Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Sash (Patka) with a Floral Border

Object Name:
second half 17th century
Attributed to India
Cotton, silk; plain weave, embroidered
Textile: L. 125 in. (317.5 cm) W. 27 in. (68.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Alice and Nasli Heeramaneck Collection, Gift of Alice Heeramaneck, 1983
Accession Number:
Not on view
Men’s sashes, called patkas, were wrapped two or three times around the wearer’s waist and tied with their ends hanging down in the front. Worn over jamas, the long robes typical of the time, they allowed Mughal men to display their wealth by tucking daggers, pencases, and other precious objects into the fabric. A row of floral sprays is embroidered onto each end of this patka. After being exported to Europe through the British military’s presence in colonial India, a modified version of the patka was worn in tuxedo sets, taking its name from the Hindustani and Persian term kamarband, which means ‘waist bound up’.

The patka, an elaborate sash tied around the waist, was a distinctive piece of clothing worn by the Mughal emperors—and by those upon whom the emperors conferred it.[1] The word itself may come from either the Sanskrit patta, which means "a bandage, ligature, strip, fillet" of textile, or pataka, meaning "girdle, . . . ribbon, piece of cloth."[2] The evolution of the iconography of the patka’s decoration reached its zenith after the visit by Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27) to Kashmir in 1620. The emperor described this place as the "garden of eternal spring,"[3] and Kashmiri flowers inspired the decorations that became the distinctive element of all artistic Mughal expression, including patka,[4] during the reign of his son, Shah Jahan (1627–58).

This sash is representative of the production during Shah Jahan’s reign. It is distinctive in its concentration of decoration on the end panels,[5] where a repeated sequence of eight identical poppy-like flowers is found. The great naturalistic detail is evident in the thin roots at the bottom of the plant, which fan out below five mint green lanceolate leaves with creamy veining. Five slender intertwining stems rise from the leaves—three opening out into glorious red, pink, and orange corollas, each with a tiny green pistil surrounded by white stamens, and the remaining two bent over with their buds closed. The eight flowers are surrounded by a border with a flowing motif that repeats around the entire outline of the sash. The decoration features the same flowers on a smaller scale, between two narrow bands decorated with small cream-colored beading on a green background and bordered with a red line.[6] This white cotton plain-weave band runs the entire length of the sash. The decoration is embroidered in silk with satin, chain, and stem stitches.

The Mughal patka of the Shah Jahani type, with the end panels characteristically decorated with flowering plants on a plain ground, is also found in the Deccan late in the seventeenth century. A number of Deccani paintings of this time from Bijapur and Hyderabad portray figures wearing this type of patka.[7] The Mughal style seen here was held in great esteem and strongly influenced the nearby courts, reaching as far as the Rajput courts in Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills.

Elisa Gagliardi Mangili in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]


1. These belts or girdles become in fact something of a marker, as noted in this passage relating to dress from Jahangir’s Tuzuk: "Having adopted for myself certain special cloths and cloths-stuffs, I gave an order that no one should wear but he on whom I might bestow them" ( Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i Jahangiri. Translated by Alexander Rogers and edited by Henry Beveridge. 2 vols. London, 1909–14, p. 384).

2. Goswamy, B[rijindra] N[ath], and Rahul Jain. Patkas: A Costume Accessory in the Collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles. Indian Costumes, 2. Ahmedabad, 2002, p. 7.

3. Ibid., p. 44.

4. Okada, Amina. “À propos du motif floral dans l’art moghol.” In Le motif floral dans les tissus moghols: Inde XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, by Krishna Riboud, Amina Okada, and Marie-Hélène Guelton, pp. 5–6. Paris, 1995.

5. Goswamy and Jain 2002, (see note 2 above) p. 45.

6. Irwin, John, and Margaret Hall. “Glossary of Embroidery Stitches.” in Irwin, John, and Margaret Hall. Indian Embroideries. Historic Textiles of India at the Calico Museum, Ahmedabad, vol. 2, p. 201. Ahmedabad, 1973, provide a description of silk dyeing in Indian embroidery: "Indigo predominates as the basis for blue, but by double dyeing firstly in indigo and then in one of the many vegetable yellows a glowing dark green is achieved. . . . The range of reds and pink in silk-dyeing derive not from madder, but from kermes, a small insect of cochineal type which yields a crimson colorant of soft luminosity."

7. The patkas worn by both Muhammad ‘Adil Shah and Ikhlas Khan in their double portrait, attributed to the third quarter of the seventeenth century (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), are undoubtedly "northern" (Goswamy and Jain 2002, [see note 2 above] p. 60, fig. 55). The same patka can be seen in portraits from Golconda/Hyderabad (ibid., pp. 62, 65, fig. 56).
Alice N. Heeramaneck, New York (until 1983; gifted to MMA)
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