India has a rich textile tradition, and the quintessential Indian garment, the saree, has its origins deep in the mists of time. Over the centuries, every part of the country has evolved its own distinctive kind of sari – be it the fabric, or the pallu, or the other additions that make the saree almost synonymous with that part of the country. We describe here a few of the special sarees that belong to various parts of this land.
Kanjeevaram Silk Sarees
The famed Kanjeevaram is the prized possession of many a South Indian bride. And it is quite common for people from various parts of the country to travel down to the South to buy the Kanjeevaram for a special occasion. The best quality silk is woven with gold and silver thread to create masterpieces. Traditional peacock, parrot and mango motifs adorn the sari but today’s weavers also create modern patterns to satisfy the less traditional palette. However, it is heartening to note that the good old fashioned, traditional Kanjeevaram is still as highly regarded as the new styles. The saree is renowned for its durability, since it is of high gauge and are woven to last a lifetime. This rich silk also makes it among the most expensive sarees in India.
Banaras Brocade sarees
This is another popular choice for many brides. Intricate motifs, delicate floral designs and patterns reflect the Persian influence on this saree. This style came into existence in the Mughal era and is characterized by a foliage or leaf pattern on the inner and outer border.
Kota Doria / Kota Jali
From the hot desert plains of Rajasthan, comes a saree to keep you cool and comfortable in the summer – the cotton Kota sarees are handloom sarees with a distinctive checkered pattern called Khats. They have a mesh-like appearance and there are variants of this saree in silk and polyester. However, the cotton Kota saree is much sought after since it is perfect for the hot Indian summers. The sarees give an elegant and formal appearance when worn appropriately.
The temple deities of Tamilnadu have their own kind of saree – and mere mortals can also buy this special saree called the Konrad saree. Wide zari borders and elaborate peacock and elephant motifs symbolizing fertility characterize this saree. The colours range across dull browns, gray and off-white, though brighter colours are produced today to accommodate the tastes of a wider range of buyers.
Deep, rich shades of red, purple and blue in high-quality silk mark the Baluchari sarees from the Murshidabad district of Bengal. This saree is among the few to get a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Traditionally, weavers would take a week to create one saree in silk on their handlooms, and it was favored by the rich and famous and the royalty of Bengal. Themes from the epics, the Mahabharata and Ramyana adorn the sarees which also sport small butis through out the saree, and a distinctive floral pattern along the edges.
The Taant cotton sarees from Bengal is another favorite for the hot Indian summer. Popularly termed Bengal cotton, they are made either on handlooms or powerlooms. Beautiful colors and simple designs that suit a formal environment make this a saree of choice for many women across the country. And it is even available in a range of prices to suit every wallet!
Any saree with Kantha embroidery is termed a Kantha saree. This embroidery features a running stitch which is used to decorate the entire length and breadth of a saree with the most intricate patterns. The patterns are determined by the imagination of the artist, and market demand too! Animals, plants, flowers, folk art all find their place in the embroidered patterns, with special attention given to the pallus. Needless to say, each saree is a work of art, involving many hours of needlework.
Georgette fabric is usually made of polyester or silk – it is a sheer, lightweight fabric with a slight springy nature which is just perfect for the saree pleats to fall and move gracefully. Georgette sarees are a great base to create designer sarees with a variety of embroidery and embellishments. Printed georgette sarees are also available and quite popular in the market.
A close cousin of georgette in terms of feel and appearance, chiffon is a light and delicate fabric that gives a floating appearance to any garment it is used to create. It is more lustrous and smoother than georgette and is also suitable for embroidery. Chiffon can be made from silk and artificial fibres.
Crepe is a crisp, crimped fabric with a distinctive appearance and feel. It is considered a luxurious fabric and sarees made from this fabric have a beautiful fall and make for elegant draping. Embroidered and embellished designer crepe sarees are a great choice for parties and an evening out.
Bandhani designs have made quite a comeback and are a popular choice when it comes to Indian handicrafts across the world today. This traditional tie-and-dye method is practiced in Gujarat and Rajasthan and requires a high degree of know-how to create the distinctive patterns using nothing but thread to ‘tie and dye’ the cloth. The colors are bold – usually yellow, red, black, blue, green. Some feature mirror work and sequins to add to the colors. This is an ancient craft which has been in existence for many hundreds of years, but today Bandhani prints are very commonly used in sarees and other Indian wear.