28 Common Motifs used in Indian Textiles - Sew Guide (2023)

1.65 billion people, 9 recognized religions, 2000 ethnic groups, 122 languages, 12000 years of history – India has had plenty of resources in its people and cultural diversity to have made a lasting impact on the cultural milieu of the world. Textile printing is one area where India has made an identity of its own. There are several commonly repeated motifs that are used in textiles produced in India. Some of the motifs popularly used in contemporary textile printing in India have been in use for centuries.

28 Common Motifs used in Indian Textiles - Sew Guide (1)

A motif is an element in any image. In textile art, a motif is also called a block – it is the smallest element in a pattern.The motif may be repeated multiple times or a single time in a fabric pattern.

You can find the names of different types of fabric patterns here. And the way the motifs are arranged to form the pattern – Fabric pattern repeats in fabric designs.

Here is a list of the most common traditional motifs used in textile printing in India.

Common Indian Motifs

Animal motifs are designs of animals like elephants, deer, etc. Bird motifs are designs of birds like a swan, peacock, parrot, munia, magpie, kingfisher, etc. Plant motifs and motifs of flowers are also popular. These include designs of flowers, leaves, vines, buds, fruits like mango, cherries, plums, grapes, etc. The motif of a stylized flower is an ever-popular one. Flower motifs can be any floral pattern like that of a lotus, a five or eight-petal flower, or a flowerpot. Sweets like Jalebi, Laddu and even commonplace every day items like phones are used as motifs in Indian textiles.

  • Bel
  • Bundi
  • Buti
  • Chakra
  • Chowkadi Motif
  • Diya
  • Motifs from everyday life
  • Floral Arabesque Motifs
  • Floral creepers
  • Gopuram
  • Hamsa
  • Hindu Deities
  • Jhallar Motif
  • Jhali
  • Kori
  • Kunjar
  • Lotus Flower or 5 petal flowers (Panchphool)
  • Matsya
  • Mor
  • Munia
  • Paisley/Mango motif
  • Rasleela
  • Rudraksha
  • Shankh
  • Shikarah
  • Swastika
  • Thotha
  • Tree of life


This is an artistically done creeper design ; It is usually used as a border design.

28 Common Motifs used in Indian Textiles - Sew Guide (2)

Also called Bhel Buti.

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This motif is in the shape of dots. The single dot is called Ekdali, the pattern of three dots is called Trikunti and four dots pattern is called Chaubundi.

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Boond: This motif is in the shape of a small circle with a dark center

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It is a motif of small floral designs- this usually has stylized leaves and flowers.

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A motif in the circular shape of a wheel

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Chowkadi Motif

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In India, temple rituals are an important part of life for Hindus. Motifs related to the temple are considered auspicious. Diya is a small cup-shaped oil lamp made of baked clay used on religious occasions.

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Motifs from everyday life

Things used in daily life are a favorite motif in Indian textiles. Today you will find textiles printed with motifs of mobile phones, cycles, and fans etc. Even toothbrush and pizzas are printed on some fabrics.

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Warli patterns have several daily life motifs.

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Traditionally, such everyday scenes were drawn in stylized forms and presented aesthetically to convey a story. Scenarios from farming, festivities surrounding festivals like Navarathri, Diwali etc are represented in the textiles, by printing, applique and embroidery.

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Floral Arabesque Motifs

These abstract motifs in circular or diamond shapes became popular in India after the Mughal Invasion.

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Floral creepers

Creeping Vines and flowers are a recurring motif in Indian textiles. These motifs can be woven into the fabric.

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Or printed on the fabric surface.

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Temple motif – this is a triangular-shaped motif which depicts a temple.

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This refers to the graceful shape of a swan. The swan depicts purity and perfection.

Hindu Deities

Scenes from epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata with Hindu deities are used as motifs in Indian textiles.

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Jhallar Motif

This is a motif of an upright leaf. Paan leaf (Betal leaves) is popular as a motif in India. In Hindu tradition, a betel leaf signifies love and marriage. It has many medicinal properties. The leaves of the peepal tree are also used as a motif.

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This is the shape of a window with intricate details. In Chikankari embroidery it is an openwork pattern, like the small open spaces in an ornate window.

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Cowri shell shaped motif; this motif is in the shape of a tear or drop.


Kunjar is a Gujarati name for the elephant motif. Indian elephant represents wisdom, royalty, and power.

Lotus Flower or 5 petal flowers (Panchphool)

Lotus flower is said to be a blessed flower and is associated with wealth and prosperity and hence a recurring motif in Indian textile printing and embroidery. It is supposed to be the resting place of Brahma, the creator of the world. Lotus is considered a very auspicious flower by Hindus and is used for prayers. (also called Kamalam)

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An auspicious motif in the shape of a fish representing the first reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.


