- Long ago, there lived a weaver, a fanciful one too.
Long ago, there lived a weaver, a fanciful one too.
One night, as the weaver lay next to his prized loom, he dreamt of a woman. He saw the shimmer of her tears and the drape of her tumbling long hair… and so he picked up the brush from the palette holding colours of her many moods and felt the softness of her touch. Further he wove all these together on his loom. He couldn’t stop…kept weaving yards after yards and the story goes that …..that was the birth of sari…. (This is the story that I read somewhere on the world wide web and loved it, so sharing it with you all.)
The Indian sari, literally a strip of unstitched cloth, has been the oldest fashion statement in history. Indian women have been wearing the sari since at least 2800 BC.
India is a multilingual country with myriad cultures and with multitude weaves of textiles, embroideries,painting and dyeing techniques. The rich fabrics, elegant designs and even the manner in which women drape sarees, have interesting stories and folk lores that have captivated our imagination and admiration.
Let us take a look at some of the gorgeous handloom and craftsalong with the interesting stories that have influenced the traditional saree fashion in India.
The waves of colour, spots of glitter,
and the shimmer of sequin;
Can never overpower the struggles
that are ‘tied’ within!
Indian Bandhani, a traditional form of tie and dye, was introduced in Jamnagar when the city was founded centuries ago. Also known as Bandhej, it is the oldest tie and dye tradition that is still practiced. The art of Bandhani is a highly skilled process producing a variety of patterns like Leheriya, Mothra, Ekdali and Shikari .
Coorgi draping style
While Karnataka is home to some gorgeous handlooms, coorgi style of draping the saree is quite unique. The origin of this style of draping is associated with a mythological tale of the great sage Agasthya and his wife Cauvery. Legend has it that Cauvery wished to transform herself into a river, against the wishes of her husband, just so she could serve people. Agasthya tried to hold Cauvery back forcefully and during that tussle her saree pleats were pushed back. Since then, women of Coorg drape sarees in the same manner.
Chitrakattis were groups of singers, musicians and painters. They travelled across villages narrating the stories from Hindu mythology. Subsequently, they learnt the art of extracting colourful dyes from plants and used these dyes to illustrate their stories on canvas and cloth. This was the genesis of the art of Kalamkari (Kalam= Pen, Kalamkari means working with the pen). Gradually this art moved to Sarees.
Two words that do justice to any Kanjeevaramsaree are ‘Grand’ and ‘Durable’. This silk is associated with the ancient temple town of Kancheepuram in Tamilnadu. Vibrant shades of dyed silk with a golden zari border and an exquisite pallu. In an authentic kanjeevaram saree, the body, the pallu and the border of the saree are woven separately and later stitched together.Peacock and parrot are the traditional motifs used for weaving with gold zari.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “I walked for miles for many days, spent time and money to see mountains, seas and oceans. I saw everything there was to see but never saw the drop of dew on an ear of paddy near my own home.”
Such is the exquisiteness in the simplicity of Kantha work from West Bengal. And it is unbelievable that this humble stitch on a saree can be so fetching!
Raja Ravi Varma, the well known painter from Kerala, has painted women draped in MundumNeryathum. Traditionally, this is a two piece saree with an off-white/cream base and a golden border. But the modern version is one piece saree tied in nivi style.
The playfulness of the Nauvari from Maharashtra cannot be ignored. The sari measures nine-yards in length and thus the name nauvari (Nau=Nine). While our first thoughts are bound to reverberate with the rhythm of Lavani, the halo of history around the Nauvarisarees is that women living in the Maratha Empire had demonstrated their calibre by assisting their fellow male warriors. Thus, they invented this characteristic maharastrian style of draping the saree. Without doubt the traditional ‘nauvari’ retains its charm even in the modern age.
Punjab is famous for “Phulkari” which is embroidery in the form of flowers in multiple colors, popular since the 15th century.
Some say that Phulkari was mentioned in the famous love story of Heer-Ranjha. Others feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as “Gulkari”. It is also said that Phulkari was brought to India by the migrant jat tribes from central asia.
Whatever be the history, simply irresistible is the lively Phulkari!
The fame of Indian handlooms has spread like a delightful perfume to all the four corners of the world. One such unique handloom comes from Bhoodan Pochampalli. These sarees are popular for traditional geometric patterns in ikat style of dyeing. Also to be noted is that Pochampalli is distinct as the place from where the famous bhoodan movement was started by VinobaBhave.
Zardozi is a Persian word that means Sewing with a gold string. It finds mention in Vedic literature, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and all accounts of the Sultanate period.
This imperial craft was brought to India by Delhi’s first Turko-Afghan rulers in the 12th century. Zardozi became equally popular with the wealthy Hindu, Muslim and European elite down the ages. Today, several families in Uttar Pradesh have revived this old craft.
Unparalleled in its originality and timelessness, the feminine and graceful attire of women in India hold the bountiful secrets and mysteries of ancient India within their folds and drapes. The unfortunate reality is that many types of handlooms are struggling to survive. Lack of weavers and the fact that women are favouring other dress forms are cited as the primary reasons. For the sake of our rich heritage, let us hope that the Indian handloom industry not just survives but flourishes.
This article is dedicated to almost 43 lakh weavers, craftsmen and their families for giving us such an exotic and stylish range of fabrics.
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