Chanderi Saree of Madhya Pradesh

Chanderi Saree of Madhya Pradesh
Chanderi Saree of Madhya Pradesh

Chanderi, a town in the state Madhya Pradesh in India, produces the world famous Chanderi Silk Sarees that have a rich heritage, are exquisitely hand woven and fabricated by mixing cotton and silk. Creation of unique buttis or motifs and the transparent or sheer texture of Chanderi fabric are the two prime characteristics that distinguishes it from other hand-loom fabrics.

Chanderi Sarees Fabric :

Chanderi Saree Fabric
Chanderi Saree Fabric

Transparency or sheer texture is a unique feature of Chanderi fabric that differentiates it from other textiles produced across India. The transparency of this fabric is because of the use of single flature quality of yarn. When glue of a raw yarn is not separated from it, the non-degumming renders a shine and transparency to the finished fabric which produces a flature yarn.

Historical Significance :

Chanderi is known to have its origin back in the Vedic Period, and is believed to have founded by Lord Krishna’s cousin, Shishupal. Chanderi town is bordered by beautiful hills ranging across southwest of the Betwar river and monuments belonging to the royal Bundela Rajputs & Malwa sultans. Thus, Chanderi gave birth to the beautiful & artistic Chanderi Sarees which are loved by all!Saree traces its roots in the 2nd half of 20th century. Since then the methodologies & equipments to produce a saree evolved with time.In the year 1910, Chanderi sarees were patronized by the royal family of Scindia and it was during that period when golden thread motif made its presence in the cotton muslin saree for the first time. But during the Mughal reign, popularity of this fabric reached new heights and was the most favored choice of queens in India.The discovery of Japanese silk post Industrial Revolution in 1930, gave a new dimension to the Chanderi Sarees. Now the sarees were more silky therefore finer quality. 

Chanderi Sarees Weaving:

Originally the Chanderi fabrics were the lightest Muslins, even better than Dacca Muslin, woven in fine handspun cotton yarn.The import of mill spun 120 to 200 count Manchester yarn via Culcutta in the late 18th and the early 19th Century, wiped out this local strain of Chanderi Cotton. Chanderi weaving flourished from somewhere around 14th century till silk was introduced in 1930s.

The Handspun Cotton yarn spinned by the community called Katiyas were upto 200s to 300s counts.The fabrics were completely plain, had a very narrow border of complementary-zari warp and for the saris in addition to these borders the end pieces contained a few narrow zari bands, or one single wider band TS. Chanderi was also well known for weaving an extremely fine zari patti or zari band as selvedge , known as the Piping Kinar. The sizing medium for the fine count cotton in Chanderi was prepared from a special root collected from nearby forests, called the Kolikanda. It remained light and giving it strength as well as a round polish finish.The sizing brush was dipped in coconut oil which gave it greater suppleness.

The fabrics, saris were woven in Throw shuttle pit looms. Both the Golden borders and the Cotton body were woven by using the time consuming three shuttle ‘Naal pherna’ technique (two shuttles for both the golden borders and one shuttle for the cotton body) which required two weavers at a time.  The saris woven with this three shuttle weave were called ‘Nalferwan’ saris .

Even today in the classic Chanderi sari layout, the end piece consisted of the border elements repeated twice (as two parallel bands) often with narrow woven lines and many buttis woven in between them.Butti would  also appear in the field.

Chanderi Saris Motifs :
Chanderi Saree with Peacock Motif
Chanderi Saree with Peacock Motif
Chanderi Saree with Parrot Motif
Chanderi Saree with Parrot Motif
Chanderi Saree with Gold Lotus Motif
Chanderi Saree with Gold Lotus Motif

Chanderi Saree with Peacock Feather Motif
Chanderi Saree with Peacock Feather Motif

The usual motifs are flowers, sprays, round buties (asrafis) and net patterns (jaal). Sunrise and temple border are also a specialty. Ginni, or coin, is a traditional Chanderi motif. Motifs are drawn from the Earth and sky, hunting Scenes, the tree of life, birds, fruits, flowers, man-woman, heavenly bodies. Great care is given to the buti or motif in the body which enriches the design. A variety of motifs are used such as Ashrafi, Churi, Phul- Patti, Phul-Buta, Bundi, Keri, Baddi Ka Phul, Akhrot, Paan, Suraj Buti, Eeth, Kirkita, