Sarees are my passion
Sarees are my passion

Ethnic Indian Sarees :: Chettinad Cotton Sarees (Kandaangi Sarees)

Written by: Bindu Lakshmi Kankipati, edited by: Kiran Kankipati
Published: 02-Apr-2017

Land of vibrant colors, handcrafted tiles, majestic architectural mansions, being a food and saree lover nothing is less while I walk you through the journey of ultimate heaven of sarees and foods!

Karaikudi is known as the capital of Chettinad, Chettinad in southern Tamil Nadu is a region of the Sivaganga district that is known for weaving the Chettinad sarees. The people here are very friendly and invite people with a warm smile, the language of communication here is Tamil. Chettinad is the home of the Nattukottai Chettiars(Nagarathar), this community faithfully follow traditions. The major communities involved in weaving Chettinad cotton sarees are Devanga Chettiyars, who are the skilled weavers from ancient days.

Many of residents of Chettinad, emigrated to South and Southeast asia, particularly Ceylon, Burma, Java, Cambodia, Ceylon(Sri Lanka) and Mauritius for there business. Enormous wealth that the Chettiars gained in business was amassed during the early part of last century, was then sent back to their homes, that's how many of the villages of Chettinad were transformed through the constructed extravagant mansions.

Chettiar inherited talent for deal-making, historically Chettiars were traders since the Pallava dynasty during 4th century AD. Chettiars were a sub-caste of bankers and merchants whose business acumen led them into a role as bankers, facilitators of trade for the British and others parties, with an interest in trade in southern India throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and even used to assisted the British by being elevated as the official money lenders to them. Chettiars are well cultured, disciplined and hard working, they have carved a unique place for themselves among the various groups. They return unfailingly to their ancestral homes for vacations, rituals such as naming ceremony, ear-boring ceremony, marriage and Chettinad weddings are normally conducted in their houses, etc. Chettinad architecture stands outstanding for its large spaces in halls and courtyards, embellishments like Belgian glass-work, intricate woodwork, spectacular ceramic tiles, iron and wooden pillars. Since there houses are verg big, style and houses a significant collection of memorabilia.

Chettinadu sarees are also known by its name Kandaangi sarees. Chettinadu sarees are distinctive palette of colors with earthy tones. Handloom Chettinadu cotton saree comes with cottons, these days pure silk are also incorporated. Traditional designs and rudiments of the original version are given at most respect and importance. The main body of the saree consist of plethora, summer vibrant colors such as yellow with lime green border contrasting shades, traditional vintage combination such as mustard and black color, magenta along with border contrasting shades of peach color, brick red with black color, green avocado color shade with peach few are fresh ones or pastels and simple plain sarees! These sarees are more popular because of their unique qualities like color and authenticity.

* Click the image above to watch this video on Youtube ↗

The pallu of the sarees were woven with weft stripe, you can see checks, stripes and contrasting color shades are added. Local weavers usually work in simple patterns with bold checks, stripes and contrasting tints and then add motifs while hand making them. Chettinadu sarees are very thick and heavy cotton and are not translucent, these sarees are available throughout the year, now a days the thread count has also increased to make the saree more smooth. These sarees are woven with Pit looms / Raised pit looms with flying shuttle weaving technique. Originally 3 shuttles were used to obtain contrast solid colored borders in both sides of the saree, presently the same is seldom used. The contrast color borders together with the horizontal and vertical stripes gives a very striking look and plus note to the fabric. What is Newly added is elegant Kandaangi borders have merged beautifully with embroidery designs and chic colorful patterns.

Chettinadu sarees are especially versatile when it comes with contemporary designs, as they can be worn comfortably for daily basis, ethnic day celebrations in office, formal occasions or parties, young dynamic speakers, celebrities are making fashion statement complementing with contemporary jewelery, creating a sort of modern twist with a traditional approach Depending on climatic conditions, whether its humid or cold, absorbency and breath-ability is the perfect tag for this saree. Today a few entrepreneurs have undertaken to preserve traditional designs, and have given new life to it by mixing silk with cotton, giving the Chettinad sarees a designer status.

How to identify genuine Chettinad/kandaangi saree:

  • small strips in different color at the joining of the borders in warp way on both sides
  • simple extra warp designs
  • texture of the saree is comparitivey thicker
  • check Patterns and broad stripes
  • pallu with simple patterns and are mostly in stripes
  • main body of the saree do not have extra weft designs

Shopping in Chettinad: Let it drizzle or striking sun, my madness of shopping never goes, waha! I see lots of vibrant colors in sarees, handmade wooden carved items, Palmyra basket(Chettinad kottan), jewellery, silver/brass oil lamps known as kuthu villakku, brass metal work items for household, hand-made Athangudi tiles is maintaining a legacy and grandeur, made from local soil, my pleasant travel to Chettinad diaries will always be cherished. You can find numerous antique shops featuring rich chests, royal wardrobes, old beds, priceless mirrors, wooden chairs, carved tables, silver crockery and others which are over a century old.

The Chettinad cotton sarees are quite versatile as they can be worn comfortably for office or on a daily basis as well as for formal occasions or parties. Depending on climatic conditions, whether its humid or cold, absorbency and breathability is the perfect tag for this saree.