Of lilting waves and glittering eyes

The ocean and its many moods have always fascinated creative minds. Was it the mystic, timeless patterns of its waves that once caught the eye of a weaver on the Coromandel Coast? We’ll never know, but among the many- splendored designs that embellish Kanjivaram saris, the ‘wave’ motif – alaigal in the vernacular – is remarkable for its abstract beauty and subtle charm.

These aren’t the wild, surging waves of high tide; rather, the motif seems inspired by the small, gentle waves of low tide that playfully chase each other shorewards and caress the feet of beachgoers. On a Kanjivaram sari, the weaver captures their essence in serried ranks of silk or zari threads that shimmer warmly, reminiscent of the sunlit beauty of the waves…

Mayilkann or ‘peacock’s eye’ is among the oldest of Kanjivaram motifs, one that‘s associated with many Hindu gods and legends. Indra, leader of the Devas, once hid under a peacock’s wing from the demon Ravana and in gratitude, is said to have bestowed the bird with 1000 eyes on its tail. Another myth has it that the sun-god Surya’s daughter fell in love with the peacock. When the vain and foolish bird paid little heed to his besotted wife, Surya banished him to earth. His daughter’s tears, falling from heaven, became ‘eyes’ on the peacock’s tail. Kanjivaram’s weavers typically feature mayilkann motifs woven closely together across the body, pallu or along sari borders. The glittering ‘eyes’ bring alive a timeless tradition of elegance on a Kanjivaram Silk Sari.

 

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