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  • Kanjeevaram Weaves a New Style (Featured Article)


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    The Indian sari has, for time immemorial, been associated with the persona of an Indian woman. Not the easiest to wear, it nevertheless is the quintessential part of women's wardrobes in the country across ages. Perhaps it has as many weaves, prints and fabrics as India has states. And when it comes to luxurious silk, the kanjeevaram steals the show. Native to the town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, this weave has caught the imagination of women across the country, despite its weight and stiff drape. The traditional sari is created after a painstakingly long weaving cycle, where the border, pallu and the main sari are woven separately and then intricately woven together into one piece. With peacocks, tigers and other animal motifs, the weave itself pays tribute to folks and legends in South India. It is also believed to be a tribute to the Vaishnavite cult, since myths hold true that Lord Vishnu preferred silk over cotton.

    One only has to watch reruns of the popular Filmfare Awards to spot the who's who of tinseltown donning this bright, gold-enriched weave. While younger actors like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra opt for georgette and chiffon saris, the 59-year-old Rekha has proudly flaunted her love affair with thekanjeevaram. Joining her are Kirron Kher, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini and from the younger brigade, Vidya Balan. But that's the thing about kanjeevaram - while around 10 to 12 years ago, it was quite popular with the youth (remember Karisma Kapoor in David Dhawan's Biwi No. 1?), it came to be identified with older, married women. Even Kapoor with her kanjeevarams and gajra-clad hair portrayed the character of the Indian housewife who changed to more 'modern' outfits when she went out to conquer the business world.

    Many designers would argue that the kanjeevaram never entirely went out of fashion. While that may be true, the six-yard-wonder is weaving its way back onto ramps and into younger celebrity wardrobes. Top designers are now finding fresh ways to add a glamour and contemporary quotient to its timeless appeal. For Mumbai-based designer Neeta Lulla, the kanjeevaram is a "versatile fabric, with great scope to work with design motifs, the demand for which has definitely seen an upsurge in the last couple of years." While the saris usually occupy the bright, jewel-toned Indian colour palette, the more Western pastels are also finding their own with the zari borders. For Lulla, kanjeevaram has been relegated to the wardrobe of older women only because of the thickness of the fabric, which also grants it "a typically South Indian, vintage feel." She works with the weave and tries to reinvent it to slimmer and thinner fabric, which then also have scope for "avant-garde and contemporary designs like polka dots", with which she hopes to accommodate younger tastes.

    When it comes to a younger generation of buyers, Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shahsuggests that the trick is to work with a younger colour palette and broad borders. While older women prefer thinner borders and deeper colours for their saris, younger women can carry bolder borders, sometimes as wide as 20 inches, with ease. Neon colours have made a huge comeback on the ramp, and kanjeevarams are not immune to this trend, adding to their younger appeal. Shah also points out that women are now looking at kanjeevarams as an alternative to chiffons and georgettes to wear to parties and weddings, especially when one innovates with the blouse and its cut to dress up or keep it subtle. His collection at the Lakme Fashion Week was a tribute to traditional weaves and he prides himself on being one of the very few designers who showcasekanjeevarams on the ramp.

    Designer Sabyasachi, while calling himself a "purist", suggests that the key to making kanjeevaramsmore contemporary is to "play around with the drape". He also sees the revival of the kanjeevaramand other weaves in the "modern day threat of mechanisation", which has sparked enough interest in artisans and buyers to want "potential heirloom gifts". It is no wonder then that designer Tarun Tahiliani chose to dress Oprah Winfrey in a modified kanjivaram sari on her visit to India, allowing her to flaunt a style that instantly speaks of an Indian, cultural connection.

    But considering the loom and the workmanship that go into each production cycle of a kanjeevaram, is there any scope for bespoke designs? Shah suggests that it is impossible to ensure that a sari will not be replicated, especially since each loom creates about 12 saris. The best, according to him, is to ensure that a designer store only sells one sari of the same design per city. He also suggests that not many women in South India opt for kanjeevaram dresses since they feel that if one is spending almost ~2 lakh on something, it would rather be on a sari than a lehenga or anarkali suit. And in North India, he says, women would rather go for embroidered, embellished outfits rather than one that is created with a kanjeevaram weave. For Lulla though, there are immense possibilities for bespoke designs, but only if the weave is treated like a fabric and not a sari. Her collection featuring lehengas and pant suits in jewel tones use the kanjeevaram exclusively. A designer kanjeevaram,either a sari or an outfit, can cost anything upward of ~50,000.

