Saree has been one of the oldest attire known to women, ranging from a size of about 6 to 9 meters in length; this dress has survived the fast lifestyle of the 21st century and still continues to be one of the most cherished possessions in any women’s closet. Slow fashion is synonymous to sarees. The close connection of sarees with women is not just limited to the pride they feel in wearing it but also to the experience they get while selecting their favorite one from a lot of hundreds. E-commerce might continue to be on the rise in every other category but majority of the women still believe in going out to their favorite retail outlet and selecting this piece of Indian tradition.
The highly skilled and patterned ajrakh block-printing came to Kutch from Sind 400 years ago when the Muslim Khatris (artisans who ‘apply color to cloth’) settled in the village of Dhamadka. Against the dull canvas of the Kutch desert, the rich and bold colors of the textiles are strikingly displayed. The millennia-old tradition of weaving and dyeing textiles originated in the Indus Valley region in the North West of India and is still practiced in abundance today. The cloth is washed in water to remove any finish applied in the mill or workshop. It is then dyed in a cold solution of myrobalan (powdered nut of the harde tree). A resist of lime and gum arabic is printed onto the cloth to define the outline of the design. This is known as rekh. The cloth is finally dyed and washed off.
The word “Bagh” in Hindi language has several meanings; “a beautiful garden” being one of them. The word “Bagh” used in the world of crafts, however, refers to a completely different phenomenon. Located in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, Bagh is a small village which produces exquisite hand block print works with natural colors. Motifs of flowers, mango patterns, leaves and geometric shapes are incorporated as block designs in a variety of Bagh works, which indeed encapsulates a beautiful garden on the canvas of the fabric. The pinnacle towards awareness for this traditional art form was its adoption in a tableau theme of the state of Madhya Pradesh at the Republic day parade in New Delhi on 26th January, 2011.
Rajasthan is the home for a variety of handicrafts produced in our country. One of the lesser known places but no less important in terms of the value it adds to the rich heritage of the state is Bagru. Located on the Jaipur-Ajmer highway, at a distance of only 35 km from the Pink City itself, this place produces some impeccable wooden block prints which are considered as some of the best and elaborate hand-block printing works in the country. The beauty of this art form lies in the process itself as the preferred designs are first carved out on a wooden block and then used for further replication on any preferred fabric. The tradition of this craft is kept alive by native artisans, which makes Bagru a perfect tourist destination for connoisseurs of hand-block fabric printing.
This style of weaving originated in Varanasi and has been around since a number of decades. The most distinguishing feature of this style is actually it’s gold and silver zari or brocade that is generously and skillfully used in the weaving process. The entire fabric is covered with rich ornamentation and even the borders are intricate with minute designs. As most sarees are inspired by Mughal designs, they usually include Islamic motifs such as floral designs, floral nets and stylized leaves.
Bandhani is a type of resist dyeing of cotton cloth, done by tying knots on the fabric and then dyeing it. This art form is prevalent in places such as Rajasthan and Gujarat. The clothes are dyed after resisting some parts of the cloth by tying them up to create simple patterns. The entire fabric is filled with small motifs or geometric designs of bright colors and the quality of the dyeing is usually assessed by looking at the size, shape and the composition of the dots designed. Nowadays more colors and abstract patterns are found on Bandhani to keep up with the contemporary fashion trends.
Bhagalpuri Linen Saree
This style of weaving linen, as the name suggests, has its roots in Bhagalpur in Bihar. Bhagalpuri artisans weave both linen sarees as well as fabrics. With minimal designs and motifs, this style in truth is the perfect example of ‘simple and elegance’. The sarees usually have two or three shades of color and have either small geometric designs or floral motifs printed on the borders.
Bhagalpuri Tussar Silk Saree
Bhagalpuri Silk sarees, otherwise known as Tussar Silk, is a unique style of saree from Bhagalpur. Well known for its sericulture which has been around for more than a hundred years, the Bhagalpuri Tussar sarees are exclusively made from the silk reared over there. Designs used are primarily traditional ones of geometric patterns with a few abstract floral designs. A lot of work is usually focused on the designs in the borders as well, along with the bright and cheery color scheme, usually inspired by Madhubhani style of painting. It would be ideal to wear these sarees for formal occasions such as business meetings, office parties etc.
