The Origin and Growth of the Tile Industry in India

Tiles have been found in archaeological sites dating back to 3000 B.C. at Kalibangan, modern-day Rajasthan (pictured below), with rooms featuring patterned clay tile floors also found at Balakot and Ahladino, near Karachi in today’s Pakistan.

Kalibangan, Rajasthan (Mature Harappan phase c.3000 BC onwards).
Image: Archaeological Survey of India

Finely worked tiling is evident in the floors and swimming pools of the 2nd-century palaces of the Sinhalese kings of ancient Sri Lanka.

Later on particularly by the 17th- and 18th-century the Mughals had developed Islamic tiling to great heights in India. The Taj Mahal is a good example.

And in 1869 the Basel Mission in Mangalore took the initiative to again redevelop a local tile industry.

Commemorative plaque-tile from India’s first modern era tile factory.

Missionaries at the Mission introduced tile patterns from Germany and France. They became known as Mangalore Pattern Tiles and quickly became famous and popular being so immensely useful. In due course the factory was given Governmental approval and the order was issued to the Public Works of Department to use Mission tiles in all public buildings. The government also provided a significant amount of firewood from local public forests for the Tile Works’ kilns.

A second tile factory was established 18 years later in 1873 at Calicut, now Kozhikode, Kerala and then later another in 1882 at Kudroli, Karnataka. The fourth factory was established at Malpe near Udipi, Karnataka in 1886 and the fifth at Codacal, Kerala in 1894. The sixth one was established in the year 1887 at Palghat, now Palkkad, Kerala, and the seventh tile factory was established at Feroke, kerala in the year 1905. Tiles from these seven factories were sold throughout India and Ceylon as well as Burma and exported overseas as well.

Up until the 1960s tile factories were concentrated in the few areas mentioned above but the demand for tiles increased day after day and soon it was not feasible to manufacture so many tiles at such a limited number of locations. So over time tile factories became established in many other cities of India too, and as we can see now, tiles have become an important part of Indian construction and interior design, giving beauty and neatness to buildings across the subcontinent.

In 2012 the Indian tile industry produced over 600 million square metres of ceramic tiles valued at Rs. 18,000 crore – that’s 18,000,000 million Rupees, nearly A$4 billion.

Hutchisons does or does not currently stock tiles from India but acknowledges and applauds India’s role in the international history of tiles.