My romance with heritage weaves and handloom saris began from childhood. When I would see my mother, grandmoms and aunts in these beautiful weaves carrying the six yard fabric with pride and elegance, I had little idea that this legacy was laying foundation and shaping my lifelong romance for culture and heritage.
The visits to the weavers’ communities and saree shops with my aunts at our ancestral home in Varanasi, evolved my sartorial choices and predilection for these weaves. Benaras is known for its most exclusive Handwoven Sarees; Weaves like Brocade, ‘Kadhuan’, ‘Kadiyal’, ‘Katruan’, Cutwork, ‘Jamawar’, ‘Tanchoi’ in Mulberry Silk, ‘Tasar’ Silk, ‘Muga’ Silk, Kora Silk, Raw Silk & Cotton Silk, are the heirlooms of our heritage. The signature products of Banarasi looms are the variety of classic makeovers and brocade on muslin and silk.
Silk or handloom saree is synonymous with tradition and it would hold its importance always despite all odds. No matter how modern or ‘westernised’ a woman gets or how expensive a sari gets, a quintessential Kanjeevaram or Benarasi would always be worn for festivals or weddings in any Indian family and would never go out of vogue. The eye for exquisite details and uncompromising stand on quality of heritage weaves is what has earned India its name.
Throughout the rich history and culture of India, handloom sarees have received patronage from women all over the world. Women across Europe during British Raj and other inspiring women have embraced these classic motifs and patterns bringing forth the intrinsic splendour of handloom. Sarees are a part of the power dressing repertoire for women bureaucrats as well. Dr Shalini Rajneesh, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary says, “Handloom and heritage weaves of India make us proud of our culture and stand out as a unique power dressing tool too! Long live our weavers. We need to showcase their creativity in global digital world to enhance their economic returns and make handlooms a sustainable livelihood.”
The traditional ‘Kanchipuram’ or a ‘Jamdani’ saree have delicate interplay of intricate motifs weaved flawlessly. The typical motifs for Kanchipuram saris are Mayil-kannu (peacock eye), rudraksha’s, malli-moggu (Jasmine drops). There is no motif that is completely new, they have all evolved from the temple architecture and, again, they symbolise the confluence of different sects and different energies.
The peacock is the vehicle of Lord Murugan, thus a representation of Shiva and chakra is the symbol of Lord Vishnu. These motifs are used in Paithani, Benarasi and many more but in different forms. Jamdani draws its inspiration for motifs from nature, like flowers, petals, creepers etc. “India has a very enriching heritage with such diverse hand woven textiles that each time I see a weaver doing his work I am overawed by it.
As a classical dancer, I always wore hand woven cotton and silks and there is undoubtedly a healing factor to it,” says Vasantha Vaikunth, president of WICCI Karnataka Culture and Heritage. There could be no Tansen without an Akbar, no Leonardo Vinci without a Medici and no Gulzar without a Bimal Roy. Just like how art needs its patrons to survive, handloom and heritage weaves need patrons to thrive.