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Calico Museum of Textiles

Ahmedabad, the city once known as the “Manchester of the East”, due to its textile industry.
I visited the city this month and had few selected must to go places.

Calico Museum of Textiles was on the top of that list.
It was initially a disappointment to know that you should have a prior booking
for visiting the museum.
I didn’t register my name till then and because of its popularity
there was no slot left for the next full week.

With the reference of an influential family of a dear friend, I got the chance to visit the museum.


The museum was founded in 1949 by the industrialist
Gautam Sarabhai and his sister Gira Sarabhai.

The Museum was inspired by Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy, who, in conversations with
Shri Gautam Sarabhai during the 1940s,
suggested the founding of a textile institute in the city of Ahmedabad,
a major trading center of the textile industry of the sub-continent since the fifteenth century.

The museum was originally housed at the Calico Mills in the heart of the textile industry.
But as the collection grew the museum was shifted to the Sarabhai House in Shahibaug.


Inaugurating the Museum in 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru stated,
“The early beginnings of civilization are tied up with the manufacture of textiles, and history might well be written with this as the leading motif.”
And indeed, so well had the Calico Museum of Textiles fulfilled this brief that by 1971
the House of Calico decided that the excellence of the fabric collection and
the invaluable research conducted by the publications department were such that
the Museum should be an independent society.

doorThe only picture I could take here 🙁

The entrance of the Museum itself caught my attention.
The grayish – black wooden door is just a trailer of what you will get to see inside the museum.

The Museum is open from Thursday – Tuesday between
10:30 am-12:30 am & 2:30 pm -5:00 pm

20 registered people get the chance to visit the museum at one time.

There is a huge garden surrounded by big trees and its just so pleasant to witness.

There is a small library with old books restored by the Calico Publications on
the textile history of India.

The walk towards the Museum begin from here 🙂
Ahmadabad is known for its wooden carving on the doors and walls of the house.
Just before you enter the Museum, you will get to see a huge courtyard surrounded by the old style of architecture in Ahmadabad.
This courtyard is set-up keeping in mind the style of Pol in the old city of Ahmadabad.
The watchman room, Carved wooden windows, Traditional paintings on the walls and Old Utensils.


The Museum is huge with the several care-takers.
The dim yellow light in the museum gives a royal feel to the presence of the art present there.
The floor is made of mud and cow-dung.
You have to walk in the museum barefoot.

You will get to see the oldest work by the Indian Artisans under one roof only.
Be it Turbans, Pashmina Shawls, Phulkari, Ikat sarees, Maharashtrian sarees etc. ,
each piece is preserved perfectly and you are not allowed to touch it.
Each masterpiece is just to see and admire.


I remember, the guide took us to the room where there were bed-sheets hand painted by the Indian Artisans who were the Cobbler by profession.
The Britishers just to test their talent asked them to paint the bed sheet instead of doing
hand-embroidery. The Cobblers made an exactly same bed sheet like the way they wanted.
Both the pieces are exhibited there.


The Cross-stitch and  Chain-stitch were mostly used by the artisans and they look exceptionally good in the museum.

After a walk inside the museum for about 2 hours , we again came out in the courtyard.


Unlike other museums which follow the conventional method of displaying
the pieces in glass cases, the Calico Museum authorities have covered
the exhibits with a transparent plastic film.
The film is scientifically tested to make sure that it is inert chemically.
This has been done to ensure that the plastic films do not damage the dyes and the material which they want to protect.


The Museum authorities have made all possible efforts to create a ‘museum climate’
in and around the treasure house of ancient textiles.

Within the museum, the relative humidity of the galleries does not change
too much or too suddenly.
The wooden structure, with relatively thick walls, shaded from the sun
contribute to conservation requirements.
The restricted visiting hours and a strict control over visitor traffic ensure
a reasonably safe ‘museum climate’.

Moreover, the darkness between visiting hours and a subdued lighting
(approximately 50 lux level) protect the textiles from fading.

The walk inside the museum is divided into two parts.
One is the exhibition gallery with all these bedsheets, garments, accessories etc.
The other one is the gallery where the technique of every art is exhibited.
Be it embroidery or block- print, hand-knot or bead-work everything was available in brief for you to witness the beauty of Indian handicrafts.

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The books in the Library are available for sale along with some postcards.
You can visit the website of Calico Museum to see the full collection and buy directly from there.

Please note :
Bags, Camera and Mobile phones are not allowed inside the premises.
You should call/email and register your name before hand
Ph :079 2286 8172
Email : visitor@calicomuseum.com
Sarabhai Foundation, Opposite Underbridge, Shahibuag, Amdavad, Gujarat 380004

Pictures : Wikimapia

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