The word ‘Mashru’ comes from the
Arabic word ‘shari a’ that means
“permitted by Islamic law.” Mashru
was developed around the sixteenth
century to allow Muslim men to
exercise some agency within a rigid
sartorial system that prohibited luxury
in their lifestyles; in this system, silk
was equated with leisure and decadence.
Not quite silk, and not quite not, Mashru
was a brilliant, highly skilled invention
that presented a blurring of binaries in
being both silk and cotton. The warp faced
satin weave allowed silk to be visible on the
surface, giving the fabric its desired shine.
Mashru broke a rule within a system, and
emerged as a legally ‘permitted’ fabric for
men to wear. Mashru came to India through
the silk route. It was originally woven in three
parts of India: Gujarat, The Deccan and
Uttar Pradesh. The colour palettes used to
weave Mashru were mostly bright, often striped,
and the textile was commonly dotted with motifs.
One type of Mashru even used ikat. Despite its
versatility, Mashru showed its deep Ottoman
and Mughal influences.
Photographed by: Prarthna Singh