Peacock is a recurring motif in Indian textile printing patterns. Peacock is the national bird of India and the embodiment of gracefulness. It also symbolizes royalty, honor and beauty. You will find peacock motifs so very often in Indian patterns – for embroidery and textile printing. (Also called Mayil). You can see some more ways a peacock is represented on textiles in this post on peacock feather embroidery.

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This is the motif of a small bird (Chestnut mannikin).

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Paisley/Mango motif

This motif has the shape of an elongated teardrop with a curved upper end. It is considered very auspicious and hence this design is seen in lots of Indian textile patterns. Read more on paisley pattern here.

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Kalka is another name for the paisley motif with flowers designs. Keri and Ambi are other names

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Sometimes this motif may have a stand.

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This depicts motifs related to Lord Krishna with his friends.

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This motif is that of Rudraksha bead or seed.


A motif in the shape of a conch (Large sea shell). It is supposed to be a lucky mascot as the Conch is blown as a trumpet for many auspicious occasions in Hindu religion.

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It is a design depicting a hunting scene


It is an auspicious religious symbol for good beginning and well being; It represents the sun. It is also called Swastik. Though it has now got a bad rep as a Nazi symbol, originally it is an auspicious Indian motif.

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Parrots / They are depicted as a symbol of passion and fertility. Parrots are usually used as motifs on bridal trousseau to symbolize these.

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Tree of life

This easily recognizable motif is that of a tree with many branches; it will be laden with lots of fruits and will have birds on its branches. It represents ‘Kalpavriksha’ in Hindu mythology which means a wish fulfilling tree. The tree symbolizes immortality.

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Common motifs in Gujarathi embroidery are plant or animal motifs, flowers, vines, creepers, leaves, elephants, parrots, peacocks, etc. sometimes figures of dancing women and men are also seen. In the folk embroidery of Karnataka, Kasuti many intricate patterns like a palanquin, chariot, gopura, conch shells, lamps, geometric designs, etc can be seen. InPhulkari, a Punjabi folk embroidery, the motifs include everyday life in the village-like flowers, animals, birds, everyday kitchen products, plants and plant products, geometrical patterns, etc. In Pahari embroidery work of Himachal Pradesh, the motifs are inspired by Pahari painting and indeed look like miniature painting. They often depict Lord Krishna and his actions, Shiva, Hanuman, wedding scenes, hunting scenes, geometric designs, and many more.

These are the basic most common motifs. If you go in detail you will find thousands of motifs like this in India – you can find a lot of them in this website5000 Indian designs and motifs by Ajit Mookerjee.

Reference – Demographics of India.

Related posts : Indian fabric prints and patterns ;Indian embroidery; Traditional Indian clothing names; Fabric types-Names; Animal prints in textiles.

Updated on October 2, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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What are motifs in textile? ›

In the textile arts, a motif (pronunciation) (help·info) (also called a block or square) is a smaller element in a much larger work. In knitting and crochet, motifs are made one at a time and joined together to create larger works such as afghan blankets or shawls. An example of a motif is the granny square.

What types of motifs are used in textile printing? ›

In textile design there are only 3 big categories of motifs: geometric, floral and novelty.

What are traditional motifs? ›

Traditional motifs are used by folklorist in analyzing, interpreting, and describing the traditional elements found in the lore of a particular folk groups and compose the folklore of the various regions and cultures of the world based on the motif patterns.

What are the different classical motifs of Indian silk? ›

Weavers used a variety of classical motifs like gopuram, swan, peacocks, lotus, animals, floral creepers which were in existence for more than two thousand years! Several geometric patterns such as squares, diagonal lines, circular forms were used in borders and for background decoration on the body of the saree.

What are the 16 ways to manipulate a motif? ›

16 ways to manipulate a motif
  • Repetition - repeat exactly the same.
  • Retrograde - perform it backwards.
  • Inversion - perform it upside-down.
  • Size - condense or expand.
  • Tempo - fast, slow, stop.
  • Rhythm - Vary the rhythm but not the tempo.
  • Quality - vary the movement quality, eg.

What are motifs and symbols? ›

A symbol is a sign, shape or object used to represent an idea, while a motif is an idea used many times in a piece of writing. I'd add one more differentiating point: while a motif must recur in a work (appear many times), a symbol could appear just once or twice.

What are modern motifs? ›

Modern Motifs is a collection featuring some of the trendiest and most innovative designs that are sure to complete your room's look. Tie-dye, wood, watercolor, and concrete are just some of the contemporary styles included in this stylish collection.

What is motif stitch? ›

Motif stitch can be used for lines or fills. You can create decorative outlines using any pattern from the selection list. You can modify the rotation angle, orientation and scale, and vary the space between patterns. Motifs are repeated in parallel rows to form decorative fills.

