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TALES 》 Kanchipuram Silk Sarees

My Trousseau, Kanchipuram Silk Saree

Kanchipuram is also known as Kanchi/Kachiped/Kancheepuram. Kanchipuram is a district in the northeast of the state of Tamil Nadu in India. Kanchipuram nickname is called as 'The City of Thousand Temples' and served as the capital city of the Pallava Kingdom.

The south Indian women are not complete without a lustrous Kanchipuram saree. With bright contrasting borders. During occasions such as Diwali (or Deepavali), Pongal, weddings and festivals, only Upper-caste families used to purchase of many silk saris. Current trends on Kanchipuram sarees, silver is being used in addition to gold. The famous 'Kamakshi Amman Temple' is a must if you are visiting Kanchipuram place the deity here is Parvati.

The ferocious Yali motif on a Kanchipuram Silk Saree

Origin and history:
The story of the Kanjeevaram silk saree begins in Hindu mythology. Legend has it that the Kanchi silk weavers are descendants of Sage Markanda, who was considered to be the master weaver for the Gods themselves. It was during the reign of Krishna Devaraya (from the Vijayanagara Empire) that the art really took off, images of scriptures and figurines found on the temples around the village.

Aesthetically divine beauties can be found in two different varieties from this place namely

The Tints:
Kanchipuram silk saree are handwoven from pure mulberry silk threads and are marvelous collection of hues, such as dark chocolate brown, bourbon orange, stunning mango yellow, exquisite mustard yellow , chartreuse green, sea green, exquisite black, bottle green, crimson red, pista green, wine red, tangerine orange, cardamom green, royal blue garnet maroon, rani pink, emerald green, navy blue, iridescent blue, fuchsia pink, pale sandalwood beige, mulberry purple, khakhi grey, rich violet, deep brown, onion pink, scarlet red, pale orange, off white, golden beige, turquoise, raspberry red and many more to timeless shades.

The Motifs:
Gopuram representing temple tower also known as temple motifs, mayilkann known as peacock eye, rudraksham representing Rudraksha beads, yaanai motifs also known as elephant , paisley motif, mayil chakram motifs, kammal motifs, lion motifs, neelambari motifs, malli muthu motifs, kili is also known as parrot motif, Iruthalaipakshi motifs is known as two-headed eagle, yazhi motifs, kuthirai means horse motif, maanga motif known as mango, Annapakshi or hamsa motif, tamarai motifs, kuyilkann known as nightingale eye, thuthripoo motif are few known motifs, depiction of stories from mythology are very common in Kanchipuram sarees and one can also see traditional motifs featured in the Kanchipuram sarees.

The beauty of borders
Borders are usually handcrafted with epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata and inspired by local temples and temple art, these sarees are traditionally woven with wide contrasting borders, depending on the designers artistic skills, innovation and taste and latest trends, varies types of borders in Kanchipuram silk sarees are seen such as Thuthiripoo border, Rudrakash border, Double border, Piping border, Broad border, Checks border, Digonal border, Korvai temple border, Ganga Jamuna border, Kadi border, Bavanchi border, Rising border, Sakari border, Thandavalam border, Tissue border, Meena work border, Vanashringaram border, Shikargarh border, Pogidi border, Retta petta border, kuthuvilaku border, Kottadi border, Kodivisiri border and beautifully crafted thread-work border saree are one of my favorites.

Kanchipuram silk saree has been recognized as a 'Geographical indication' by the government of India. These centuries old classic beauties, is done on a slow process via 'throw shuttle pit loom' or raised 'pit loom', to weave these sarees 'three shuttle' are been used. Kanchipuram silk saree uniqueness lies, were the main body of the saree and border are woven separately and then interlocked together, while joint is woven so strongly that even if the sarees tears, the border will not get detached, this differentiates from 'Kanchipuram silk' sarees from the others.

Patterns are formed by lines and squares and when the jasmine motif is found either inside a square or scattered all over, it is called mallinaggu. The Thandavalam motif has parallel-line motifs running all over the body of the sari. In the pattu motif, the pallu and the border alone have floral motifs independently woven on them.

