painting (offshoot of the Pahari School). Aipan and Peeth however are folk forms art made generally in homes and practiced usually by women. Both use a lot of geometric patterns, ‘Geru’ and rice paste. One can buy traditional Uttarakhand ornaments made from gold, silver, copper, beads, semi-precious stones and lacquer from various jewelry shops across the state.


Rangoli, a traditional Indian art displayed in front of the house, makes up a sacred and age-old practice. Aipan is one of the conventional forms of rangoli, mainly practiced in the state of Uttarakhand. The art has cultural as well as religious implication in the life of the Kumanois.


The fine arts of Uttaranchal are decidedly geometric with a natural grace and simplified complexity. One will find almost every home and place of worship decorated with some kind of mural done either as a proper wall painting or in the form of Aipan and Peeth.

Temple Architecture

Temple architecture in any part of India has always been patronized by the kings and people ruling there as a way to leave an imprint on the pages of history. The rulers of yesteryears built some of the intricately carved and exquisite places of worship.

Wood Carving

The people of Uttaranchal are very creative in nature and the fact testifies itself in the beautiful temples that dot the entire land. The wood carvings of Garhwal and Kumaon are renowned for their simple yet delicate and attractive designs.



Bhotias are predominantly a nomadic tribe in Uttarakhand, India. They spend the winter months in Dhunda, obtaining wool and weaving fabrics, and the summer months in Harsil, growing beans, potatoes, apples and almonds. Every year a self appointed group of people (generally old who are incapable of farming) take charge of the rearing, carefully guiding the sheep from all the households towards the local pastures and the green lands while the rest are busy farming. September – October is the business time. The sheep are back from forests, farms are ready to be harvested and apple orchards are blooming red with fruits. Harvesting is a community affair, with everyone harvesting each other’s fields together, singing songs, snacking; it is celebrated like a festive occasion.


Jaunsari is a small community of people who primarily live in the foothills of western Himalayas. In Uttarakhand Jaunsari tribes reside in Jaunsar -Bawar region which is close to Himachal border. This tribe traces its origin from the Pandavas of Mahabharat. The dialect of Jaunsari community is also known as Jaunsari and their culture is slightly different from Garhwali and Kumaoni community of Uttarakhand. The area of Jaunsar-Bawar comes under Chakrata tehsil of Dehradun which beholds splendid beauty with historic places.


Boasting of enchanting view of the Himalayas, and cultural ethos that speaks of simplistic living amidst nature and harmony – Uttarakhand is a land of sublime natural beauty and serene spirituality. And to top it, is the availability of numerous cant-miss experiences ranging from water sports to the ashrams where you can connect with your inner self.

Uttarakhand has everything in store for any tourist who is daring enough to face heights of the Himalayas, crazy enough to sail on the snow, and keen enough to explore himself/herself.

                            Official tourism website-

Article Writtten By-
Ms. Bhavika Gulrajani. B.Sc. in Textiles and Apparel Designing, Sir Vithaldas Thackersey College of Home Science.
Textile Value Chain Intern. Email: [email protected]

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