Indulge 14th Anniversary Special: Tamil handloom for your festive wardrobe!
The pandemic has brought about a resurgence of interest in traditional handloom from across Tamil Nadu. Here are 10 local weaves that have come back to the fore and should be a part of your wardrobe
While the back-to-back lockdowns affected most of us in various different ways, one of the biggest changes that happened across all spectrums was an increase in the consumption of online content. In Chennai, while the arts prospered online, one also noticed a sudden increased interest in handloom and the textile culture from Tamil Nadu. Several Instagram Live events and Zoom meetings focuses solely on the nuances of each of these textile traditions that have somehow managed to stay afloat, even in the gravest of situations. We list out 10 weaves from all across the state that are in a frenzied revival process and we add in online sites from where you can buy them. Happy shopping!
Vadamanappakkam Kanchi Cotton Saris
The beginning of Kanchi Cotton Saris goes back to the need to replicate the designs of kanjivaram silks in cotton for those who couldn’t wear these silks because of beliefs in ahimsa (non-violence) or because of climatic conditions and pricing. The kanjivaram border, designs and motifs were replicated in cotton with thread borders. The most popular phase in this trend was the late ’70s, but the saris are available even today. A village called Vadamanappakkam, today in Tiruvannamalai district, and earlier under Kanchipuram (which is 32 kms north of the village) was the centre for this particular weave, but today Kanchi Cottons are being made by many weaver clusters across Tamil Nadu. The original Vadamanappakkam Kanchi Cotton Sari is however still available at select stores in Chennai. Aegean Blue Vadamanappakkam Kanchi Cotton Saree. INR 1,980. studioraga.in
Chettinad Cotton Saris
Today most Chettinad Cotton Saris that one gets in the market are made using a power loom. The yesteryear Chettinad handloom sari, defined by korvai borders and thick 40 thread count cotton, has already become an antique collectable. The driving cause behind this shift is the fact that the power loom version drastically reduces the price. The only way to find these old Chettinad saris is to visit antique dealers at Chettinad. The earthy rustic colour combinations of maroon, mustard and green are classics along with chequered designs on the body. Green Chettinad 1,000 Butta Cotton Sari. INR 3,795. weavesoftradition.com
Madurai Sungudi Cotton Saris
The Sungudi Cotton Sari from Madurai was known for three particular definitive things. Firstly, the hand-tied knotting or kaikattu. Secondly, for its wax printing which resembled a sunnam or a dot. They are also famous for a local form of batik, done free hand or by spray. All these designs are defined by a border, clam dyed in contrast, and known as karai chayam. The labour involved in this process was so intensive that by the time the sari was finally made, a minimum of 30 artisans would have worked on that one piece. While the sari is still available in many places in Madurai itself, finding an authentic piece online requires quite some searching. Available on pre-order. Price on request. DM on Instagram: @sreemathy
Thirubuvanam Silk Saris
Most silk yarn that is used in Tamil Nadu silks is sourced from Kollegal in Karnataka, but the way they treat the yarn in each cluster makes all the difference. The Thirubuvanam Silk Sari is known for its filature of silk and its one side border. One side temple korvai, and sometimes with lesser zari than a kanjivaram sari make it pocket friendly. The cluster also produces grand jangla bridal saris in silk brocade that is mostly woven by Saurashtrian weavers who have made this cluster their home. Available on pre-order. Price on request. DM on Instagram: @sreemathy
Koorainadu Wedding Saris
This sari comes from a small cluster of weavers in Koorainadu, Kumbakonam. In Southern Tamil Nadu, most of the communities have a concept of koorai pudavai — the bride wears a white and red handwoven cotton sari, sometimes dipped in turmeric, during the mangalya dharanam ceremony at a wedding. The tartans and checks of Koorainadu done on silk by cotton were famous even a hundred years ago. The original Koorainadu had the checked design running into the border called kaal irangina kattam (without borders), but, the new more colourful avatar makes for great collectible. Muthu Kattam Dark Violet Koorai Nadu Silk Cotton Saree. INR 4,140. sundarisilks.com
Arani Silk Saris
This is a huge cluster near Kanchipuram that is now famous for bridal saris. Arani makes most of the saris for Kanchipuram markets and they are technologically advanced when it comes to looms and jacquards. They were pioneers in adapting to indigenous use of the jacquard loom since the ’70s and now with electronic jacquards, they make the most stunning designs. They’re famous for their non zari silks and temple borders called thazhampoo rekku. Arani Yellow Checks Sari with Olive-Green Border & Pallu. INR 18,900. kalanjali.com
Devendra Art Silk Saris
The name came from an erstwhile brand called Devendra that used to make cheaper saris out of art silk. The original silk was replaced with art silk made from viscose and cotton, for everyday use. These saris were made in Chennai in Kodambakkam and Parrys. Lot of people wore this sari as a nar madi (saris to be worn by widows) and this was sold in gajams or yards; so one could buy the sari from a cutting of a fabric roll based on the amount of cloth they wanted. Saurashtrian weavers who excel in this weave migrated to Madurai and still make these traditional designs in six yards and nine yards. Silk Cotton Devendra Sari. INR 1,036. loomworld.in
Sikkilnayakanpet Cotton Saris
This cotton sari comes predominantly in four colours — red, black, yellow and white. This town, close to Kumbakonam, was known for making the cloth used in temple canopies and hangings called thombais (traditional hanging cloth pillars used for decoration). The art form used brush kalamkari to achieve these designs and was converted into a sari form by the textile conservator, curator and cultural historian Martand Singh. Three Coloured Sikkilnayakanpet Cotton Sari. INR 9,800. chitralooms.com
Salem Venpattu Veshtis
This pure white silk veshti/dhoti used by bridegrooms is mostly woven by Saurashtrian weavers. The silk veshti can have a zari border or a korvai border in contrast colours of green and arakku (red), called the mayilkann pattern, similar to saris. The cluster also makes white silk shirt yardage. Mayilkan Korvai Dhoti/Veshti with 1.5 Inch Zari. INR 3,300 onwards. smtsilks.com
This is the leading cluster that produces traditional handloom lungis in Tamil Nadu. After the switch to power loom for most lungi weaving, this cluster in Cuddalore District continues its tradition of handloom, something that began here in the early 18th Century. This is one of the only clusters that producers the payadi lungi which is very popular with the Muslim communities across South East Asia. Rich Kurinjipadi Payadi Lungi. INR 539. ulama.co.in
There is a renewed interest in weaves from all across Tamil Nadu and the pandemic allowed enthusiasts to discover the uniqueness of each of these weaves. The stories are many, the heritage: even more interesting! This is a wonderful time for textile lovers and I hope this translates into more sales and profits for our weavers.
— Sreemathy Mohan, entrepreneur and textile enthusiast
The focus has shifted to reviving a plethora of handlooms with the intention to create a space where heritage marries a fresh take on the modern sari wearer. Tamil Nadu’s handlooms are breathtaking and an incredibly imperative bundle of threads in the weft of the nation.
— Bindu Giri, founder and creative director, Bindu Giri Label
The pandemic brought a renewed interest in handlooms from Tamil Nadu but many of us were stuck at home and were feeling low. So, to boost our spirits, we launched a designing contest. The best designs were picked and given to small weavers all across the state
— Jeyasree Ravi, MD, Palam Silks