Paithani saree :9-yard wonder inspired by Ajanta murals

By R.B Tandav & Alok Kumar

For years, the Paithani saree with its golden zari formed an essential part of the bridal trousseau. Beautifully crafted,this nine yard,with an exquisite pure gold zari border and pallu take their name in Aurangabad that boasts of karigars specializing in weaving the lotus and other motifs inspired by murals from nearby Ajanta. However, this nostalgic craft of Maharashtrian pride is becoming a rare commodity in the consumer market and is afraid to be extinct unless an urgent revival plan is put in place at the earliest. Silk Mark Pilgrimage, in this issue, take you through the holy lands of Paithani culture once flourished with overwhelming activities.

The Paithani saree is known the world over for its unique designs made on pure gold threads and is chosen by brides to wear on their special day, especially in Gujarati and Maharashtrian communities. The Paithani of Maharashtra is a reflection of ancient art and culture woven into intricate design by master craftsmen and their painstaking labour. It is part of a culture given more as thrift than flamboyance, but which also treasured for its elegance and beauty. No Maharashtrian wedding trousseau was complete without the Paithani sari, the best the family could afford. They then becametreasured heirlooms which could be preserved and worn by three generations of women, fragrant with memories. It is part of the ritualistic bonding of a wholecommunity. The Paithani sarees are mostly woven in Paithan near Aurangabad, Yeola, Pune, Nasik and Malegaon inMaharashtra.

Historical Background

The art of weaving Paithani although dates back to 200 B.C. during Satvahanaera, according to scripted history available,the weave was patronized by the peshawas. Mohammad Bin Tughalaqbrought the intricate kimkhwab look-like himroo weave of Paisleys to Aurangabad along with his capital from Delhi. Takingthese two forms to his own Kingdom, later the Nizam of Hyderabad who used them to adorn the silhouette of his sherwani. PrincessNiloferissaidtohavecontributed to the designing of the buttis as well. Soon the fabric was a must-have piece in the wardrobes of the nawabs of Deccan. Exquisite Paithani silks wereexported those days to many countries and was bartered against gold and preciousstones.

Whatmakes Paithani different?

Paithani Saree is woven entirely on handlooms, disdaining to use even the jacquard or jala. Its special dhoop-chaav (light and shade) effect is achieved by bringing two different coloured silk threads together in the process of a simple tabby weave. It has an ornamental zari border and pallav, and buttis (little designs) of tara (star), mor (peacock), popat (parrot), kuyri (mango), ruiphool (flower) paisa (coin), pankha (fan), kalaspakli (petal), kamal (lotus), chandrakor (moon), narli (coconut) Asawali (flower pot), and so on. Many of these designs are found on the border and pallav in different sizes and patterns. The designs show the influence of the beauteous panels of Ajanta close by. The dominant traditional colours of vegetable dyes included neeligunji (blue), pasila (red and green), gujri (black and white), mirani (black and red), motiya (pink), kusumbi (purplish red) and pophali (yellow).

The production process

In the olden days the zari was drawn from pure gold. It had a classic grandeur sans garishness. Silver is the affordable substitute today. The zari comes from Surat and the silk from Bangalore.This raw silk is treated with caustic soda, dyed in the requisite shades, the threads carefully separated. The sari takes its own time to get woven, from two weeks to a year, depending on the intricacy of the pattern. Normally, 1-2 looms (Wooden frame) are fixed in the house of the weaver and they weave Paithani sarees by themselves. The production process involves pre-loom,loom stage and post loom activities. The pre-loom activities consist of dyeing of yarn, winding, warping and loom stage activity consisting of weaving and post- loom activity mainly involves packaging, forwarding, trading etc. The yarn is degummed, bleached and dyed locally. The quantity of silk yarn procured in a lot normally weighs 4250 gms.(1250 gm. Warp and 3000 gm. Weft) which is enough for weaving six sarees. Dyeing is done in indigenous way by using chemical dyes. The furnace is used for degumming and dyeing of Silk yarn. The charges for dyeing are Rs 60 to 70/- per kg. The yarn obtained in the form of hanks requires loosening and unwinding first. After warping, the threads of the warp yarn are inserted through the dents of a reed and attached to the cloth beam. It takes about two days to join 3200 threads. The costof Saree can be anything from Rs.5000 to Rs. 50,000. Saree worth over a lakh of rupees is made specially as per order. The finer work being extremely taxing prevents more than three hours of sitting at the loom per day.

Source: PIB Blog authored by R.B Tandav& Alok Kumar , associated with Silk Mark Organisation of India, Mumbai Chapter

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