What is the meaning of motif and example? ›

A motif is a recurring idea or concept throughout a text. A symbol is an object that represents something it is not. A common example is that a heart is a symbol for love. A writer may use a symbol to reinforce motif.

How do you sew on motifs? ›

For hand sewing : Thread to match the edge of the motif, hand sewing needle, pins and a thimble. For iron-on: Iron, paper and pins. Pin the motif into place, thread your sewing machine with the matching thread and sew around the motif, using a reverse stitch to finish.

What are the 6 major types of printing? ›

  • Digital Printing. Digital printing is the reproduction of digital images on to physical surfaces. ...
  • Flexography. Flexography, often abbreviated to flexo, is a method of printing most commonly used for packaging. ...
  • Lithographic (Offset) Printing. ...
  • Rotogravure (Gravure) ...
  • Large format printing. ...
  • 3D Printing. ...
  • Screen Printing.
4 Feb 2020

What are the 5 types of print? ›

Common types of printing are:
  • Surface Printing.
  • Flexographic Printing.
  • Screen Printing.
  • Rotary Screen.
  • Gravure Printing.
  • Digital Printing.

What are the 5 examples of traditional art? ›

Crafts cover a wide range — from stone building to pottery, basket making, quilling, bead work, wood carving and more. Traditional arts often represent a place or a group of people.

What are the different decorative motifs? ›

Geometric, typically repeated: Meander, palmette, rosette, gul in Oriental rugs, acanthus, egg and dart, Bead and reel, Pakudos, Sauwastika, Adinkra symbols.

What is banarasi motif? ›

Their special characteristics intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel, a string of upright leaves called jhallar at the outer, edge of border is a characteristic of these saris.

What are the 4 types of silks? ›

In short, there are four types of natural silk produced around the world: Mulberry silk, Eri silk, Tasar silk and Muga silk. Mulberry silk contributes around as much as 90% of silk production, with the mulberry silkworm generally being regarded as the most important.

What are the elements of motif? ›

A motif is a repeated pattern—an image, sound, word, or symbol that comes back again and again within a particular story.

What are the 10 different ways to manipulate images? ›

What Are Image Manipulation Techniques?
  • Image Rendering.
  • Create a shadow.
  • Proportion.
  • Texture Application.
  • Stock Image Selection.
  • Colour Combination.
  • Emphasis on the smallest details.
  • Image Combination.

What are the 7 choreographic devices? ›

Choreographic devices, including:
  • motif and development.
  • repetition.
  • contrast.
  • highlights.
  • climax.
  • manipulation of number.
  • unison and canon.

What is a good example of motif? ›

If a story features repeated images of handwashing, mopping floors, and refreshing rain, then these images of cleansing water are a recurring literary motif.

What are the 4 types of symbols? ›

  • pictogram.
  • ideogram.
  • icon.
  • rebus.
  • phonogram.
  • typogram.
  • logo (trade mark)

What is called motif? ›

In works of art, a motif is an important and noticeable element or feature that typically appears throughout the work. It can relate to the theme, or it can be the dominant or central idea itself.

What are floral motifs? ›

adjective [usually ADJECTIVE noun] A floral fabric or design has flowers on it.

What is abstract motif? ›

In the textile business the word "abstract" is used to describe a nonobjective motif that cannot be described any other way.

What is quilted motif? ›

Simply stated, a motif is a 'thing'- a leaf, a flower or a star are all examples of quilting motifs. Heather explains that motifs are meant to draw attention and catch the eye of the person looking at the quilt. She also explains that in general, a motif should be used on a quilt with a simple design.

Which stitch is used for large motif? ›

One of my most motif-heavy pieces. The bean stitch is the simplest of the two. In essence, bean stitching consists of a line of stitches in which each stitch is worked over 3 or more times with the same penetration points in order to produce a large, thick stitch at each position.

What are the 3 types of stitching? ›

What are the three basic stitches? If you are new to sewing, the most basic stitches to learn are the straight/running stitch, the backstitch, and the basting stitch.

How do you identify motifs? ›

A motif is a recurring narrative element with symbolic significance. If you spot a symbol, concept, or plot structure that surfaces repeatedly in the text, you're probably dealing with a motif. They must be related to the central idea of the work, and they always end up reinforcing the author's overall message.

What are the uses of motifs? ›

Motifs allow authors, writers, and directors to create a more poetic and structured narrative, cluing in readers and audiences to symbols of larger ideas. Motifs are partners to themes, as repetitive images and symbols emphasize the overarching themes of the work.

