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TANCHOI A distinct style of textile developed in the nineteenth century, tanchoi was favored among the Parsi women of India. The Chinese opium trade had brought affluence to the Parsis, and a display of this Chinese connection became a status symbol. Two distinctly Indo-Chinese, or "Parsi," textiles resulted from these interactions: the tanchoi and the garo, which was a plain fabric with embroidery. These have as much ethnic association with the Parsis, as the bandhani with the Gujaratis and the Paithani with the Maharashtrians. Tanchoi saris were so popular among the Parsis that practically every home possessed at least one, and they were an essential part of the marriage trousseau of the Parsi bride.

The tanchoi is woven with both the twill, and the sateen weave, which can produce an unbroken surface of color while retaining structural strength. The twill weaving produces a much more tightly woven fabric than the plain weave, and was used for the pallu (decorative end-piece of the sari) of the tanchoi. The rest of the sari was woven using a sateen weave. The most important quality of the tanchoi is the complete absence of loose long floats (loose threads of the weft on the reverse of the fabric, not interwoven with the warp) on the back of the fabric, even if they are required at long intervals in the pattern. In the most intricate designs too these kinds of floats are not permissible in tanchoi weaving.

The earliest tanchois seem to be only two colors, generally the color of the warp for the ground, with that of the weft creating the design on the right side of the cloth. The other side of the material appeared exactly opposite: the weft color became the ground, and the design appeared in the color of the warp. In a multicolored sari the warp as well as the weft formed the design. Tanchois of the nineteenth century generally had a large pallu with a combination of large and small paisley motifs at both ends, while the ground designs vary from butis (small decorative motifs) to lozenges in an all-over pattern. Jari (gold or silver) was also used at times to highlight part of the motif, which required cutting off the extra weft float of jari. In addition to its use for saris, the tanchoi was also available as a fabric by the yard and was used for various decorative purposes. Parsi women preferred blouses of this material.

With the introduction of the power loom and changes in fashion, tanchoi weaving went out of vogue soon after the first quarter of the twentieth century. The way of life of the Parsis, who had been the chief patrons of tanchoi, had changed, and Chinese styles were replaced by British and European fashions. Clothing changed, and georgettes and lacy materials replaced materials like tanchoi. Surat has long ceased to manufacture tanchois, but Benaras (Varanasi) weavers have now revived the art.

Kalpana Desai


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