    Whether it's paying a tribute to one's grandmother's wardrobe with a designer pant suit or creating that perfect wedding trousseau which is both young and timeless, the kanjeevaram is moving upwards and onwards fromits off-the-rack Nalli and Pothys existence.

  • Silks and Me (by Rashmi Menon)

    Your wardrobe is a reflection of who you are. When you run your hands over your formal RashmiMenonArticle1Pic1clothes, the images it conjures in your head is the office, presentations, colleagues and time lines. Then run them across your sarees and a deep pride swells up in your heart. Of who you are. It wakes up the woman in you and you feel beautiful. Proud of the woman you are.

    I still remember when I was just 8 or 9 years old, standing behind my grandmother as she opened her wardrobe. It was a wooden almirah. The fragrance of vettriver would reach me. Vettriver is the root of a medicinal plant and gives out a fragrance similar to lavender. She wraps a handful of them in a soft white muslin cloth and keeps it between her clothes. Her entire wardrobe consists of only white. A woman who cooked on firewood, served her husband and children and even grandchildren (like me who were on holiday) and maintained white Sunday to Sunday. To me then though there was nothing missing. That was her! White starched dhotis and white blouses!!

    Now turning to my mother’s wardrobe, mostly all silks. All the Kanjeevaram silks hung neatly next to each other. Not just in colour but in weave too each one distinguished. There were the tone on tone with thread work on border and pallu and the big gold borders. In the way the threads were woven, it spoke a story. Sometimes it went the traditional way and a peacock or a swan adorned the entire border while other times it would go in a geometric pattern.

    Contemporary Kanjeevaram Saree in Pink Contemporary Kanjeevaram Saree in Pink

    There was always a reason to get dressed in these beautiful silks. In an Indian home, there is a festival or a celebration every month. It was considered auspicious to wear a silk saree on these days. Auspicious because silk is considered pure. As it is derived from nature and there is nothing artificial in it. The gold border is made up of is pure gold threads woven together. Because of its pure nature, these silks last for very long. Many are handed down to the next generation. The gold on the saree and the silks never fade.

    Until you were of age to wear a silk saree, the girls would wear silk paavadai meaning silk skirts. The house would brighten up with colour on celebrations... Bottle green, vermillion red, mango yellow and midnight blue to name a few.

    It is every girls dream to own a few of those silks herself. The plain silks saree with gold borders never go out of fashion. However, for occasions that are more important we always choose a silk saree with gold motifs on it. The gold designs on the sarees make it more beautiful and unique. The swan motif or the ornament motif is a very popular one. In the beginning, it was just one colour all across the saree but as then arrived the contrast border. Just as you find big bold broad gold borders, you can also find narrow gold borders. You will always find a Kanjeevaram silk for every occasion. And sometimes the effort in shopping to actually choose what one likes to be seen in, is really tiring. Thanks to convenience, ease of access, greater choices and surprisingly attractive prices, a web shop like takes out the pain and retain the pleasure of silk shopping – delivery to your doorstop. Now that’s a ‘wow’ for me!
    It is your dream destination for Kanjeevaram silk sarees.

    Silks are not just visually appealing but they also drape well. Whether you wear your pallu front to back or back to front (Guajarati style) they look gorgeous. You may like to bring it across your body from right to left and pin it to your left shoulder leaving the rest of it resting lightly on your left hand. This is the way a saree is worn mostly. The rustle of the silk creates an energy that brings confidence to the person wearing it. Great trouble is taken in selecting the colours of silk sarees for the girls of the household. Kanjeevaram sarees bring a classy feel to any occasion.

    When the house is decorated with mango leaves and marigold flowers, and the fragrance of sandal is in the air, the girls are all dressed in bright coloured silks then it sure is going to be a memorable day. And for the woman starving for Kanjeevaram silk sarees, classicsilks is the perfect portal. Online shopping for Kanjeevaram silks has never been better. So go on, Happy shopping !

