The weave of God and the dream of an Indian woman-Kanjeevaram.
Can any conversation around sarees be complete without speaking about the queen of silk? Clearly, The idea of this blog is to make you once again fall in love with the weave and saree called Kanjeevaram
What started as a 9-yard saree encapsulating the philosophy of designing and patterning temple stories and eventually adapted to 6 yards with gold zari weaving, the Kanjeevaram saree has come a long way from its mythical origins.
THE MYTHICAL STORY
According to folklore, the master weaver Sage Markanda, who knew the tastes of each and every God, weaved this tissue from the lotus fibre.
His pro-genies, centuries later, settled in the small town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. While the thread called pattu-nool travelled from Karnataka, the zari came from Surat.
It was a family affair-the weaving of the silk. More so because Families often wove you needed more than two hands to wind the thread in the beam. Even today, it takes anywhere from one week to 20 days with 8 hours of daily work, and at least three weavers to make one classic heirloom saree.
Kanjeevaram Silk Was Considered To Be Lord Shiva's and Lord Vishnu's Favourite Fabric as per Legends
THE HISTORY OF KANJEEVARAM
Raja Raja Chola, (985-1014 CE), of Kanchipuram, was a visionary. He wanted to trade in silk. He thus, called for expert weavers to his kingdom. Soon, the Devangas and Saligars of Andhra Pradesh then migrated to Kanchipuram during the rule of Krishna-Deva Raya. Interestingly, this movement was so huge that it goes down in history as one of the biggest migration because of silk in the 15thcentury!
The Devangas and the Saligars were ruling the roost with their immense talent and craft till the French came over. The 17th century saw a virtual halt to the entire silk industry in Kanchipuram only to be revived and re-energized in the 18th century.
The British Could Not Prounounce Kancheepuram and Renamed it Conjeevaram, And That Is Where The Word Kanjeevaram Comes From.
WHY DO PEOPLE BUY KANJEEVARAM SAREES AT TEMPLES?
We all agree on how enchanting the God and Goddesses look in their Kanjivaram boudoir, especially in the South Indian temples. Visitors and tourists, both Indian and non-Indians buy the sarees from the temple as they are considered to be blessed!
The unique feature of Kanjeevaram silk saris is its special weaving technique – one that uses three single threads of silk yarn along with zari.
THE MAKING OF KANJEEVARAM
The slow and steady work of the mesmerizing pristine white mulberry worms producer the finest silk for Kanjeevaram. One wept has almost 250-300 threads. This is what makes the saree secure, durable and strong.
The zari used in the saree is generally, gold and silver with silver running in first, and a coating of gold.
Motifs and Patterns of Kanjeevaram
Typically, the pallu is woven separately and is in a strikingly different colour and pattern. It is later joined the body. The zig-zag pattern in a Kanjeevaram that we see is basically the spot where the two fabrics join. It is called the Korvai joint.
The Korvai Joint
The designs are inspired by the scriptures and art of the temples in Kanchipuram and of course nature. Some of the interesting motifs are:
Aathi vazhai-the lovely horizontal stripes
Kottadi or small multicoloured zari checks
There are others like Veldhari, that represents the spear of Lord Muruga, Thandavalam, which has parallel lines run across the body of the saree, Mallinaggu– a jasmine bud in a square or round frame, and Neli, best described as a finger ring, or the Vaira oosi– that resemble diamond needles.
In fact, one of the most gorgeous motifs is the Yali or Yazhi, which is a mythical creature seen in many Hindu temples!
Why you should not haggle for a Kanjeevaram
Kanjeevarams are expensive. And for a reason. If you are buying a pure, handmade Kanjeevaram with pure silk, then remember you are paying for a weave that requires the use of three shuttles and the weaver and his aide work on the two sides.
- It is a saree literally, dipped in gold.
- Every Kanjeevaram has a story to tell.
- It weighs in silver, gold and Indian history.
- Do not bargain.
- Simply buy a Kanjeevaram.
- Revere it!
- Unlike the other silk sarees, who have a standard width of 45 inches, Kanjeevaram saree is 48 inches and the length more than the usual 6 yards
- A regular Kancheepuram saree weighs between 500 grams and 1 kg, because of the intricate weave using “double warp” thread, the broader width, and the pure, gold-dipped zari.
- By custom, 1 Kg of zari would have approximately 500 grams of pure silver, around 5-5 1/2 grams. of gold.
At the end of the day, for a saree connoisseur a pure Kanjeevaram, is an investment. The perfect attire for a wedding, be it the bride or the ones attending, a Kanjeevaram saree is a must in the wardrobe.
Here is an interesting video on the making of Kanjeevaram.