The Lost Tartan Khes of India

Art History/Craft History, Craft, Handloom, Art

The Lost Tartan Khes of India

Sethi, Ritu

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“The most important of the Punjab cotton manufactures are now the Khes….” This high praise from B. H. Badden Powell, ICS officer in the Imperial administration in the late 19th century, further qualified the Khes as “rare and beautiful”.  Now not to be found either in museums or in any well known collection this many centuries old tradition is practiced by a solitary 70 year old weaver in Panipat. While a wide variety of Khes was woven in both silk and cotton, in either plain or patterned weave combined with color threaded borders or interwoven with gold yarn, it was the geometric mixed-checkered double-weave patterns very similar to the damask Tartan of Scotland, with the obverse and reverse sides appearing differently that were acclaimed.
  1. Lockwood Kipling – the father of Rudyard when writing about the Khes stated “… the cloth is prized for winter wraps…” adding that it was “suitable for some European uses… (as) these cloths are something like the ginghams and checks of England.” The Khes was usable on both sides and Kipling attested to its hardiness as it was “…proof against water, and will stand any amount of washing and knocking up by the washerman."
The names given to the weaves were lyrical in their description – from the simple or Sadaa Khes that had lines and checks that were woven straight across or down the cloth to the the Khas  or special Khes with its patterning weft yarn interlaced alternately with the warp to create diagonal geometrics. The poetic Bulbul Chasam or the eye of the nightingale...
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