Indian textiles have been popular the world over since time immemorial. The hidden interpretations, colour vibrancy and quality fabrics have been much acclaimed across the continents. The cotton fabric has taken the Indian fashion to farther lands; so has the different motifs used on Indian textiles.

The motifs, the basic design elements on the Indian textiles, is either woven or embroidered on the fabric. Some motifs have now become popular in usage not just in India but right across the global garment industry; especially, in the USA, the UK and other parts of Europe as well as Asia.

What is a motif?

A motif is the smallest unit used in a design pattern. In most cases, it is either influenced by our surroundings, nature, socio-economic structure, culture, beliefs or religious factors.

Every motif has its distinct quality and is represented by the use of a set colour combination and pattern. They are generally used on the traditional Indian wear including the ethnic Indian wear, Bollywood fashion wear, wedding wear etc.

Right from the use of Hindu figures to indigenous flowers, fruits, birds or animals; motifs have played a great role in bringing the symbols of beauty designed on a fabric and have gained popularity across the continents.

We are highlighting some of the popular motifs used in the Indian garment industry and their symbolic meaning:

Peacock motif

The national bird of India, Peacock has been a symbol of courtship, fertility and immortality. It has been used in sculptures, paintings, miniatures and other forms of art since the Indus Valley Civilization. It also gained prominence in Indian textile industry during the Gupta and Mughal Empires right up to the present-day traditional ethnic wear.

Hansa motif

The Hansa or the goose motif is also an ancient symbol used in the Indian garments. Many fashion brands continue to use the motif of goose in traditional Indian wear as it symbolizes spirituality purity. It was also common in the Indus Valley Civilization and the use of the symbol can be seen even at the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India. The South Indian textiles use the Hansa motif more commonly for their traditional embroidery and kalamkari prints.

Parrot motif

Parrot is again a symbol of courtship and passion. It is commonly used in the textiles of Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal. It is a popular motif used for the bridal wear and wedding collection for the bride as well as the groom.

Mango motif

The Bengali kantha embroidery and the chikankari from Lucknow famously use the mango motif on their textiles. It is a common motif symbolizing fertility and is popularly known as the Paisley design. The most famous representation is in the form of tear drop shape with a curved end. Kanjivaramsaree is another common example of mango motif embroidery.

Lotus motif

Lotus is the national flower of India and has a wide scale usage in the Indian textiles. It is one of the most popular used symbols in Indian embroidery and textile designs of Kantha, Kasuti, Chambarumals, Gujarati embroidery etc. Both the closed and open petal look of the flower is used in embroidery and print. The lotus is considered a sacred flower symbolizing the power of life as well as the Universe, the solar system, the cosmos and even woman’s beauty. The eight-petal motif and hundred-petal motif are the common forms of depiction for the motif of lotus.

Elephant motif

Another popular motif is the elephant motif used popularly in Gujarat and Rajasthan textiles. It symbolizes strength and power and is among the most common Indian motifs used in home textiles. In medieval India, elephants were a symbol of royalty and have since been used in traditional Indian apparel as a symbol of good luck, happiness and longevity.

Shell motif

Shell or shankh motif is also a popular motif in both Indian traditional wear as well as home textiles. The Conch shell motif is widely used in sarees, salwar kameez and other traditional wear across the Indian garment industry. The shankh motif symbolizes the sound of the cosmic space.

Author's Bio: 

Mayank Mohindra is an author on apparel, fashion, and textile industry. His articles are based on latest apparel industry news, textile news and/or analysis of the dynamics of global apparel trade, and fashion industry.