Traditionally made by weavers from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, the Kanchipuram silk sari is distinguished by its wide contrast borders. They are hand-woven in the narrow lanes of the quaint town by the same name. The old town of Kanchipuram is renowned for its magnificent temples of unique architectural beauty bearing eloquent testimony to its glorious Dravidian heritage.
Legend and history
According to legends in Hindu mythology, Kanchi silk weavers are the descendants of Sage Markandeya, the master weaver of Gods who is supposed to have woven tissue from lotus fibre. Also, while cotton is considered to be the favourite fabric of Lord Shiva, silk was preferred by Lord Vishnu. History has it that Kanchipuram rose to eminence during Krishnadevaraya’s reign (400 years back), when two weaving communities – the Devangas and the Saliyars transmigrated to Kanchipuram from the neighboring state Andhra Pradesh. Primarily because within this seemingly minuscule town there were more than 129 finely crafted temples, and silk was always considered the ceremonial wear at religious rituals and weddings. The Devanga and Saliyar weavers were reputed for their silk weaving skills; even today the main profession of the people living in and around Kanchipuram is weaving silk sarees.
Kanchipuram sarees are hand woven from pure mulberry silk. The industry here is only made up of handloom weavers and merchants and does not manufacture silk or any other raw material that goes into the silk saree. The main raw materials are mulberry silk thread, metallic thread (Zari) and dye. This enhances the beauty and the value of the silk saree. The mulberry silk thread comes from the neighboring state of Karnataka, the metallic thread comes from Gujarat, and the dyes too are not manufactured in Kanchipuram. But all these materials are brought here, and the skilled artisans weave them on handlooms, creating a unique hand-made work of art in each saree. If the pallu has to be woven in a different shade, it is first separately woven and then delicately joined to the saree using age-old Korvai method (a technique to interlock the border and pallu with the body). The joint is woven so strongly that even if the saree tears, the border would not detach.
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