Silk for the gods – the story of Kanjivaram silk
Mulberry silk from Karnataka, zari thread from Surat and weavers touched by divinity! Did you know that your favourite Kanjivaram silk is a repository of myth, heritage and history?
Sage Markandeya, who, aeons ago, wove tissue from lotus fibre for the gods, is said to be the ancestor of Kanjivaram’s weaver communities. Through history, this luxurious textile tradition flourished thanks to royal patronage, from the seventh century Pallava rulers to Vijayanagar Emperor Krishna Devaraya, whose support attracted traditional weaver communities, the Saligas and Devanghas, to settle in Kanjivaram during the 16th century.
The distinctive ethnicity of Kanjivaram saris – wide borders, earthy colours, stylized motifs – is inspired by the traditional Kornad ‘temple’ saris of Tamil Nadu that were used to adorn temple deities. Ornamental designs – of peacocks, elephants and mythical creatures like the yali and annapakshi – are derived from local temple sculptures. Other classic motifs include abstract patterns and nature-based designs like the peacock’s eye, mango, and trailing vines. Modern weavers often recreate elaborate scenes from religious epics on a sari pallu, using computer software.
A Kanjivaram sari has two parts – the main ‘body’ and a wide pallu, skilfully attached with fine threads. To create the contrasting sari borders, weavers use the difficult weft dying method that results in two long borders of solid colour. The yarn is washed in the Palar River, whose waters are said to give the silk its subtle gleam. A Kanjivaram sari typically takes between three to five days for completion, depending on various design features.
Sarangi houses an extensive & beautiful collection of Kanjivaram saris.