Must have Regionally Crafted Sarees from India – A Woman’s Wardrobe Treasure

(Viewed 1651 times since Apr 2022)

India is home to some of the unique and beautifully designed saree designs and fabrics. The six-yard-long saree is a garment that may have belonged to ancient times but has been explored, experimented, and evolved. While the classic drape is always a favourite for women, sarees have been constantly given a touch of modern flavours, such as the traditional cotton and silk saree is now found in a variety of jute, nylon, rayon, georgette, chiffon, satin and also blended fabrics. Both classic and modern or fusion drapes find a place in every woman’s wardrobe. And with the online purchasing, love for this quintessential piece has grown even more.

However, some sarees remain unnoticed by women who desire to flaunt the traditional attires. Hence, we have come up with ten regional sarees of India that you can add in your wardrobe and create a collection that showcases the brilliance of Indian craftsmanship.

1. Kalamkari Sarees

Kalamkari is an ancient style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind pen, using natural dyes. The word Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where ‘kalam’ means pen and ‘kari‘ refers to craftsmanship. This art involves 23 tedious steps of dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, block printing, starching, cleaning and more. Motifs drawn in Kalamkari spans from flowers, peacock, paisleys to divine characters of Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Caviar-Black Hand-Painted Auspicious Kalamkari Sari from Telangana with Goddess Ganesha on Aanchal

The process of making Kalamkari involves 23 steps. From natural process of bleaching the fabric, softening it, sun drying, preparing natural dyes, hand painting, to the processes of air drying and washing, the entire procedure is a process which requires precision and an eye for detailing. Cotton fabric used for Kalamkari is first treated with a solution of cow dung and bleach. After keeping the fabric in this solution for hours, the fabric gets a uniform off-white color. After this, the cotton fabric is immersed in a mixture of buffalo milk and Myrobalans. This avoids smudging of dyes in the fabric when it is painted with natural dyes. Later, the fabric is washed under running water to get rid of the odour of buffalo milk.  The fabric likewise, is washed twenty times and dried under the sun. Once the fabric is ready for painting, artist’s sketch motifs and designs on the fabric. Post this, the Kalamkari artists prepare dyes using natural sources to fill colors within the drawings. Incorporating minute details, the Kalamkars use ‘tamarind twig’ as pen, to sketch beautiful motifs of Krishna Raas-Leela, Indian god and goddesses like Parvati, Vishnu, Shri Jaganath; designs of peacock, lotus; and scenes from the Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.

There are two identifiable styles of Kalamkari art in India – Srikalahasti style and Machilipatnam style. In the Machilipatnam style of Kalamkari, motifs are essentially printed with hand-carved traditional blocks with intricate detailing painted by hands. On the other hand, Srikalahasti style of painting draws inspiration from the Hindu mythology describing scenes from the epics and folklore. This style holds a strong religious connect because of its origin in the temples.

In recent times, two other types of Kalamkari patterns have also emerged, based on the states where it is created. Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh are two prime states in India, where two different types of Kalamkari patterns are done. The Andhra Kalamkari borrows design inspiration from forts, palaces and temples of India, along with motifs of animals and birds. While the Gujarat Kalamkari depict motifs of mythological characters like Krishna-Arjuna from Mahabharata, lord Krishna, lord Ganesha, lord Buddha etc.

2. Pattachitra Sarees

Pattachitra style of painting is one of the oldest and most popular art forms practiced majorly in Odisha and West Bengal. The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit word ‘patta’, meaning cloth, and ‘chitra’, meaning picture. This art form is believed to have originated as early as the 12th century and is one of the oldest and most famous living art forms. The Pattachitra artists also known as the chitrakars, predominantly made icon paintings based on the Hindu mythology. The most popular themes are The Badhia (a depiction of the temple of Jagannath), Krishna Lila (an enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child), Dasabatara Patti (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu); and Panchamukhi (a depiction of Lord Ganesha as a five-headed deity).

Before painting, the artists prepare the canvas or the “patta” by coating the cloth with a mixture of chalk and gum (made out of tamarind seeds). This mixture is then rubbed into the cloth using two different stones. Finally, the cloth is dried.

