While it is closely connected to Banaras and its rich tradition of silk weaving, the Tanchoi traces its roots to China. It is said to have made its way to India thanks to Parsi traders who loved their silk!
The late 18th century CE saw the Parsis of the west coast, become dominant players in trade between India and China. By 1810, over 14 shipping companies owned by the Parsis, were incorporated in Bombay and they more or less dominated the Indo-Chinese trade. The Parsi traders exported cotton and opium and in return bought silk from China. Business flourished, bringing in prosperity and substantial lifestyle changes. Chinese woven silks were prized and brocades from there made their way into wardrobes. Brocade slippers and specially woven silk shoe pieces were also ordered.
The Origins of the Tanchoi Silks
The story of Tanchoi starts in the mid 19th century CE. It is believed that Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, a Parsi merchant commissioned three weavers from a Joshi family of Surat (traditional weavers) , to travel to China and learn the craft of weaving this particular brocade silk, around 1856 CE. Once they returned, the brothers adopted the name of their Chinese teacher, Chhoi, who had taught them the art of silk weaving. Tan, close to the Gujarati word trap meaning ‘three’, referred to the three brothers. Hence the silk they learned to make , came to be known as the Tanchoi.