Textile Tour, India
12 February to 9 March 2023
Join Polly Leonard on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the textiles of India. The Selvedge tour is different in that rather than visiting the tourist sights, we focus on behind-the-scenes experiences for textile enthusiasts. The tour will be made up of textile enthusiasts and offers an excellent opportunity to make new friends with like-minded people. The tour is priced on single occupancy. We use a range of hotels from 5-star luxury to basic, depending on where we are. We choose the best cuisine available. You will experience everything India offers, from fine dining to street food. We will enjoy a traditional Indian dinner served on a banana leaf while sitting on the floor and dinner at a 19th-century bungalow, the private home of a textile collector in Mumbai.
The trip includes half a dozen hands-on workshops with artisans, so you get an in-depth feel for the textiles of India. The tour fee includes all ground transportation and internal flights. Transport within cities is by coach or car. We fly between the cities of Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Mumbai, and Coimbatore. The tour ends in Kochi. The itinerary is planned to maximise the time spent looking at textiles and minimise the time spent travelling. The pace at the beginning of the tour is intense. We start each morning at 9 am and sometimes invite a local guest to join us for dinner. We have three evening flights during the tour. In the final part of the tour, we take a more relaxed pace, as our travellers are tired, and we spend a day relaxing on a houseboat.
Join Selvedge’s Editor, Polly Leonard, as we take you on a tour of India and its incredible textile culture. From misty Delhi mornings to the delicate beauty of Jaipur's palaces and Gujarat's craft workshops, this journey is a must for those who combine a love of textiles with an adventurous spirit. The winter months are beautiful in India when the north offers clear blue skies, and Hindus celebrate Sankranti, marking the start of longer days. During the tour we will visit private homes and studios of talented designers and fascinating collectors, traditional dyers and weavers, and see unforgettable historical sites and natural wonders.
Beginning in Delhi, the capital of the Mughal Empire and now of modern India, the tour will lead you on to the western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, where you will glimpse the traditional textile arts of block printing, bandhani and leheriya, metal embroidery, and a fine tailoring workshop. You will visit the pink city of Jaipur, built by the Rajput Maharajas, and the cultural hub of Ahmedabad, home to the Calico Museum and its exquisite silk paintings and textiles. Throughout the trip, you will stay in some of India’s most iconic and luxurious hotels, including the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. Before venturing south to Kerala, spending a day on a houseboat in Kochi, visiting dye workshops and a tea plantation
Our tour begins with an introduction to Delhi, its religious diversity and a presentation by a world-renowned author about the history and cultural significance of the sari. We meet contemporary designers who combine western influences with Indian traditions to create a hybrid piece. A full day will be spent at Surajkund International, the largest craft fair in the world. We also spend a morning at the National Handicraft and handloom museum to introduce the diverse textile traditions of this vast nation.
In Jaipur, the heart of royal India, we get hands-on with a block printing workshop and visit the Anoki museum, as well as a jewellery workshop and carpet factory. We spend half a day at a sculpture park, watch a puppet show and learn about the work of the Lady Bamford Foundation at Nila House. The collection of the City Palace Museum is introduced to us by the curator. The shoppers in our group will be enthralled by the store of museum-quality textile dealers while others explore the Jantar Mantar observatory.
On to Ahmedabad, the home of the Indian textile industry and Gandhi Ashram. We see the influence of the Sarabhai family at their famed Calico Museum. We visit the National Institute of Design weaving department and enjoy a demonstration of classical dance. Here, we take a deep dive into embroidery with two hands-on workshops. We enjoy dinner and learn about how food is prepared in traditional Indian households.
Further west, to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and the city of Bhuj, here we learn about the science and art of dyeing, the technique of Ajrakh, Bandhani & Laharia from the Khatri. We also visit a weaving village, where we see the indigo fermentation process and enjoy a spinning workshop. In this part of the tour, we experience village life in rural India and educate ourselves about the caste system.
On to Mumbai, the Bollywood capital of India, and time for a little luxury as we stay at the famed Taj Mahal Palace hotel. We enjoy a private dinner at the home of a quilt collector and scholar. We participate in a Kantha workshop, watch a botanical dyeing demonstration, visit a contemporary gallery and enjoy a little downtime to explore on our own.
On the final leg of our journey, we take a slower pace; we fly to Coimbatore, from where we journey inland to the fertile tropical backwaters. We visit an organic cotton farm and spinning mill, see the sizing of a warp, and the weaving of the famous white and gold saris in local villages. Spend a day with Aranya Natural, and enjoy a presentation and workshop on natural dyeing, batik and paper making. We visit a tea plantation and watch a Kathakali (story play) performance; we see exquisite hand embroidery at a Christian nunnery in Fort Kochi. We spend a night on a chartered houseboat on a beautiful backwater cruise where we observe the life of ordinary people in Kerala. We explore old towns and villages and visit an old Christian church and a woodcarver's studio. Quench our thirst by tasting a locally made, slightly alcoholic palm toddy. Pick up freshly caught tiger prawns for our private chef to add to your dinner menu.
We return to Fort Kochi, stopping along the way at the Coir Weaving Museum, a coconut-fibre weaving factory, and the Kerala Folklore Museum. We will enjoy the beaches, Chinese fishing net, Old Palace Museum, and upmarket clothing shops. The final day is spent at the Kochi-Muziris International Biennale exhibitions of contemporary art, which was the first Biennale of its kind held in India and the biggest contemporary art festival in Asia, spread throughout eleven venues around Fort Kochi, Kerala.
The tour will be made up of travellers from all over the world. They will all travel from different locations and meet in Delhi for the first time, and I hope to become fast friends. Polly Leonard will lead the tour in the North and West. For the final part of the tour, we will be joined by the textile scholar Yoshiko Wada. During the tour, we are accompanied by Param Pandya, a university-educated guide from Ahmedabad who is a native Hindi speaker; he assists with the on-ground logistics and problems we might encounter during the tour. He is the one who would assist with finding medical assistance should we need it during the tour. We use IndeBo as our travel agent with 30 years of experience organising tours of India; I have worked with Ravi for many years. The tour does not cover insurance or international air fairs.
We welcome 12 curious travellers to join us in exploring India’s textile heritage and traditions. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, with preference given to travellers staying with us for the entirety of the tour. We appreciate that not everyone can take an entire month out of their busy lives, so we have divided the tour into three parts:
8 Nights in Delhi & Jaipur: The Northern Weave (12 February until 19 February) $6,500
10 Nights in Ahmedabad, Bhuj & Mumbai: The Western Interlude (19 February until 28 February) $8,500
10 Nights Pollachi, Munnar and Kochi, The Southern Adventure (28 February until 9 March) $8,500
28 Nights Delhi to Kochi $21,000
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