INDO-PORTUGUESE QUILTS AND SHAWLS: Three-way influences merge into one

Indo-Portuguese quilts and shawls hail from a period in history when textile industry of India reached its peak of sophistication. The era coincides with invasions from European colonists, the Mughals' demand for luxury items and a host of new artistic influences. Patronised under great kings like Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, the Indo-Portuguese quilts were produced for a select, upper-class clientele in India and abroad although most of them were traded to Europe.

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Later on tussar came to the forefront and became personal favorite to the then Nawabs and their Biwis (wives). Amongst this group the best-known quilts are the monochrome, tussar silk embroidered coverlets made in Satgaon and Hooghly Bengal; specifically called ‘‘Bengalla quilts” and “Satgaon quilts”. The tussar silk embroidered quilt represents one of the most important schools of Indian embroidery, which flourished before the arrival of the Portuguese. Under the patronage of the latter the designs showed strong impressions from Christian biblical sources and Italian Renaissance.

With India’s cottage industry taking a dip in the international market, Indo Portuguese shawl weaving has also witnessed a great set back. The art has suffered mainly because of craftsmen choosing to opt for different livelihoods than investing time in this exhaustive art. To boost the revival of India’s dying traditional art forms, Biswa Bangla has come forward with potential marketing ideas to evoke the lost golden era; this apart, it also aims to showcase India’s innumerable talents to the world.