Shawl with a Figurative Design


Shawl with a Figurative Design



The shawl consists of a plain light yellow field with equal borders along the sides making it a rumal (square shawl). The borders, woven in a figurative design, have been recycled from a Kashmir kani pashmina shawl. A shawl-maker has taken the border, split it lengthwise, and stitched it on to the yellow fabric, making the upper part the end borders and the lower part the side borders. The figurative design includes women wearing what could be a short sari; some women have a basket attached around their waist. The male figures are dressed in fitted pants and a short top; some also appear to be holding an elongated container. Birds, elephants, tigers, and cheetahs can also be seen.

The first known figurative shawls date from the late 18th century and after. But it is hard to imagine what the actual piece must have looked like with so little surviving. Were there figures all over the shawl or only on the borders? Figurative shawls were not usually intended as garments to be worn, but were used as floor-spreads, hangings, or coverings of various sorts. They were usually embroidered, as this allowed a more minute delineation of features, but a few made (like the one shown here) using the twill-tapestry method are known. Figurative designs usually included shikargah (hunting) scenes or other figurative elements, often incorporated into the usual buta repeat format, of which the shawl here is an example. The figures shown here have a distinctively “folk” feel about them; they may be influenced by the embroidery of the neighbouring hillstates.

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection.


Textiles and Costumes of India

Object Type









First part of 19th Century




154 x 149.5 cm