Techniques used in weaving Kanchipuram silk sarees are

Celebration of draping
Silk is always considered the ceremonial wear in India, these silk fabrics are an extremely strong and durable. The vanity of India by showcasing and producing varieties of silk, the most popular of which is made from cocoons, whose worms feed on mulberry leaves. While happiness and content of every women draping these exquisite luxury sarees is an ultimate crown. Richness and luxury is a statement, whether it's "Cannels film festival" or "The Oscars", you name them red carpets in Hollywood or Bollywood, one who loves to stand out in the crowd than this is the best traditional attire. These traditional sarees are a delight, gifting to someone on there wedding anniversary, or wearing it on 'Big fat Indian weddings', cultural parties, temple festivals, during "Arangetram", Indian colorful festivals like "Varamahalakshmi", "Makar sankranti", Thai pongal(the harvest festival), the hindu festival of lights "Diwali", "Vinayaka Chaturthi"(reveres god Ganesha), dasara, "Ugadi" the beginning of a new age, navratri festival, house-warming, last but not least lovely Christmas.

Seeing the vibrant shades in kanchipuram, I turned crazy the never ending desire to buy more, my collection of Kanchipuram silk sarees started, I also seen many shopping for traditional silk salwar Kameez, Pattu pavadai, Kanchi cotton sarees and silk dhoti. People here are friendly and they guide us. One steps to any shop out here for just window shopping also they will get best customer service. "Customer is King" that's there motto, they keep showing products till one get quenched the thirst of buying kanchipuram sarees and other variants of silks. These days they use a substitute metal in the place of gold/silver such as copper zari that manages to hold on to the sheen of the texture while reducing the overall Kanchipuram silk cost.

The natives in this region speak Tamil(regional language), the major weaving communities of Andhra Pradesh migrated to kanchipuram, 'the Devanga' and 'Saligars' weavers, well known for their weaving skills. Depending upon the colors, intricacy of work, patterns, materials used like zari, gold threads used, the price is tagged. Depending on the Intricate design, handwoven masterpiece make take one week to fifteen days or even more to weave Kanchipuram silk saree.

Fabric care:
Kanchipuram sarees are the most expensive and require high maintenance. So do check out for specific care instructions on the garment tag once you purchase and follow the instructions carefully, it addition to it, here are certain guidelines.

  • Recommended only for dry clean.
  • Always iron on low-medium heat and do not spray water while ironing as it might leave a stain.
  • Never dry these saree under direct sun.
  • To prevent gold and silver zari to not tarnish, these sarees should be folded and wrapped in a pure cotton fabric, this would allow the saree to breathe as well.
  • Refold these saree from time to time to avoid ripping on creases.
  • If you have a handcrafted artistic tassels(kuchu) for saree, than never wash tassels area, it may become clumsy.


Know your Kanchipuram silk saree Zari Real or Fake?
Tamil Nadu Government have taken an initiative and TIFAC(Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council) both have collaborated and have set up a unit at Kanchipuram, to check authenticity of Kanchipuram silk saree zari, testing unit in which one can check the gold and silver content in zari, or if its a 'tested zari', 'pure zari' and 'imitation zari'. When I had been to Kanchipuram, I had been to the zari testing unit but unfortunately it was closed, locals says you have to pay a nominal fee to check, but when I go for next road trip definitely will show the glimpse of it.

How to identify an authentic Kanchipuram silk saree:

  • Silk Board of India has come up with a concept called Silk Mark, which is provided only for pure Kanchipuram silk sarees.
  • Carefully pick few loose threads from the saree, burn them, if it releases fumes like burnt hair or burnt leather smell it's an authentic one, fabricated or imitation ones will have no ash after burning.
  • To create exquisite designs, Kanchipuram silk saree is woven separately and then interlocked together
  • Genuine Kanchipuram sarees are woven with three ply, while low quality Kanchipuram saree will have just two ply silk, used in weaving.
  • The Pallu(falling edge of the saree), near the tassels area, pick few threads of the zari, pure zari is made of red silk thread which is twisted with a silver thread and then dipped in 22 carat pure gold, If upon pulling the zari, you notice that the silk thread is not red but white or any other color, than it's a genuine one.



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