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Place of Origin: Ladakh, Northern India

Date: Circa 1900

Overall Length: 1520mm (60 Inches)

Reference: 416

Status: Not Available

Full Description:

Ladakh is a high-altitude border region in the North-East of India, which was once at the heart of the Silk Road. The area has a highly diverse textile tradition and indeed, traditional and religious clothing play an important role in the cultural identity of the Ladakhi people.

Polychromatic Buddhist deities fill the canvas surface of this rare and unusual robe, posing in a variety of stances between local flora and fauna. The stunning designs, display bold primary colours – blue, yellow, and red – and luscious patterns highlighted by black lines. The graceful deities then grasp at intricate, saffron-coloured vines. The skirt’s lower hem is painted with a scrolling, foliate border. Robes worn by men are usually dyed in black, grey, burgundy, or earthen tones, while women’s robes typically display brighter colours[1]. The prestige of this elaborately patterned robe suggests it was used as a ceremonial garment rather than for everyday wear.

It is believed in Ladakh that weaving is an ancient craft and that the loom is modelled on the mythical loom of Duguma, the wife of King Gesar; but little is known about the historical development of weaving in the region, since few sources or early records exist on the subject : archaeological excavations have yielded few insights. We know that, similar to weaving, dyeing and tailoring were predominantly male occupations. Monks, however, were not permitted to weave: a reason for this, tentatively suggested by scholar Monisha Ahmed, suggests that the weaving process is seen as symbolic of the sexual union between a man and a woman[2].


UK art market


[1] Monisha Ahmed, “The Fabric of Life : Nomadic textiles from the Ladakh Himalayas”, in. Overview, 23 October 2018.


[2] Monisha Ahmed, Ladakh: Culture at the Crossroads, edited by M. Ahmed and C. Harris, Marg Publications, Mumbai, 2005.


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