Picture courtesy: kanjivaram.org
The tradition of weaving in India has an ancient, storied past. Beginning with the discovery of bone needles and cotton fragments in Indus Valley Civilization sites, there are references to the weaver’s craft in religious epics and literature. The world too, according to history, couldn’t have enough of India’s woven treasures, from Europe to the Far East.
The Muslim invasions brought in new textile influences, from the ‘Nakshaband’ or design template to help preserve designs over time to blended fabrics, new colours, the use of zari and abstract motifs. A turning point in the history of weaving was the great fire of 1300 A.D. in Gujarat, a prime weaving centre. Artisans fled to various parts of the country, taking with them, their priceless traditions to towns as far apart as Delhi, Ajmer, Varanasi and Madras.
Amrapali, the legendary courtesan whose sheer, gossamer-like cotton sari is celebrated in poetry and literature, would be spoilt for choice if she were to go shopping today! From the ornate brocades of Varanasi and vibrant abstract weaves of Pochampally and Odisha to West Bengal’s delicate Jamdani and Maharashtra’s brilliant Paithani saris, every corner of India boasts of distinctive weaves, colour palettes and designs.
Holding pride of place among these traditions are Kanjivaram saris, renowned for their vivid beauty as well as strength and durability, qualities that derive from the unique weave known as ‘korvai’ in Tamil where three shuttles are used simultaneously to weave the distinctive, firmly interlocked borders and ‘pallu’ that contrast sharply against the sari body. Giving this ancient tradition a modern context, are smart design innovations that enable Kanjivaram weavers to create ever more exquisite temptations for sari lovers everywhere!