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Influences of The British Raj on The Attire and Textiles of Punjab

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Item Code: HAT571
Author: Jasvinder Kaur
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9789390918461
Pages: 168 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details 12x8.5 inch
Weight 1.24 kg
Book Description
About The Book

This is the absorbing story of how the British Raj brought lasting changes in the way people dressed and used textiles in Punjab. Many men became Westernized and followed English fashions to the hilt. Others simply wore Western garments like coats or overcoats along with their kurta and pyjama. Interesting outfits evolved, with both Western and Indian elements. Women's styles too were impacted, albeit to a lesser degree. As Western accessories made an entry, Indian ornamentation retreated. New fabrics and materials were appreciated and accepted. These, along with Western techniques and motifs, even appeared in the form of household items, to complement the new furnishings and ways of living.

About the Author

Jasvinder Kaur studied textiles at Delhi's Lady Irwin College in 1969. Many years later, it was a fascinating walk down Kabul's famous Chicken Street, lined with displays of Central Asian textiles, which inspired her to pick up the threads again. Since then, over the course of 30 years, she has been continuously engaged with the subject. This has included consultancy assignments at the Musée d'art et d'histoire and Musée d'ethnographie, both in Geneva, Switzerland, and lecturing as visiting faculty at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi. Her articles have featured in international and Indian publications, and she is a regular contributor to The Tribune, Chandigarh-the city she calls home.


Now, as in the past, the world of textiles is vast. It has always encompassed art and industry, manual skills and engineering, and it continues to fascinate us by its power to contribute to history through exchanges, trade and crazes for new products that have become major political issues. It has been responsible, at times for commercial or diplomatic crises We recall the tremendous novelty of the painted and dyed fabrics arriving from India, as till that time, fabrics with designs in only woven silks were available in the West-and these too were inaccessible to most people.

Likewise, in Europe, the fashioning of highly desirable and expensive lace generated trade wars between the producing states due to the moneys involved Today, textile production continues to remain a major activity around the world and it is perhaps through clothing that we sense this the most Clothes and their accessories, part of our everyday lives, connect us to a shared history that we often overlook.


From the mid eighteenth century up to 1947, most of India was either directly ruled or indirectly controlled by the British. During this period of approximately two hundred years, Western influence pervaded all aspects of Indian society and culture. Indians were exposed to a new language, new types of food, new lifestyles, such as sitting on chairs, eating at dining tables and socializing at clubs. Inevitably, the influence crept into their ways of dressing, and was visible not only in the adoption of Western wear by Indians, but also in the Westernization of Indian clothes.

One of the major contributors to this change was the Westernization of formal education, which brought about changes in the lives of not only the aristocracy, but also the ordinary citizens. The logic of introducing a Western system of learning based in the English language was propounded by Lord Thomas Macaulay, a British parliamentarian, who argued that it would enable the creation of a class of Indians who, as products of the 'superior' system, would help their colonial masters transmit the 'truth', as well as administer the country. Schools were established by the government and Christian missionaries where children wore European garments like coats, shirts, ties and trousers as part of their school uniform, while European tutors employed by the Indian royalty familiarized their wards with Western ways. Higher institutions of learning, like the Government College, Lahore (1864), and Aitchison College (1886), were set up. At ease with Western attire from an early age, these young Indians continued to dress in the same way in their adult lives.

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