The silken splendour of kosa

fabrics of india
Last Updated 22 October 2016, 18:37 IST

My recent trip to Chhattisgarh was full of surprises. While the local music, dance and cuisine left me asking for more, so did the kosa silk saree.

Frankly speaking, I had only seen the saree from a distance, but had no idea of the process of its making, and its speciality. On my shopping spree in Raipur, when my friend introduced me to kosa silk, I was mesmerised. Not only did the silk feel soft, but looked very attractive, too.

Exclusive to the state of Chhattisgarh, especially to the cities of Korba and Champa, kosa silk is obtained from silkworms named antheraea mylitta, when they build their cocoons on arjun, sal and saja trees that are native to India. Since antheraea mylitta is a rare silkworm, kosa silk is highly valued by connoisseurs of Indian silks. Though a variety of tussar silk, kosa is known for its sturdiness, and is preferred to pure silk that’s very delicate.

Actually, the kosa silk produced in Champa is regarded as the best silk of its variety, and is much sought after.

Originally made by the Devangan community hailing from various parts of Chhattisgarh, kosa silk is today making its way to fashion shows across the world. It lends itself beautifully to western outfits, as it does to Indian ethnic wear including sarees, lehengas, kurtas and dhotis.

Seeing my interest in the details about kosa silk, one of the shopkeepers was kind enough to show me a cocoon. It was beige in colour, with a golden tinge to it. The natural shades of this silk are honey, cream, light gold and orange, I was told. The silk is then dyed using the pigments of fire flower (locally known as palash, which is the state flower of Jharkhand), the red pollen of some local flowers, and such natural ingredients.

Due to the rarity of kosa worm, sometimes the raw kosa silk yarn is mixed with cotton or polyester. However, I was enlightened on the method of checking the purity of kosa silk. When a few threads of the silk are burnt and they leave a black residue with an unpleasant odour, the fabric is supposed to be pure. However, if it leaves an ash-like residue, then the fabric is considered to be mixed with either cotton or polyester, and hence not pure kosa silk.

Most preferred to be worn during religious ceremonies and auspicious occasions, kosa silk occupies the pride of place in every Chhattisgarh home, I was told. Today, kosa silk has crossed the nation’s borders and is highly sought after by designers in the US, Europe and the Middle East, too.

(Published 22 October 2016, 15:24 IST)

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