In one of the very first conversations I had when I first arrived in Delhi, I expressed my passion for handworked textiles and I had been told that Gujarat was the place to go for textiles in India. That was over five months ago (!!!) and after a incredibly long, winding path and what feels like a lifetime of growth and a wealth of education on textiles and all things handloom, I have finally arrived !

In relation to textiles, Ahmedabad is not really a major metropolis hub. However, there are a couple places which have seriously been worth visiting. One of the key ones and a bit of a hidden gem is the Textile Gallery at The House of Mangaldas Girdhardas. As it’s commonly known The House of MGis an absolute Ahmedabad institution. It was built in 1924 as a family mansion for a wealthy textile magnate. It has since housed Gandhi along with many other notable figures and become one the most sort out heritage hotels which serves what is arguably Ahmedabad’s best Gujarati Thali at their rooftop restaurant Agashiye. Furthermore, it houses a real hidden treasure in the form The Textile Gallery, an exquisite collection of Gujarati textile handicrafts. India is not exactly known for great museums but I’m quickly starting to believe Gujarat is a major exception to this norm.

On the first floor of The House of MG, through a beautiful store offering an array of incredibly high quality vintage and antique handicrafts and an extensive handicraft bookstore is the Textile Gallery. This gallery is comprised of the Private collection of the family of Mangaldas Girdhardas, a textile industrialist and avid collector of fine examples of Gujarati textile handicrafts. The collection boasts a vast representation of the many varied styles, symbols, materials and techniques traditionally crafted in Gujarat. It includes a vast array of embroidery styles, mirror work, beadwork, tie and dye Bandheni, brocades, the world famed double ikat silk patolas and many many more. I was really taken aback not only by the exquisite cloths, but their incredible curation and immaculate hanging. The textiles are well preserved, protected and presented hung in considered, illuminated and informatively labeled displays. (Trust me, this is a serious rarity in these parts !)

I visited with a friend I met the same morning on the Ahmedabad Heritage walk – a government organised walking tour of the Unesco Heritage City which I highly recommend. We were introduced to the collection by the most informative, engaging and all round fantastic Sampta who has an extensive knowledge of and passion for handwork textiles. We ended up spending hours in the space obsessing over the finesse of the work as well as discussing complex issues surrounding tradition and preservation and larger discussions on modernity, social ritual and cultural identification all against the backdrop of the collection. The textiles are accompanied by a really outstanding collection of photographs of the communities by which they have been created. These serve both as documentation of the quickly disappearing traditional dress, textiles and decorations of the people, their homes and animals, as well as an incredibly beautiful and emotionally stirring photographic survey of these rural communities. Their is also a beautiful little book available at the bookstore which gives an introductory summary of the various communities and their crafts.

While this gallery and store are home to some of the most beautiful examples of local handwork, they do not do any marketing for the private museum which has been open for three years now and do not seem particularly concerned with retail sales. The Gallery is strictly only accessible to adults, with a small entrance fee, a rigid no photography rule and under the supervision and guidance of a guide. The majority of the store’s customers are people who understand the unique importance and value of each piece, an investment which only increase as time passes and the textiles of these traditions become more and more scarce. This really is a collection for the true admirers of handworked textiles, for the avid enthusiast rather than a tourist attraction for mass consumption. So if you’re anything like me and you happen to end up somewhere near Ahmedabad, do pay a visit to the all round fantastic House of Mangaldas Girdhardas.

Image credits

All Images featured here belong to The House of MG, Ahmedabad

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