  • Kanjeevaram Bridal saree - A Must for Every South Indian Bride

    Every girl envisage of appearing superlative in dazzling traditional wear on her wedding day.Untitled7 Indian girls in fact arrange for months in advance for systematized their wedding trousseau. As custom goes girls in India are brought up with the notion that they have to get married one day; and therefore most of them are psychologically ready for the transformation. Girls dream to be in the best attire on the most propitious day of their life- their wedding day. For a girl, her wedding day is the most extraordinary day of her life and for many it’s a childhood fancies that come true.

    Weddings are sparkly celebrated with splendor and festivities all around the world. For the groom and his bride, it is certainly the most noteworthy and therefore biggest day of their lives.

    BridalArticlePic1Of all the conventional Indian outfits, the generally saree remains the beloved and elementary piece for many Indian brides. Indeed each state in India possess it’s variety of bridal sarees. In most parts of south India, Kanjeevaram silk sarees are worn, except for Kerala, where kasavu (gold bordered off-white pattu saree) are worn to tie the knot. These profound gold thread-embroidered Kanjeevaram silk sarees, known in Tamil as “pattu podavai”, are prized for their sturdiness and sheen; many have asserted that these sarees can last a lifetime and are occasionally passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms.

    Silk sarees are lavish and hence they are unique. South Indians are very meticulous about picking sarees for weddings or any important celebrations. They deem silk sarees as a vital part. The heavy silk Kanjeevaram sarees, are splendidly woven material, with golden silk borders and are extremely admired in south India.   These sarees are available in simple and with contrast color combination, which makes it look genuine and graceful. It’s a matter of pride for a South Indian bride to present herself in the brilliant Kanjeevaram silk fabrics at the time of her wedding. These world famous saris are a precious part of every south Indian bride's trousseau.

    BridalArticlePic2Brides from the southern states in India desire to pursue the customary cultural way of wearing Kanjeevaram silk sarees. These are delicately made drapes that are shaped with unsurpassed craftsmanship. Along with these sarees the brides are found in gaudy traditional gold jewelry and wonderful hairstyle.


    Kanjeevaram sarees are one of the optimum silk sarees available in India and each saree isBridalArticlePic3 woven with a lot of care and devotion.  All across South India, Kanjeevaram sarees are selected as the bridal saree because it’s believed to be extremely fortunate to wear on the wedding day.  The weavers pursue certain rites while weaving the bridal Kanjeevaram saree, so it formulates the saree as a unique and special piece of art.  As per Hindu mythology, Makaranda (the master weaver of Gods) is the precursor of the kanchi silk weavers. Among Tamil and Telugu brides’ rich shades of bright red, Prussian blue, maroon, purple and parrot-green are the favored “bridal” colours.

    Again there is no set color for the southern bride's sari, but red is the traditional color.  A bride in a Kanjeevaram silk red saree—she couldn’t get more traditional than that. For wedding attire red colour and accessories in red is nearly part of diverse cultures and traditional practices in BridalArticlePic4India. Since red is an auspicious color, a bridal red saree is the pinnacle fondness of every Indian bride. Red is a vivacious color that signifies the flow of energy from the sun. It represents power and passion.  When it comes to grand and sumptuous Indian weddings, the marvelous color, red, is predictable in its stylishness, elegant, affluence, extravagance form. The pure silk Kanjeevaram saree with striking design in ornaments can make any bride appear like a princess. Indian silk sarees are the perfect attire for Indian women for all ages and occasion. Day by day the fashion is getting more superior. Fashion is changeable with trends. Along with fashion the inclination towards parties is increasing rapidly.  It normally comes from the bollywood sources. The type of sarees worn by the celebrities is more accepted by the common women and selects the same type as her wedding or party wear sarees.

    Many Bollywood brides voted for the auspicious Kanjeevaram sarees for their big day. The elder daughter of superstars Hema Malini and Dharmendra wore a bright red and gold lehenga, designed by Neeta Lulla, a famed fashion designer. Her wedding lehenga was made by mingling three heavy Kanjeevaram sarees, which were specially ordered from south India. Hema Malini went to Tamil Nadu and handpicked traditional Kanjeevaram sarees for her daughter’s wedding.