Pattachitra is a disciplined form of art and come with a set of rules and restrictions. A floral border is a must in Pattachitra paintings, and so is the use of natural colours, restricting them to a single tone. This creates a distinct look and feel that is typical to Pattachitra and cannot be replicated. The lines are bold and clean, and sharp. Generally, there are no landscapes, perspectives, and distant views. All the incidents are seen in close juxtaposition. The Pattachitra style is a mix of both folk and classical elements. With the passage of time, the art of Pattachitra has gone through a commendable transition and the chitrakars have painted on palm leaves and tussar silk.

3. Paithani Sarees

The Paithani saree tells a tale. A tale that is laid deep in history. A tale of silk, of zari. A tale of beauty, elegance and grandeur. A tale of tradition. Born in Maharashtra, the Paithani saree dates back to times as early as the Rigveda. In the 18th century the Paithani thrived under the patronage of the Peshwas. It is believed that Madhavrao Peshwa had a special love for Paithani textiles. Legend also has it that the Paithani caught the fancy of the Nizam of Hyderabad too and that it was his daughter in law Nilofer who introduced new motifs to the border and pallav designs. So later new motifs were introduced by the Mughals. In ancient times, Paithan was a prosperous trade center called 'Pratisthan' and exported rich fabrics and precious stones to far of lands. Historians have noted fine paithani sarees with delicate gold and silver thread-work being sold in Greece in exchange for gold between 200 and 400 BC.

Royal-Blue Brocaded Paithani Handloom Sari from Maharashtra with Zari-Woven Pallu

So, what is it about the Paithani that is so enticing? Is it the silk, the colours, the designs, the zari? Perhaps it’s just the sheer richness of it as a whole. Its fabric is woven entirely on handlooms. It is a confluence of gorgeous colours and intricate designs. A simple tabby weave brings together two different coloured threads to achieve a dhoop-chhav effect. The otherwise plain Paithani is given its grandeur by its ornamental zari border and pallav. In the olden times the zari was drawn from gold. A special feature of Paithani is that no mechanical means are used to produce the designs. Skilled weavers count the threads of the wrap for each part of the design and using tiny cloth pins or 'tillies', interlock the silk or gold yarn on the weft with them. The progress is slow. Sometimes only half an inch came be woven in 12 hours. The price of such painstaking workmanship is bound to be high. It takes at least a month and a half to weave the simplest Paithani and from five to nine months to make the brocade one.

4. Kanjeevaram Sarees

The history of Kanjivaram sarees can be traced back to Hindu mythology. It is said that the Kanjeevaram Silk Weavers are the descendants of Markanda, who was known for weaving clothes for the Gods themselves. Originating from a small town of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu this gorgeous weave has a history of more than 400 years. It is said that the two major weaving communities, the Devangas and the Saligars came all the way from Andra Pradesh and settled in the village of Kanchipuram. Utilizing their weaving skills, they started weaving mesmerizing Kanjeevaram silk sarees including gorgeous designs of figures they saw on the temples around the village. Soon after this beautiful fabric earned its popularity and became one of the must-haves from the saree lovers.

Deep-Dive And Red Handloom Pure-Silk Kanjivaram Saree from Tamil Nadu with Paisleys On Border and Booties All-Over

Woven in pure mulberry silk each and every Kanjeevaram silk saree is a masterpiece in itself. It is a perfect blend of gorgeous silk from the south and the pure gold and silver Zari from Gujarat. In order to keep the thickness and stiffness of this fabric, the threads are dipped in rice water and sun-dried before using it. This is followed by interlocking the theme silver wire with the Silk threads. After this, the golden thread is used to complete the weave. One of the most special features of Kanjeevaram silk sarees is that the Pallu and the borders are weaved separately and eventually join together. The zigzag pattern that joins both the parts is also known as the pitni. The Pallu of the Kanjeevaram saree is usually quite different in design and colour from the body. The Kanjeevaram fabric is considered to be one of the most durable and strong fabrics. As the saree is made of three Silk threads twisted together with the silver wire it becomes more durable. Usually, a Kanjeevaram saree can be as heavy as 2 kilos. Starting from the beginning till now Kanjeevaram silk sarees include gorgeous mythological stories into the design along with stunning Temple figurines. They also have motifs from various temples and general paintings in the border of the saree. The body of these gorgeous beauties boasts of Temple designs, stripes, and floral buttas. Originating as a nine-yard wonder, the Kanjeevaram silk sarees have always been high on demand. Due to its popularity soon a six-yard weave was included. You will be mesmerized by the beautiful designs and blend of colours of these sarees. Make this gorgeous beauty a part of your collection and enjoy the rich history of a Kanjeevaram silk saree.

