Ahmedabad has been a well known center for textile manufacturer in India since early time. This ancient city was earlier known as Ashaval, from which the tearm ashavali for hand wowen fabrics appears to have been derived though the antiquity of the town has not yet been confirmed, its geographical location has been eastiblished . According to latest research its boundries extended from sarangpur in the east, Ramnath in the West, Kamnath on the south, and maneknath on the north. The town is also known as karnavati.
This area was taken over by Tatar Khan in 1403. Later, when Ahmed Shah ruled over it in 1411, making it the capital of Gujarat Sultanat, it was renamed Ahmedabad.
That Ahmedabad flourished and reached its Zenith of cultural, religious and economic prosperity is amply borne out by its architecture, art and commerce of that period of which a large number still remain. It was the seat of jain, vaishnava, and secular patronage, and the hub of artistic activity and trade, it excelled in the manufacture of all kinds of textiles of export for local use. Like the patolas of patan, the Ashavali brocades of Ahmedabad were in great demand throughout the country. The periplus of the erythraean sea mentions Gujarat as centre for silk weaving and barygasa (Baroch) as a silk producing centre. The mandosor inscription (circa fifth century AD) mentions a guild of silk weavers who migrated from Gujarat and had a temple built for the Sun-God.
The ain-i-akbari refers to ahmedabad as a famous centre for brocade, valvets, silk. Duarte Barbosa(1518) writing in the begening of the sixteenth century, mentions "…wild tribesman of Malaya" who did not consider their freedom secure until they had stored in a pile of ahmedabadi brocade equal to their own height . This was the standard ransom for capitive in war. The varnaka samucchaya, acirca sixteenth–century compilation of technical and popular terms, mentions the names of various brocaded garments such as kasbi kanchli (crocade blouse), and so on. It also refers to certain common motifs such as gajavadi (elephant border), Hansavadi (swan border), mandala and putaliun (multiple doll fighres). A number of these motifs where used in ashavali borders. And ashavali sari got names like Ashavali Popat kinar, ankadani shawali kinar, antani ashavali kinar.
Kunwarbai nu Mameru, a poetic work by premanand of circa eighteenth century, lists several types of textile and costumes in which the ashavali is included. This text refers to magia, doria, and ashavali saris which were in great demand in those days.
During the maratha period in general, the peshwas in the deccan and the Gaekwads in western India seems to have utilized kinkhabs and brocade material for furnishing of all kinds. The thicker variety of the brocade and velvet was used for caparisoning of elephants and horses for festive occasions and special processions.
The Ashavali brocaded tradition which was popurly known in translation as “Fabric of the dream or Wonder land” was later kept alive in the borders and patterns of saris which were wowen with golden thread in combination with silk and cotton, using bright and attractive colours. The local weaving technique was called desi vanat and described as twill weave since Gujarat was not producer of silk, silk thread was imported through khambat.
The ashavali designs are noted for their rich colour schemes,in contrast to simple brocaded borders. The enameled effect was obtained by weaving the patterns into the woven zari or gold thread background, with four to five coloured silk threads, in the inlay technique (FIGURE) stylized parrots, peacocks and lions appear quite frequently interwoven with trees and floral motifs, pallavs and kunias, corers of saris, have ornamental repeats of larger motifs, besides the kalga motifs, the stylized lion motifs(FIGURE)which is rarely seen in the khunia, is used here.
While human and animal representations were not woven in most part of India because of Islamic influence, Gujarat was an exception.here animal motifs were a part of folk tradition and remained unchanged even after the establishment of the sultanate court.
There was a royal workshop or Karkhana which produced royal pavilions and canopies. During this period there were five hundred to six hundred looms in ahmedabad, which employed a number of master weavers. Shahpur, one of the suberbs of ahmedabad,was the main centre for weaving in the city.
The weavers of ashavali brocades wove for the religious sect of pushti Margis, a vaishnav tradition followed by many prominent and affluent families of the merchant community. They wove pichhwais in brocade (Fighre) as well as a range of object for the household temples of the worshippers of shri Nathji. Collection of these pieces can be seen at the Calico musieum of textile, Ahmedabad as well as the baroda museum and in number of temples, as household shrines.
There were many looms weaving ashavali sares, but the growing industrialization towards the end of the century resulted in change of fashions and a change in cultural values of people.With the increasing growth of textile mills in Ahmedbad,coupled with declining patronage,the traditional weavers had to leave their ancestral occupation and joined the textile mills for their livehood.
In the seventies when the close close contact of weavers with cottage industries was lost, they were not able to find a market for the finely woven Ashavali saris. The industry went into decline once again. The introductionof the jacquard loom ment that the more complex pattern could not be woven and cheaper version of these saris begain to be produced, with silk from banglore and imitation gold thread from surat.
At the end of 80’s Ashavali sris was complatly exosted. No one was weaving Ashavali any more, Xcept one man Smt.Shree Somabhai jijidas, the weaving continues in a small town named ridrol in Gandhinagar district .the true revivar of ashavali saree.
Somabhai hired some local weavers and started small karkhana with only 4 looms. They use to sell saris directly to customers. So the profit margin was good, so they kept increasing looms. Now his son Vishnubhai was also in this business. So at the end of 1990 there were 100 looms weaving ashavali sarees.. and the tradition continues ….