Think of handwoven fabrics and sarees, and the assortment of iconic weavings of India come into play. It is the inspiration of the cultural ethos of the weavers. It is to India’s credit that all obstacles to survival have been overcome for centuries, whether during British colonial supremacy or the rise of power. Evolution has seen Indian weavers and textile enthusiasts lead several movements navigating through whirlwinds that have attempted to uproot the heritage.
But thanks to a few hundred weavers in every state, their steely courage to anchor themselves in their ancestral heritage has sustained us. Today, India still boasts of a strong product identity and the variety of weavings represents the diversity of each state and affirms the craft of the weaver.
“Don’t call it a thread, it’s the sacred thread that we pray to before we start our weaving on the loom,” Kanjeevaram weaver B Krishnamoorthy, 61, recalls as he shows and explains the weft and warp of his recent weaving he is working in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.
The national winner talks about his sky blue jacquard weave where he has intricately woven flora and fauna that merge with the texture in such a friendly way that the marriage of ideas, weave and pattern could be mistaken for a Benarasi with a silver zari!
“I made this series of sarees in seven pastel colors for arts revival shop Madhurya Creations in Bengaluru for a special youth silk series they are offering for the festive season this year,” says Krishnamoorthy, a weaver from third generation and a 2010 national winner based in Kanchipuram.
Several textile revivalists and brands dealing with Kanjeevaram weavers have bespoke creations to help preserve the timeless artistry, both in traditional style versions and contemporary in design.
“Just like the classic tones of chilli reds, turmeric yellows, parrot and leafy greens, the famous peacock blues and arakku (a divine red-brown) are among the age-old hues of a Kanjeevaram saree that can be associated with a multitude of figurative designs and mythical birds, Ghanda-Bherunda, Yazhi or Hamsa, with which heritage weaving is associated, for a harmonious meeting of various energies of positivity, courage and strength.
“We can educate young people about this and appreciate what our tradition stands for,” says Bharathy, who passionately designs wedding collections from traditional weavers. The aforementioned revival boutique, Madhurya Creations, sources cotton and silk sarees and fabrics from around 1080 weavers across India to help them keep their looms running and keep a legacy alive. “The Yazhi pattern is a symbol of harmony. The bride wearing the saree with these designs adds harmony to the family she is part of and plays a key role in keeping mindsets together,” she says.
Kanjeevarams originally had patterns drawn from nature with striking names – Rudraksha for round; Annapakshi for the swan; chakra for the wheel; temple border for zig-zags; yazhi for the lion-sphinx-like creature; Ganda Bherunda for a mythical two-headed bird representing royal majesty and grace; and mubbam for tricolor saris. Kanjeevaram sari represents a gathering of traditions which flourished under the royal patronage of dynasties such as Chola, Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Nawabs of Arcot and British Dynasty. At this time, Kanjivaram’s silk industry continued to flourish during the voyage.
Popularly known as the “city of silk” and the “city of 1000 temples”, Kanchipuram, 70 km from Chennai, is synonymous with hand-woven silk sarees.
Kanjeevaram silks take their name from the ancient British reference to the city, ‘Conjeevaram‘ while this silk in 2005 was recognized with a Gl label for its unique traditional patterns and weaving method.
Mulberry silk sarees, sourced from Karnataka, add to the rich luster and smooth finish of the dense fabric to showcase the rich zari (silver threads covered in gold) sourced from Surat in Gujarat. There are over 7,000 families and 60,000 weavers involved in the production of silk sarees in Kanchipuram except other parts of Tamil Nadu like Mannargudi, Kumbakonam and Rasipuram which do the weaving, although much lighter that have gained traction in the affordable creative market. options.
Built-in looms are part of every home here. “For the yarn dyeing process, we use boiling water in copper vessels and add dye powder, a mild mixture of soda ash and soap oil. The signature tones and shades brought in are also due to the water that we use local water bodies that contain specific minerals, except for the water used from boiled rice to gain stiffness,” says Visalakshi, wife of weaver Selvam, who contributes to the family profession. Selvam resumes weaving using hand-drawn cardboard stencil drawings and sometimes designed on a computer in which the youngest immerse themselves.
Finer stitches of the weave with contrasting borders
Unlike the common single warp used in many saree weaves, Kanjeevaram silk uses two or three warps dyed in distinct colors and woven using the extended interlocking technique, locally known as Korvai weave. This allows the use of many colors where the body is woven separately, and the malaria and the borders are woven independently. They are firmly put together,” says Krishnamoorthy, who has 20 weavers in his fold.
He doesn’t believe in associating family heritage with bizarre designs to make them relevant to modern times. Krishnamoorthy’s heart goes out to families, like his own, where professionally-educated children quickly jump into IT careers.