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Demystifying Ayurvastra, the Ancient Healing Textiles of India

What is Ayurvastra?

Ayurvastra is the word used to describe fabrics that are handmade following ancient Indian practices. The primary purpose of these fabrics was, and is, to support the health and well-being of the person who will use or wear the fabric.

The use of these practices date back to the origins of Ayurveda, yoga and the Vedas themselves. There are different thoughts as to how old the Vedas are, but they can be traced to at least somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 BCE.

Ayurveda, yoga, jyotish (Vedic astrology), and the philosophies and ideas expressed in the Vedas are all interconnected. They can be understood as a holistic treatise on a way to live a life that is rooted, balanced, and connected. Ultimately, these pathways and ideas are aligned to support an individual's journey to realizing her unique purpose and potential or dharma. The understanding is that when individuals are supported to realize their purpose and potential, this creates harmony in society and allows us to live in balance with the natural world.

Ayurvastra fabrics were used to heal. Warriors would wear garments outside and inside battle armor to help heal the body in case of wounding. Doctors and healers would use ayurvastra bandages along with Ayurvedic herbal poultices on wounds to prevent infection and speed healing.

What does ayurvastra mean?

While the practices of ayurvastra are ancient, the word itself is not. This is why when people search for ancient texts or mentions of ayurvastra that they are unable to find this word or formal treatises or sutras regarding the practices of ayurvastra.

In Sanskrit, ayur means good health or well-being, and vastra means garment.

Today, producers in India who follow this set of ancient Indian practices to create these healing textiles, created and adopted the word ayurvastra to describe the type of textiles they produce.

Who are the producers of ayurvastra?

Ayutvastra Dyeing Process
The exact method and length of time to dye threads varies according to the specific plant dye baths, shade desired and kind of fiber that is being dyed.

Ayurvastra refers to the practices that are distinct and differentiated from simply handloom or plant dyed fabrics.

India has an incredibly rich tradition of textiles. Various weaves, patterns and colors can be identified and are specific to particular regions. With climates that range from humid and tropical, to arid deserts and cool mountains, it’s no wonder that each region has traditions and knowledge that are truly unique.

Across India, the weaving and dyeing of fabrics and textiles was and is undertaken by communities of weavers and dyers. Their knowledge was transmitted over generations with master weavers and dyers teaching the next generation. Often, craft is passed down within families and at times it is passed down to apprentices who may not be related.

Traditionally, fabrics were all made on hand looms and with plant dyes like indigo, Indian madder, turmeric, sappanwood and many more. The healing properties of these plants and herbs were well known and understood by dyeing communities. Even today, traditional Indigo dyers save the cloths used to strain out the indigo cakes and give them to new mothers for their newborns to support the infant’s developing immune system.

Ayurvastra goes one step further than traditional handloom and plant-dyed fabrics to to uplift and intensify the healing qualities of the fabric.

How are ayurvastra textiles made and how are they different than handloom and plant-dyed fabrics?

Ayurvastra follows the guiding principles of Ayurveda and commits to a strict purity in process and in sourcing raw materials. This is an integral part of creating ayurvastra fabrics.

Only natural and organic fibers like cotton, wool, flax, and silk are used and the entire process must be completely free of chemicals and chemical mordants. Additionally, a staunch commitment to producing ayurvastra fabrics entirely by hand is required. 

The most important and differentiating quality of ayurvastra fabrics is arguably the inclusion of kashayam, the specially curated Ayurvedic concoctions that are infused into the fibers or threads prior to dyeing or weaving. 

Kashayam blends are prepared with a variety of Ayurvedic medicinal herbs to balance the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It is crucial that the ratios of the herbs and preparation of the kashayam follows Ayurvedic prescriptions and procedures. AyurSatwa has its own proprietary kashayam blends that have been developed in collaboration with esteemed Ayurvedic doctors in Jaipur.

Photo of kashyam is an Ayurvedic medicinal concoction prepared with a mixture of herbs and water that is gently heated over a fire.
AyurSatwa’s kashyam is a proprietary blend of over 22 plants and herbs that is mindfully prepared to create a sattvic blend that balances all doshas.

The herbs in the Ayurvedic concoction are absorbed deep into the organic cotton fibers. The processes of hand spinning yarns and weaving on a hand loom further bind and energize the healing properties of both the kashayam and the natural healing properties of the plant dyes.

The healing properties of the plants and herbs are absorbed through the skin's pores and processed and integrated into the body. Instead of the body working to detoxify from the absorption of toxins from synthetic fabrics that are loaded with chemicals and made from petrochemicals, ayurvastra fabrics provide support for your immune system and overall health and well-being.

When you use or wear any product that is made by rigorously following these techniques, you can feel the difference not only on your body but in an energetic way.

A simple analogy would be the difference between a home-cooked meal, prepared with love and calorie-appropriate and nutritious frozen meal from a box.  It’s different, isn’t it?

Indian families have been using fabrics that are handwoven, plant-dyed and treated with medicinal herbs for thousands of years.

Gauri, AyurSatwa’s founder, was inspired to create ayurvastra fabrics and share them with the world from her own family traditions. Her mother used turmeric fabrics to make clothes and swaddle cloths and she did the same for her children. Later, pursuing her interests in textile, energetics and Ayurveda, she traveled across India to learn from many different masters.

Ayursatwa is an ethical producer of ayurvastra fabrics, yoga rugs and lifestyle products. Our mission is to share the many benefits of ayurvastra and make them available to people all across the world. We believe that as more designers embrace ayurvastra fabrics and more people wear and use these products, we can make a positive impact on the environment, in our communities, and in individual lives.

Do you have more questions about ayurvastra? Send us a message and we’ll get back to you!

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