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Tracing the Footsteps of Kanjeevaram Sarees

Several legends  describe the origins of magnificent Kanjeevaram sarees. These sarees have been mentioned several times in Hindu mythology. According to these stories, the silk weavers of Kanchi are the descendants of the Sage Markanda, the weaver for the Gods. The Sage is believed to have woven tissue for the Gods from the lotus fibre.

Fine weaves of a Kanjeevaram saree
Fine weaves of a Kanjeevaram saree

Kanjeevaram sarees are made in Silk because this is believed to be the most loved fabric of Lord Vishnu, just like cotton is the favourite of Lord Shiva.

Zari buti motifs
Zari buti motifs

Artisans from the regions of Tamil Nadu, Saurashtra and Karnataka received patronage from the rulers and came together to create these sarees for the noble gentry. The thread, or the pattu nool, was brought in from Karnataka, while the zari was fetched from Surat for the creation of these sarees.

Heavy borders of a Kanjeevaram saree
Heavy borders of a Kanjeevaram saree

A weaver's whole family would have been involved in the production of these sarees in some way or the other. This is because a large number of people are required to wind the threads onto the beam. These sarees were then bought by the temples to drape figurines of the Goddesses. Kings also wore this fabric during festivities, while people visiting the temples bought the fabric as a token of reverence for the Gods.

Golden paisley motifs in a Kanjeevaram saree  Traditional Kanjeevaram saree
L: Golden paisley motifs in a Kanjeevaram saree
R: Traditional Kanjeevaram saree

The new-age Kanjeevaram sarees use substitutes for traditional zari in order to compensate for the soaring prices of gold. 

On her maiden visit to India in 2012, Oprah Winfrey donned an opulent Kanjeevaram saree by notable Indian designer, Tarun Tahiliani
On her maiden visit to India in 2012, Oprah Winfrey donned an opulent Kanjeevaram saree by notable Indian designer, Tarun Tahiliani

 

Images: The Hindu, Sweet Couch, Parisera, Cinegeet, Nerdy Devi, Kanjeevaram Chennai