5. Chanderi Sarees

Chanderi's production has been preserved from India as a geographical indication. Chanderi is a small town located in the Vindhyachal mountain ranges near the Betwa River. Located in Ashoknagar district in Madhya Pradesh, Chanderi is known for its historical heritage and thrives with intense economic activity due to its strategic location in central India. Chanderi is the city of looms. The highest concentration of looms or bunker colony is located in the oldest part of the city known as "Bahar sheher" or out-of-town. You can easily hear the echo of work frames while exploring Chanderi's neighborhoods. Those expecting Chanderi also sponsored weaving. It was as if they knew that the fate of Chanderi is associated with the fate of the cloth they are woven

Cardamom-Green Chanderi Sari from Madhya Pradesh with Zari-Woven Border and Flowers

The fabric is made of the den, which is warp or long, a long set of threads through which the bana or weave is woven back and forth. Chanderi saree is woven on a loom by hand with the use of butis or design needles on cloth. Earlier, for weaving a saree, two weavers had to sit together. But nowadays, after the introduction of a fly shuttle loom, a person can weave a sari. The weaver is the community that does the actual weaving and lives largely on a subsistence level. Weavers purchase raw materials such as silk or cotton yarn from master weavers. They are primarily responsible for taking all orders and executing them. There are 3600 looms active in Chanderi and women participate actively in weaving.

This stems from the fact that weavers should keep their hands soft. Women whose hands are naturally soft therefore are not allowed to do household chores out of fear that their hands will become stiff! Chanderi sarees are produced with three types of fabrics: pure silk, Chanderi cotton and silk cotton. The most common patterns found on traditional sarees are coins, floral art, peacock and geometric designs. A saree takes about ten days or more depending on the complexity of the design. The cost of sarees and materials also depends on the design. Chanderi silk sarees itself shows the experience of the weavers and hard work in the production of beautiful silk fabrics. Like most Indian handicrafts and handlooms in India, sarees and Chanderi fabrics are also a community-led event. The weaving of Chanderi saree is not just the production of clothes. It is also part of keeping ancient traditions alive.

6. Chikankari Sarees

Lucknow, the city known for its interesting blend of traditional culture and modern values, not only leaves you spellbound with its architectural masterpieces, rich history of the Nawabs, or lip-smacking kebabs but also excels in the art of embroidery. Chikankari is one of most popular art of embroidery and in literal terms means embroidery. It is an ancient form of fabric embellishment which is now famous all around the world. The word “Chikan” is believed to be taken from different etymologies since it has different meanings in different languages. For example: in East Bengal the word Chikan meant fine, in Persian, the word Chakin or Chakeen means crafting delicate patterns on a fabric. Chikankari Saree is a delicate art of crafting intricate shadow and designer type of embroidery which was usually performed on the white yarn initially or colorless muslin cloths which are called as tanzeb. However, with the vastness in fabrics, georgette, cotton, chiffon etc. chikankari is done on all these and more. Chikankari embroidery is not just limited to the Indian bridal couture dresses, ladies wear dresses but it is also adorned on the pillows, bed sheets, duvet covers, bath linens, drapes etc.

Willow-Green Sari from Lucknow with Golden Border and Chikan Hand-Embroidery

The stunning handcrafted artwork was introduced by the very beautiful Noor Jaha, the Mughal Queen of the Emperor Jehangir. Chikankari has its mentions in the early works of the 3rd Century BC by the famous Greek traveler, Megasthenes, who described the utter beauty of intricate floral motifs and patterns on cloth using chikankari work. The story follows that when the traveler was passing a small village in Lucknow, his throat was sore due to thirst and there he met a man who offered him water. Ever since to express gratitude, the traveler taught the man Chikankari work to make him self-reliant so that he would never live without the basic essentials of his life. An array of floral arrangement adorning the drapes with creepers being the most popular Chikankari artwork is indeed spectacular. Mostly, jasmine roses and flowering stems, lotus are also sewed on the sides.

