We all know, and rave, about the beautifully woven shawls of Kashmir up north, but did you know there’s another equally beautiful shawl weave down in the Deccan? Except that instead of wool, it uses silk and cotton grown locally in Aurangabad.
Himroo was brought to Aurangabad in the reign of Mohammad Tughlaq when he shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. The word originates from the Persian word hum-ruh which means ‘similar.’ Himroo is a replication of kinkhab, which was woven with pure gold and silver threads in the olden days, and worn by royalty. The designs, therefore, have a distinctly Persian influence.
Described by the ancient traveller, Marco Polo, as “the finest fabric of the Deccan,” it is this heritage weave restricted solely to this region that design entrepreneur Prachi Saraf, founder of Vyusti, has been busy reviving.
“It’s an impeccable handwoven twill fabric made in such a way that the two sides have a different colour. Each weave carries a distinctive mark and is a work of art in itself. Yet, in the narrow lanes of Aurangabad, this splendid tradition still struggles to survive,” says Saraf. Conceived during the pandemic, her enterprise works directly with rural weavers to support local artisans by creating a platform to showcase and sell their products.
The intricate himroo weave finds expression in the brand’s shawls, saris and dupattas, some of which can be worn both ways. Saraf has introduced wool as well to give these products a feel akin to the Kashmiri weaves, so there are stoles in pure wool and shawls in a cotton-wool blend. The saris are all in silk. Ranging from earthy browns, terracottas and turmerics to splashes of blue, indigo and wine, these come in a rich array of florals and paisleys. “I have tried to maintain the ancient designs and hues stemming from Persian artefacts and paintings to create a collection of heirloom pieces,” she says.
Back in the day, himroo was a favourite of the royals and rich merchant families, especially during the 17th century, says Saraf. The idea is to make them available to urban buyers, a majority of whom have no knowledge of its existence.
“With limited number of artisans proficient in himroo, production is a slow process,” Saraf confesses, but she plans to patiently soldier on. “The goal ultimately is to provide independence, growth and prosperity to our craftsmen,” she says.
Amen to that.