What are themes and motifs? ›

Theme and Motif are two literary notions that many people often confuse. A theme is the main idea or the central message conveyed through a literary work. Motif is a recurrent idea, image, or element, having a symbolic value.

What are the different types of appliqué? ›

There are three main types of appliqué: machine appliqué, hand appliqué and fused appliqué.

What stitch is used for appliqué? ›

The two stitches that are used most often in felt appliqué are the whipstitch and the blanket stitch. These stitches are used primarily to attach one piece of felt to another.

What is appliqué sewing? ›

appliqué, sewing technique in which fabric patches are layered on a foundation fabric, then stitched in place by hand or machine with the raw edges turned under or covered with decorative stitching. From the French appliquer, “to put on,” appliqué is sometimes used to embellish clothing or household linens.

What are traditional Mughal motifs? ›

The most famous Mughal motifs were iris and narcissus flowers; frequently used in the borders with tulips, red roses and lilies. Kashmir shawls were the main garment examples on which floral motifs were used extensively (Coomaraswamy 1923). Floral printed pyjamas were also noticed in the period of Emperor Jahangir.

What are the four 4 traditional attire of India? ›

Traditional Indian clothing for women in the north and east are saris worn with choli tops; a long skirt called a lehenga worn with choli and a dupatta scarf to create an ensemble called a ghagra choli; or shalwar kameez suits, while many south Indian women traditionally wear sari and children wear pattu langa.

What are the motifs of Kantha? ›

The core has Satadala Padma with two or three borders on the sides. The other motifs commonly seen are water pots, conch shells, kalkas, trees, foliages, flowers, birds, elephants, chariot, human figures etc. Sometimes the figure of lord Ganesha and Goddess Saraswati with their steeds are also observed.

What is Indian traditional design? ›

Traditional Indian interior design style is exotic, sophisticated and full of royal and tempting look. The two words come in my mind; symmetry and balance.It gives a feeling of warmth and comfort through furniture, colors and furniture placements.

What were the common motifs in the Rajput style of painting? ›

The most important themes around which Rajput Paintings of India revolve embrace the life of Lord Krishna, the Great epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata, landscapes and human beings. Rajput paintings in India have also beautified the walls of palaces, interior chambers of the forts, havelis and the like.

What is the Akbar style? ›

Akbar period architecture, building style that developed in India under the patronage of the Mughal emperor Akbar (reigned 1556–1605). The architecture of the Akbar period is characterized by a strength made elegant and graceful by its rich decorative work, which reflects many traditional Hindu elements.

What is Mughal Butta? ›

buta, (Hindi-Urdu: “flower”), one of the most important ornamental motifs of Mughal Indian art, consisting of a floral spray with stylized leaves and flowers. It is used in architecture and painting and in textiles, enamels, and almost all other decorative arts.

What are the four clothing categories? ›

Casual wear – worn as standard clothing. Formal wear – worn for events such as weddings. Lingerie – undergarments worn for support and / or decoration. Sportswear – worn for athletic activities like running.

What are Indian pants called? ›

Salwar Kameez And Churidar

The outfit consists of pajama-like trousers called salwar, which is made tight at the waist and ankles. A kameez, which is a long and loose-fitting dress, is worn over the salwar. A churidar may be worn in place of the salwar and fits more tightly at the waist, hips and ankles.

How many types of kantha are there? ›

There are seven different types of kantha: Lep kantha are rectangular wraps heavily padded to make warm coverlets. The entire piece would be stitched in wavy, rippled designs over which simple embroidery was executed. Sujani kantha are rectangular pieces of cloth used as blankets or spreads on ceremonial occasions.

What is Kashmiri embroidery? ›

Kashmiri embroidery which is also called as the Kashida embroidery is a unique form of art, staying true to the beauty of paradise state. The exquisite needlework and thread work that involves a single long stitch to make the design is indeed one of the most distinguished and beautiful forms of embroidery.

What is kantha style stitching? ›

It is a small straight running stitch that can be clean and simple or multi coloured and elaborate. Kantha is a style of stitching found in Indian embroidery that we use in our jackets. Originally found in Bangladesh, Bengal, Odisha and Tripura. Although there are similar styles of this stitch found all over India.

What are Indian patterns? ›

Indian patterns are vibrant and diverse with richly decorated graphical elements inspired by paisley, mandalas and traditional henna designs. Not just pleasing to the eye, these designs are also symbolic – the heavy use of peacocks represents fertility and good luck.

How many types of designs are there in India? ›

The discipline of design comprises four broad specializations namely Communication Design, Interior and Architecture Design, Fashion Design, and Industrial Design. Each of these specializations offers a variety of job roles to design aspirants.

What are the 4 types of interior design? ›

Traditional interior designing Style. Modern style of interior design. Industrial interior design style. Minimalist interior design style.


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