    Actress Kalki Kochelin married to ace director Anurag Kashyap wore a traditional south Indian BridalArticlePic7style white and red Kanjeevaram saree. Vidya Balan who had a quiet wedding chose her all time favorite Kanjeevaram saree. It was a gorgeous, simple saree in a lighter shade of red.

    Aishwarya Rai married to Abhishek Bachchan, wore a traditional golden yellow Kanjeevaram saree on the D-day, ornamented with swarovski crystals and gold threads. The bridal saree was designed by BridalArticlePic8Neeta Lulla. She kept her hair braided, covered with flowers.     Named after the holy temple town, Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu where they are woven, Kanjeevaram silk sarees have become synonymous with south Indian brides and weddings. These sarees have replaced Banarasi sarees as a wedding saree of choice. Kanjeevaram sarees are very comfortable to wear and also extremely magnificent. If you can’t make a decision for your wedding day outfit just blindly elect to choose a rich Kanjeevaram silk saree. Your special one wouldn’t desire to take his eyes away from you. ________________________________________________________________________

    Author: Jyoti Bhasin Chaudhry is a P h.D. Research Scholar at Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan, India. . I have intense interest in studying about Indian traditional textiles, and it’s blending and merging in modern trends. .

  • Kanjeevaram Sarees – An Attire for Indian classical Dance Bharatanatyam


    Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance form instigated in Tamil Nadu, South India. It is considered to be a ‘fire dance’. This is a vibrant, earthly and incredibly apparent dance style. Its distinguishing features are diversity of motions with emphasis on foot stamping, jumps and turns. This dance form is one of the most ancient dance forms and is said to be almost 2000 years old and has very interesting history. This dance style is known for its grace, elegance, expressions, story-telling, characters, purity and beautiful dance steps and poses. 

    The name Bharatnatyam itself express the entire meaning of what this dance form is Classic Blue about.“Bha” stands for ‘bhava’ which means expression, “Ra”stands for ‘Rag’ meaning music, “Ta” stands for ‘Tal’ meaning rhythm and “Natyam” means dance. It is one of the most popular and extensively executed dance style accomplished by female as well as male dancers.
    Bharatnatyam was traditionally presented by Devdasis. Devdasis(‘Dev’ = God and ‘Dasi’ = servant) are dancers who dance in the temple and are devoted to god. They had their whole life dedicated in service to god and use to worship him through their dance. During medieval times, the devadasis used to wear a special, heavy saree usually Kanjeevaram that severely restricted the dance movements. There are several varieties of Bharatanatyam costumes, some of which do not restrict the dancer’s movements, while the others do.

    danceThe Bharatanatyam dance costumes for women are crafted from elaborately woven sarees like Kanjeevaram or Dharmavaram, and stitched in several alluring styles. Usually three types of material are widely used in its costumes. Pure Kanjeevaram silk sarees, Dharmavaram sarees and China silk. Polycot varieties are also used. Out of these, Kanjeevaram sarees are the most popular one as they are most attractive and strongest among them.

    Untitled6Kanchipuram is the town famous for its magnificent silk saris Kanjeevaram, with a traditional adornment embroidered with golden thread along the edges. For stage performances distinct colours are preferable so that the colour of the ornamentation could stand out against the backdrop of a saree. Mustard-yellow, green and red colours are usually associated with Bharatanatyam dance. In Kanjeevaram sarees temple motifs, peacocks, butties, checks etc. are used to enhance the beauty of these sarees. Ckecks made with gold zari are inimitable to Kanjeevaram sarees which are enthused by the dance costumes of Bhartanatyam.
    A saree is worn in diverse ways; its length is as a rule a little below calves. Costumes imitating dance3saree are in fashion now. Thanks to the costume a dancer looks neat and gets rid of the necessity to wind six yards of thick material around her.

    dance2The three-pleated dance costume was in vogue for a long time. At present the V-shaped fan is very popular. This is called Ramastyle, after the name of the artist. Usually, a new design is identified with the artist who wears it for the first time.


    Author: Jyoti Bhasin Chaudhry
    Ph.D. Research Scholar, Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan, India

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