The gorgeous traditional drapes have been a women’s favourite attire and the land of Southern India has no dearth of these w eaves. Draping magic and elegance in their o wn unique way, the traditional sarees from Kanjeevaram to Kasavu have an exciting tale to tell. Let us dig into the history and explore the contemporary trends of these sarees from southern India.
Kanjeevaram Sarees, Tamil Nadu
The magnificent creation of dyed silk yarn twisted with gold or silver when draped for an occasion is perfect for a camera click. Kanjeevaram silk sarees unflur the story of fine craftsmanship of weavers residing in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. The weavers begin weaving memories on their looms by preparing and twisting the thread and then dying and drying it in the sun. The most attractive feature of the saree is the heavily contrasted border and pallu. Surprisingly, the border, the body and the pallu of the sari are created separately by the weaver and later interlocked in an extremely tight joint.
Kanchipuram, also known as the temple city, was built by the Pallavas and has a long history with the art of weaving. The rulers who were worshippers of Lord Shiva were known to wear a white cotton veshti. Later, the Cholas built many temples in Kanchipuram for worshipping Lord Vishnu. The ceremonies under their rule required grand robes and hence, came the brightly coloured silk sarees with border embellished with gold. These sarees are made with the technique of korvai. Around the 13th century, Vijayangar Kings started ruling the city and King Krishna Deva Raya commissioned the creation of wedding and other ceremonial sarees for women of the palace. Two weaving communities — the Devangas and the Saligars gave Tamil Nadu its traditional drape called Kanjeevaram.
The sarees are adorned with motifs and designs related to temples of the city. The drape will mesmerise you with the mango motif from the Ekambareshwarar temple and motifs of flowers, vines, animals, birds and yalis on the walls and pillars of the various temples. The weave brings to life the mythical creatures, the lion, yalis and hamsam (swan) carved on the walls and pillars of the temple.
The body of the saree features vintage patterns like malli moggu or the jasmine bud design, coin butta, mango or paisley. Some of the special designs include the veldhari representing the spear of Lord Murugan; neli, a type of finger ring; the different kind of multicoloured checks from kottadi or small zari checks to papli or larger checks.
Among many communities, Kanjeevaram sarees are a must-have during weddings. Some believe that muhurtham saree with double row border signifies auspiciousness. The muthu kattam checks, resembling evenly spaced pearls, signify harmonious relationship between the bride and groom.
The bollywood actresses seem to be in love with the traditional drape of Tamil Nadu. From Rekha’s famous silk saree collection to Deepika Padukone’s ravishing look in the film Chennai Express and Dia Mirza’s classy look in an all black Kanjeevaram, these sarees are a treat!
Gadwal Sarees, Telangana
A perfect blend of cotton and silk is what we call the Gadwal sarees. If you are looking for something which is easy to drape and yet look classy, Gadwal sarees are a great bet. The sarees hail from the town of Gadwal in Telangana which has a long history of handlooms. This attire from Gadwal is known for its zari work and kuttu borders. The body of the saree is made of unbleached cotton and borders are of tussar or mulberry silk. Some weavers also weave pure silk Gadwal sarees.
Locally known as Kupadam, the variant of the Gadwal saree has a contrasting border and the pallu portion is woven by implementing three shuttle techniques. The body is woven in either plain or dyed mulberry silk. The cotton body is designed with a variety of different eye-catching motifs. The weaving style of the borders is called Kumbam. The well-crafted Kuttu borders are the result of the art of joining the borders and pallu of the saree after they have been woven. The silk for the border is sourced from Bengaluru and the gold for the zari comes from Surat.
Originally worn during pujas and other celebrations, the sarees today are a wonderful gifting option as it is light-weight. The surprising part is the saree can be folded down to the size of a matchbox. An exciting mix of two fabrics and zari embroidery, the sarees were earlier only available in earthly tones. With inclusion of dyeing, the handloom took to multitude of colours.
Just like Kanjeevaram, the motifs of Gadwal saree draw an inspiration from the architecture of religious places. The motifs of mango and peacock are also known to lift the traditional essence of the saree. However, with evolving fashion trends, geometric shapes and checks have also found a place on the saree.
Kasavu Sarees, Kerala
Remember Sonam Kapoor in offwhite saree with golden border from the film Aisha? These traditional sarees worn by Malayalee women are called Kasavu sarees. Defining the beauty of God’s own country, the tale of Kasavu sarees began when Maharaja Balaramavarma and his chief minister Ummini Thampi brought about the revolution of handloom industry. Balaramapuram, a town near Thiruvananthapuram is the hub of these sarees.
Kasavu traces its history to the traditional costume Mundum Neriyathum. The saree has as many as 4,500 threads which are counted by weavers to make sure the length and breadth of all the sarees remain the same. The fragile threads are woven into the fabric using the throw-shuttle pit looms and is later soaked in water to soften the threads. The gold zari, also known as kasavu kara, is added to the soaked fabric. The weaving of traditional drape normally takes fifteen hours and approximately five to six days. The special design inspired from nature are punched on the saree using the wooden seal.
Today, designer blouses according to the latest fashion trend have replaced the regular Kasavu blouses. Though perfect for all occasions, Onam is the best time to admire the beauty of the drape. From Asin to Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone in the film Chennai Express, the golden zari border over the left shoulder has rendered a sophisticated look.