A distinctive art form of Lucknow, it employs intricate and delicate embroidery of ‘white threads on white fabric’. It stays true to its name, “Chikan”, which is derived from the Persian word “Chakin” or “Chikin” which means “wrought with needlework”. Very fine muslin cloth is used to create the various patterns and stitches on both the back as well as the front. Motifs used to include a wide range of flora, fauna, mango patterns and vines.
The Kalamkari is a unique art and a dying tradition done with a kalam or a stylus made from bamboo. This craft has been practiced for over generations in Andhra Pradesh and uses a very unique form of dyeing with metallic salts called mordants. Traditionally Kalamkari was used for painting on umbrella and chariot covers, cylindrical hangings and canopies in temples. Motifs of swans, peacocks, flowers and local deities are used in the patterns generously. Some patterns are also narrative in style and have folklore, myths and stories of the Puranas or the mythologies painted on them.
Kantha Embroidery Saree
Kantha, a type of running stitch embroidery, is found mainly in West Bengal, Bihar and Bangladesh. Made entirely out of re-used cloth, this craft employs fine craftsmanship and attention to minute details. Patterns embroidered on the fabrics ranges from purely geometric designs and floral motifs to pictures and events of routine life. While most products are quilts and bedspreads, table linen and even stoles are quite popular in this particular type of art-form.
Kerala Kasavu Saree
Very distinctive with its cream colored saree and gold borders, the Kerala Kasavu is considered as one of the traditional sarees defining a part of the rich culture and heritage of Kerala. Worn on auspicious occasions when rituals and festivals are held, the gold border on the cream white saree really stands out. Originally known as ‘Mundum Neriyathum’, a two-piece cloth, the style has changed over the decades to a single piece keeping up with recent fashion trends and culture. Recently, plain gold borders are replaced by more fashionable zari and borders, with the addition of one or more colors, making it more attractive and ‘in-style’.
Kovai Kora Saree
A type of handwoven blended cotton saree made in Coimbatore region of Tamil Nadu, it uses a blend of cotton, silk, and another material called Kora found in the Sirumugai area. Woven entirely on a traditional handloom, the color palette mostly consists of pastels and bright colors. While designs are quite minimal on the saree, motifs used are of flora, vines and leaves. Being simple and elegant in design, it is perfect for both formal as well as informal occasions.
Kutch Vankar Saree
The Vankars are the traditional weavers of Kutch. They use high-quality cotton, which when coupled with the dexterity of the Vankars’ weaving acumen, brings out sarees that are of utmost quality. The sarees showcased by the Vankar weaver artisans in the Lakme India Fashion Week 2017 brought this exclusive and beautiful craft-form on a global canvas.
The textile industry in the town of Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh, is the place where the ‘Maheshwari’ style of fabrics began to flourish. The sarees are available both in cotton and silk materials; Design patterns on the saree are usually of checks, stripes and floral borders and the color scheme has changed a bit over the years from robust colors to more lighter colors. The design patterns are also slightly influenced by the forts and architecture in Madhya Pradesh.
With two craftsmen working on the same loom simultaneously, Patola sarees are woven using a method called ikkat, which uses dyed warp and weft threads. Their patterns vary from geometric designs to floral and motifs of elephants, peacocks, and even tigers. Each saree is painstakingly worked on by hand with a meticulous eye and that is what makes them stand apart from other sarees. The extreme effort and detailing, which takes anywhere from a month to three months to make justifies the whopping cost of each patola saree, which may be anywhere between Rs.80,000/- to Rs.1,50,000/- or more per saree!
Pochampally Silk Saree
This style of saree originates from one of the ancient Ikkat weaving centers, Bhoodan Pochampally, Telangana. The distinguishing feature between them and other Ikkat weaves is due to its double Ikkat style of dyeing, a more complicated form of weaving with more intricate Ikkat patterns. Another important feature of this style is the usage of bright colors and geometric patterns on the saree. True patience and diligence along with creativity is necessary to weave every single piece.
Phulia Linen Saree
These hand-woven linen sarees from Phulia in West Bengal clearly show the smoothness and richness of the fabric at its best. Though they hardly have any kind of design or decoration on the main body, with two shades of color at the maximum, the simplicity of the saree itself exhibits a beauty of its own. While a few may have some small floral or geometric patterns on the border alone, most are unadorned, plain and classic with the elegant look of linen.