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Ethnic Indian Sarees :: Maheshwari Sarees

Written by: Bindu Lakshmi Kankipati - Published: 07-Jun-2017

The Royal grace, Maheshwari

Floating boats, taking a holy dip in 'Narmada river' and cleansing mind, body and soul, I feel rejuvenated, moving ahead to Omkareshwar(deity Shiva) temple, how blessed I'm. This is a religious town and beautiful city lies on the north bank of Narmada river, Maheshwar is a city in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh state, in central India. The word Maheshwar in Hindi means 'Great God'. People here speak Hindi and it's official language. The climatic conditions here, is hot dry summer and cool or relatively dry during winter. This beautiful city is known for it's finest handloom fabric. Maheshwar has been a centre of handloom weaving since the 5th century.

How did Maheshwari sarees became eminent? In the year 1979, one can be traced to the establishment of new born 'Rehwa Society' it's a NGO founded by the Holkars, to give women employment and to encourage town's textiles and this beautiful textile gets its name from Maheshwar called 'Maheshwari sarees'. If it's a casual or formal events or even high end cocktail parties or conferences, religious festivities, engagements, weddings, these 'Maheshwari saree' make you look classy and graceful and although originally done only in cotton.

In Maheshwar, two types of handlooms are used, older pit looms which are heavy and fixed, the second one is newer frame looms with lightweight metal frames. Initially the patterns and designs were made catering to particular community say Marathi customers(Maharashtrian), this market was very limited, later stages they wanted to expand the business and diversify, so they started designing based on the current trends, designs are inspired by the Fort area and magnificent temples of Maheshwar. "Maheshwar sarees & fabrics" has been awarded a geographical indication (GI) tag.

Maheshwari sarees are available in two different mediums

  • Maheshwari cotton saree
  • Maheshwari pure silk saree

Maheshwari sarees, in the early stages, there was a limited palette of colors used shades such as red, maroon, black, green and purple, later adopting to new innovations experimentation in fashion industry, they started pastels, in addition to that use of gold and silver threads. Based on the recent trends eye-catching colors are being experimented saffron, lime green, the beauty Indigo blue, ever green Beige color, the pleasing lavender, my loved shade Turquoise and shades of grey. Such a wonderful weave one will go crazy towards it, color combinations such as deep Magenta full saree on a silver border, burnt Orange full saree with pink and gold border small floral butties, Grey color full saree with gold border and checks pallu. Mustard color full saree with sweet baby pink border plain pallu. Evergreen Black and red saree is always favorite combinations. The pallu(falling edge of the saree) is particularly noted for the colourful stripes in varied colours such as green, pink, magenta, mauve, violet. It may take 3 or more days to weave a classic saree. The border of the Maheshwari saree is reversible, therefore one can wear it from either side. What I noticed in these sarees is that beautiful floral borders are seen, complementary contrast borders, zari borders, delicate silver border, Karvat border, Ganga Jamuna border and geecha border. The designs on the textiles were mainly inspired from the sculpted depictions in temples.

Motifs These motifs and designs have not lost their prestigious place on the Maheshwari sarees, common design found all over in large varieties, such as Guldasta, Aambuta, Ghungroo also known as metal bells, Chatai kinar, Bel phool, Jai phool, Goose or Hansa motif , Mayur or Peacock name, Baila Ankhi, Ambi buti and Chandtara are few of the motifs which are noticed.

Maheshwari sarees are available in five popular weaves such as

  • Chandrakala
  • Baingani Chandrakala
  • Parbi
  • Beli
  • Chandratara

The Chandrakala and Baingani Chandrakala are the plain kind, whereas the Chandratara, Beli and Parbi fall under the striped or checked technique.

Maheshwari fabrics varies products such as

  • Maheshwari sarees
  • Dupattas
  • Stoles
  • Salwar Kameez
  • Fabric used for varies interior design as a decorative.

The motivation and inspirations from flowers and beautiful leaves and common patterns which are prominent even today include the Mat pattern, which is also known as ‘chattai’ pattern, Chameli ka phool’ which is inspired by the Chameli flower, ‘heera’ pattern that is the diamond pattern, and karnphool pattern all of which may be traced back to the detailing on the walls of Maheshwar Fort.

How to identify authentic Maheshwari sarees

  • The fabric is airy and lightweight but heavier than Chanderi sarees
  • The unique pallu(falling edge of the saree)you can notice five stripes
  • Identified narrow coloured border embellished with zari, and small checks, narrow stripes, or solid colour in the body.
  • The border of the Maheshwari saree is reversible, hence also known as bugdi, which can be worn on both sides.

Livelihoods and craft sustainability of artisans and their communities, are been taken care of the societies to which they belong to. Maheshwari weaving is carried in clusters without being too community specific, it is generally the Muslim community to which the weavers belong to. The Hindus often engage in the trade of the exquisitely crafted pieces. Maheshwari sarees, stoles, dupattas are been loved and appreciated by major places such as France, U.K Germany and U.S and been exported. These sober looking sarees are been adored by doctors, professors, corporate trainers and teachers.

Fabric care

  • Dry cleaning for the first few washes
  • After which it can be either hand washed or machine washed with mild detergents
  • Dry them in a shade(to avoid direct sunlight)
  • Iron the saree reverse side