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Yali – the Beautiful Beast

In the skilled hands of a Kanjivaram weaver, even the ferocious Yali, a mythical beast sculpted on Hindu temple pillars, takes on an appearance of grace and majesty! Along with other traditional motifs inspired by temple art, that we have already shared with you, like theannapakshi (swan) and peacock, the Yali is one of the oldest designs to grace Kanjivaram’s iconic silk saris.

Yali – leogryph in English – is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vyala’ and means ‘fearsome warrior’. Was the Yali the product of a sculptor’s fertile imagination? Possibly, for it is comprised of a lion’s body and head, an elephant trunk & tusks and a serpentine tail. The qualities associated with these animals – ferocity, strength and guile respectively – make the Yali a formidable presence on temple entrances and pillars, guarding the sacred space within. The Yali assumes other forms too in temple sculptures, the lion’s head replaced with that of a horse, human or dog.

As a textile motif, the Yali is a designer’s dream. As you may have seen on our Sarangi saris, the weavers typically feature rows of Yalis on sari borders, or across the pallu with abstract motifs to create a rich, dramatic effect. Shimmering in zari or silk thread, the grandeur and sinuous beauty of this magical creature is yet another testament to the Kanjivaram weaver’s quest for perfection.

The Yali and the Annapakshi are just a couple of our favourite motifs and we have found that they are extremely popular with our valued patrons. We would love to hear from all of you, on motifs that are your personal favourites or those that you would like to know more about and even those that you would like to see featured more on our curations. Please write in to us here.


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