April 15, 2016
If you are travelling to the city of Ahmedabad, and you have an extra hour or two in your schedule, you must visit The Calico Museum of Textiles. And in case you are still scheduling your trip to the city, there is no way you can miss attending a session or two at the museum.
Now counted in the listed of best textile museums in the world, the Calico Museum had an interesting beginning. In the 1940s, The Calico Mills, textile manufacturers in the city, started collecting samples/examples of traditional Indian textiles to acquaint contemporary designers with the richness of India’s textile heritage. This collection gradually grew into a spectacular museum, which was named after the mills.
In 1982, Sarabhai Foundation undertook the museum as The Calico Mills could no longer extend financial support to it. Subsequently, the museum was shifted from the Mill’s compound to the present premises (Shahibaug) of the Sarabhai Foundation in 1983.
Most of what belonged to museum was moved to the Chauk. Chauk is a complex of buildings that were modified with carved pillars and facades from traditional Gujarati residential buildings that were actually built around a chowk (town square). This part of the museum hosts a collection from the Mughal and Provincial Courts. This includes intricately made tie and dye fabrics, carpets and wall hangings with fine embroidery which took years to be made, and many more artefacts exemplifying the finesse and extravaganza of our textile heritage. Chauk can be visited by a maximum of 20 visitors in the morning hours for a two hour guided tour.
Another area, Sarabhai-ni-Haveli hosts many religious and spiritual textiles, paintings and art. The textile library, the gallery of textile techniques and the museum shop also function from the Haveli. It also has study and seminar rooms, and an entirely new section dedicated to Indian embroidery techniques. Haveli can be visited by a maximum of 10 visitors in the afternoon. The guides are immensely knowledgeable and conduct the tours efficiently.
The entry to the museum is only by prior appointment, and the museum is quite strict with its rules. It is one of the best-kept museums in the country today, not just for its artefacts but also for the interesting space it is in, and we highly recommend a visit. And you need not have a deep interest or knowledge about textiles to enjoy the exquisite experience.
To schedule a visit or shop online from their gallery you can visit their website.
A version of this article was published in Kyoorius 20.