7. Bandhani Sarees

Bandhej, also known as Bandhani, is a tie and dye method practiced mainly in states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and parts of Uttar Pradesh. The word Bandhani is derived from a Sanskrit word Banda which means “to tie”. Bandhani is truly an art that involves dyeing a fabric tied tightly with a thread at several points, producing a variety of patterns. Bandhej is the oldest form of tie & die art which began about 5000 years ago. As per the historical evidence, the first Bandhani saree was worn at the time of Bana Bhatt`s Harshacharita in a royal marriage. One of its earliest visual representations can be seen in the Ajanta caves. In India, Bandhani work was started by the Khatri Community of Gujarat. Places in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Sikar, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer, and Jamnagar in Gujarat are the well-known centers producing odhnis, sarees and turbans in Bandhani.  It is an ancient form of art which is still in practice.

Bandhani Gharchola Sari with Zari Weave and Tie-Dye Motifs

The art of Bandhani is as exciting as its history. The fabric to be dyed is tied very tightly at different points in knots and then dyed with extraordinary colors. When this tied cloth goes for dyeing, these threads or knots doesn’t let that part catch color & allows it to stay white or whatever color the cloth has. Once the cloth is dyed, it is left for drying in open air. Drying can take some time depending upon the weather conditions. In monsoon, it takes around 2 days to dry while in summer it takes only 4-5 hours. In winter it takes around 6-7 hours for drying.

Bandhani comes in a variety of colors, designs & patterns and these variations are region specific. The colors that are most prominently used in Bandhani are yellow, red, green, blue and black. After the processing is over, Bandhani work results into a variety of symbols including dots, waves, strips and squares. The patterns include Leheriya, Mothra, Ekdali and Shikari depending on the manner in which the cloth has been tied. The outfits comprise Khombi, Patori, Gharchola and Chandrokhani. Bandhej work can be seen on Sarees, Kurtas, Salwar kameez, and Chaniya cholis. The designs include Ekdali (single knot), Trikunti (three knots), Chaubandi (four knots), Dungar Shahi (mountain pattern), Boond (small dot with a dark center), Kodi (teardrop shaped) and Laddu Jalebi (Indian sweets). Different colors transmit different meanings in Bandhani.

8. Banarasi Sarees

Banarasi saree is a saree made in Varanasi, an ancient city which is also called Benaras/Kashi/Banaras. During the Mughal period around the 14th century, the artisans from banaras started making their presense by developing unique and complicated silk brocades using the gold and silver zari threads. Banarasi weaving started getting more recognition and developed expertise during the 18th and 19th century. These sarees are among the finest sarees in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk and opulent hand weaving. The sarees are made of finely woven silk and are decorated with intricate design, and because of these engravings, banarasi silk sarees have made a prominent place and flourished in the market.

Their special characteristics are Mughal inspired designs such as intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel, a string of upright leaves called jhallar at the outer, edge of border is a characteristic of these saris. Other features are gold work, compact weaving, figures with small details, metallic visual effects, pallus, jal (a net like pattern), and meena work. The banarasi sarees are often part of an Indian bride's trousseau. Depending on the complexity of its designs and patterns, a saree can take from 10 days to a month and sometimes up to six months to complete. Banarasi sarees are mostly worn by Indian women on important occasions such as when attending a wedding and are expected to be complemented by the woman's best jewellery.

9. Batik Sarees

The term ‘Batik’, is derived from an ancient Indonesian word ‘Ambatik’, which means a design of writing with wax or drawing broken lines on a piece of cloth containing small dots. It is an ancient art that uses wax and dyes to create scintillating visual imagery on fabrics and it is an art that is loved, admired and appreciated worldwide. The Batik print sarees are simple, elegant, extravagant, and one of a kind sarees that are manufactured using local and traditional crafts mainly from the state of Rajasthan. Many multicoloured and intricate designs are made on the Batik sarees that are executed with the help of regional methods using dye and wax, which has been practised and perfected by local artists over centuries. The style of Batik printing was originally used to make handloom products of all types, but currently, it is mostly used to produce traditional and fashionable Indian garments such as batik sarees.

