Chanderi sari: poetry woven in thread

Traditional opulence

Chanderi sari: poetry woven in thread
The small town of Chanderi, nestled in the valley surrounded by the majestic Vindhyachal Mountains in Madhya Pradesh, is best known for the six-yard wonder, spun in cotton, silk and zari, known as the Chanderi sari. Walk into any of the numerous shops lining the streets of this quaint town and you will find shelves-upon-shelves of shimmering, soft-hued Chanderis in a variety of colours, patterns and prices. These woven wonders are the result of painstaking work by the local weavers, most of whom are women.

Over 5,000 families are part of this cottage industry, and the loom occupies the pride of place in every weaver’s home. As with most Indian handlooms and handicraft, the skills of Chanderi weaving are mostly passed down from one generation to another.

Chanderi saris are known for their rich gold border, opulent embroidery and light feel. While a simple sari may take a day to weave, elaborate ones can take almost a month. Woven out of pure silk, Chanderi cotton or silk cotton, these saris are very light with an elegant feel to them, and hence a favourite with the rich and the elite. The motifs used are also interesting, the popular ones being floral and geometric. Considered among the finest saris of India, Chanderi is considered as poetry woven in thread.

While a genuine Chanderi is quite expensive, costing up to a few thousands, it is worth every penny, considering the intricacy of artistry involved in its making. And, of course, the amount of effort gone into its weaving.

“The raw materials required for the weaving of these saris, like the cotton, silk and gold threads, are generally sourced from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Sometimes, we even import them from China, Korea and Japan. If the raw materials were available locally, then the cost wouldn’t have been much,” says Munna, whose family has been in the Chanderi weaving business for generations now.
However, it is sad to note that the Chanderi trade is on the decline, owing to the easy availability of fake Chanderis that are priced cheaply. “It is definitely a cause for concern. But, we know no other trade. Our life begins and ends with Chanderi saris,” he adds.

The town of Chanderi, according to myths, was founded by Lord Krishna’s cousin, while history records it as the empire of King Ched, dating back to the 6th century BC. Apart from its exquisite Chanderi saris, it is also home to a rich cultural heritage including several monuments and statues that are worth visiting.

So, the next time you visit Madhya Pradesh, you know where to head — Chanderi.

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