Colcha from Indian Gujarat, early 17th century. Colcha from Indian Gujarat, early 17th century. Amir Mohtashemi auction house, London.

Colcha is the Portuguese term for what in the English language is called a Bengalla, Hooghly, Satgaon or Indo-Portuguese quilt. They are textiles of some 2.5 by 3 m and produced in Bengal, northeastern India, and in western parts of the Indian subcontinent, mainly for the European (Portuguese) market from the early sixteenth to the mid-seveneteenth century.

Often described as bed covers, these colchas were used for various purposes, including wall hangings and table covers. They are mostly embroidered with a monochrome silk thread on a white ground lined with various layers of cotton cloth, sewn together with running stitch. The decorative patterns were first drawn onto the ground, and subsequently filled in with embroidery, normally a chain stitch or a running stitch. Colchas are regarded to be part of the textile tradition in Bengal of kanthas.

Bengali colchas: Colchas produced in bengal have a symmetrical design, with two or more panels in the centre filled with various motifs, and surrounded by borders of varying widths. One of the main centres for this trade with Satgaon. just north of modern Calcutta (Kolkota).

Gujarati colchas: Gujarati colchas are characterised by a large field in the centre, filled with various motifs, The large field in the middle has a large floral or geometric motif in the centre. Such decoration has sometimes been linked to Mughal and/or Iranian carpets.


  • KARL, Barbara (2016), Embroidered Histories: Indian Textiles for the Portuguese Market during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Vienna and Köln: Böhlau Verlag.
  • VOGELSANG, Gillian, and Willem VOGELSANG (2021). Encyclopedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian Subcontinent, London: Bloomsbury Publishers (pp. 71-76).


GMV and WV, 14 May 2021.

Last modified on Friday, 14 May 2021 14:23
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