The producer communities of Kanjeevaram sarees belong to the small temple town of Kanchipuram, located in the state of Tamil Nadu. These communities are believed to be the descendants of the Sage Markanda, the weaver to the Gods. The population here belongs primarily to the Hindu religion.
Loom for weaving Kanjeevaram sarees
A Weaver’s Service Centre has been set up in Kanchipuram in order to aid the producer communities that have been involved in the profession for several generations. The Padmasaliyar community are dominant weavers on Kanjeevaram sarees. This community migrated from what is now present day Andhra Pradesh during the Chola dynasty, c.900-1300 AD. The art of weaving these opulent sarees has been passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of centuries. Today, as in earlier times, Kanjeevaram sarees enjoy a high status both in and out of Tamil Nadu.
L: Gold zari in a Kanjeevaram saree
R: Kanjeevaram saree with paisley motifs
With technological innovation, several modern methods have been implemented in the modern day production of Kanjeevaram sarees. The mechanisation of weaving has dramatically helped in the revival of this technique. A SPS sleigh has been developed by an award winning master weaver, which allows the weaver to perform the interlocking of the threads himself. A machine with a jacquard attachment, if equipped with a catch card, makes the process of weaving patterns extremely easy. The use of tie and dye has made the process of colouring the fabrics much simpler than it ever was. Colours are now prepared in laboratories especially for Kanjeevaram sarees. Computer Aided Design (CAD) is also helping the workers to create these sarees in a much smaller time span.
Peacock motifs in a Kanjeevaram saree
The tag of GI (Geographical Indication) given to the technique in 2005 protects these sarees from cheap imitations and copying. The GI tag also ensures that Kanjeevaram sarees are exclusively produced in Kanchipuram, preserving their authenticity and traditional production processes.
Worker on a loom
Images: Craftsvilla, Indiamart, Kanjeevaram Chennai, Cougars Chennai Online