Beige And Brown Batik Pure Cotton Saree from Madhya Pradesh

There are many stories and references regarding the place and period of origin of the Batik style of printing. But, the origin of the Batik style of printing can be traced back to the 1st century AD in India. Originally, this style of printing was only practised by the Khatri community of Gujarat. With the advent of time, the Batik style of printing became less and less popular and gradually disappeared for a long time. Although, during the 20th century, Batik was started as a part of the syllabus at the University of Shanti Niketan in Kolkata. And that was the revival of the Batik style of printing, after which it really flourished.

Initially, the Batik prints were only done on fabrics such as cotton and silk, but owing to its high demand and requirement other fabrics like Georgette also are being used. One of the finest Batik designs in India is said to come from the expert and skilled artists of Cholamandalam near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Batik printing is also done in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. While the techniques used have evolved over time and the screen printing method is used to create beautiful designs, some artisans also prefer to do the Batik printing by hand.

10. Ikat Patola Sarees

A double ikat weave, Ikat Patola sarees originated in the town of Patan in Gujarat. It is postulated that 700 silk weavers of the Salvi caste of Karnataka and Maharashtra moved to Gujarat in the 12th century to acquire the patronage of the Solanki Rajputs, the ruling class of Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan at that time. The rosewood sword shaped stick called the ‘Vi’, which is used for adjusting the yarns is where the Salvis get their name from. In fact, patola silks became so popular that even after the decline of the Solanki empire, it was a sign of social status amongst Gujarati women. It formed an essential part of the stridhan or the part of a bride’s property that she got from her own home.

The first step involves tying of the yarn with cotton thread according to the pattern that has been decided. The tying of yarn is done by an experienced master artist as it is an intricate and time consuming process. Measurements can be as small as 1/100th of an inch and requires careful scrutiny. The yarn undergoes multiple cycles of tying and dyeing, following a specific order of colours. Displacement of even a single yarn can disturb the design arrangement and make the entire set of yarns redundant. Every colour has a unique place in the saree and the design has to be carefully aligned while weaving. Such intricacy requires extreme precision and patience. A unique feature of the Patola loom is that it is tilted to one side and requires two people to sit and work together on just one saree. It can take six months to a year or even more, depending on the length as well as the intricacy of the pattern to make one of these Patola sarees.

Both the warp and the weft thread are dyed in double ikat Patolas. This means the weaving process requires that much more concentration and precision. Even a tiny mistake can ruin the entire design. Because of the unique technique, Patola sarees are reversible and look exactly the same on both sides. Often, even the weaver cannot tell the difference. They are also quite popular for their vibrant colours and geometric motifs.

Patola sarees make use of natural dyes like catechu, cochineal, indigo, turmeric, natural lakh, harde, madder roots, manjistha, ratnajyot, katha, kesudo, pomegranate skin, henna, marigold flower, etc in the colouring process. Alum, copper sulphate, ferrous sulphate, tin chloride, potassium dichromate and other mordents are also used, the result of which is vibrant colours dominated by patterns of bright red, dark green and yellow. Be it the Jains, Hindus or Muslims, every community added its own value to the Patola silk. While the Jains prefer abstract designs and geometric patterns, the Ismaeli Shi’ite Muslims prefer the Vohra Gaji Bhaat and Gujarati Hindu women prefer the elephant, flower, girl, parrot and paan designs. Based on their origin, there are essentially two varieties of Patola sarees – the Rajkot Patola and the Patan Patola. Rajkot Patolas are single ikat weaves that are vertically resist-dyed, while Patal Patolas are double ikat weaves that are horizontally resist-dyed. Needlessly to say, Patan Patolas are far more expensive as they are touted to be the most complicated textile design in the world. Both sides of the fabric have the exact same design and hence, you can wear a Patan Patola either way.
Add a review

Your email address will not be published *