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Charm of Chanderi Silk Saris

Updated on January 1, 2012

Poets have always been lured by the dreamy evenings of Malwa (MP), the land of legendary romance and music. It is said that even the gentle rustle of air here rings like a rhapsody. The hyperbolic description of Malwa is truly symbolized in its famed Chanderi sari known for its fineness – as fine that it can pass through a finger ring and exquisite craftsmanship hardly found elsewhere.

The Chanderi sari occupies a high place in handloom sector. Its intrinsic beauty is the result of a careful blending of its three components: the border, the body and the pallau. The weaving of borders and pallus of Chanderis is a traditional art handed down from one generation to the next. It is an art that does not depend on blueprints, but on the versatile skill of the weaver who improvises intricate designs on the loom in his own ingenious manner that never fails to evoke amazement.

Maheshwar and Chanderi saris are well known for their delicate texture. So fine is the silk that the weaver has to place trays filled with water underneath the weft in order to make out the gossamer strands. Often, silk and gold laces are intermixed in the body of sari. The border, however, is usually of gold thread.

Chanderi weavers specialize in incorporating delicate gold lace patterns in the body of the sari (in addition to other oriented designs), in the border and in the pallu. Maheshwar craftsmen show their virtuosity in improvising extremely complex but very delicate border patterns. These lovely, intricate creations make it difficult for us to believe that the process does not include pre-drafted blueprints.

One of the typical Maheshwar designs is the shikarkhana which features an array of birds on one side, and a group of animals on the other in an amazing display of skill. Other popular designs are developed from the basic “centipede” and “V” patterns. These are usually accompanied by dots called motichoor or pearl fragments, and triangles. The scope for combining these basic patterns is of course, unlimited.

Maheshwar sari borders show the numerous ways in which the gomibugadi combination is used together with motichoor dots. Further variety is obtained by the use of cotton, silk and gold thread on the one hand, and different ground colours, usually red, green and purple on the other. Sometimes, two colours are combined. Such combinations are called Ganga-Jamuni after the well-known rivers. Black and red, green and red violet and red are the usual combinations.

Maheshwar weavers have a predilection for floral, animal and avian motifs. The delicacy of texture is balanced by the minute, though complex, designs in these motifs. The well-known animals of the jungle, the lion and the tiger, the elephant and the deer, are arrayed amidst twinning creepers with delicate foliage.

Common avian motifs include the peacock, the parrot and the pigeon. The flower motif appears frequently both in the body and the border and pallau. Two or four flowers are also used as borders. Sometimes, gold threads are used instead of white. The mango motif in a very small size, is also used as an adjunct to various other border patterns.

But in larger sizes, it decorates expensive sari borders and pallaus, Chanderi pallaus feature the mango design in an impressive manner.

These days, Chanderi saris have silk and cotton weaves. The subtle shades with a rich border or two gold bands that adorn the pallav (or pallu) are a craze in India. Chanderis with gold butis, checks and lotus roundels are designs of originality and imagination, characteristic of the region of Malwa (Madhya Pradesh).

The five cotton Maheshwari saris woven in checks with narrow zari borders are symbolic of Maheshwar, a small village on the banks of Narmada. It was Rani Ahaliya Bai who set up the tradition of these saris. Chunri saris are the other hand-printed saris famous from his region.


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