Calico Museum

About the location: This museum contains one of the world’s finest collections of antique and modern Indian textiles, all handmade and up to 500 years old. There are some astoundingly beautiful pieces, displaying incredible virtuosity and extravagance. You’ll see Kashmiri shawls that took three years to make, and double-ikat fabrics whose 100,000 threads were each individually dyed before weaving. The main textile galleries can only be visited in the morning session. The tours last two hours with a maximum 25 people – 15 by group booking and 10 on a first-come-first-served basis. Be there by 10 am to maximize chances of getting in. The afternoon tour (maximum 15 people, all first-come-first-served) is devoted to the Sarabhai Foundation’s collection of religious art, which explores depictions of Indian Gods and a textile gallery.

Brief History: The Calico Museum was founded in 1949 by the industrialist Gautam Sarabhai and his sister Gira Sarabhai, and inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Ahmedabad has always had a flourishing textile industry which was at its peak during the late 1940s. It was inspired by philosopher, metaphysician and pioneering historian and philosopher of Indian art, Ananda Coomaraswamy. It was Coomaraswamy who planted the seed in Shri Gautam Sarabhai’s mind and suggested that the museum should be housed in Ahmedabad, since it was a major textile hub. After many talks and research, Shri Sarabhai, his sister Gira Sarabhai and the industrial house of Calico created this specialist museum anchored on historical and technical study of Indian handicrafts and industrial textiles. It was originally housed in Calico Mills but as the range of the collection grew it was shifted to the Sarabhai House in Shahibaug in 1983. In the 1960s, the museum launched a publications programme around Historical Textiles of India under the editorship of John Irwin, then keeper of the Indian Section of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the second, under the editorial direction of Dr Alfred Bühler, who conducted a Contemporary Textile Craft Survey of India.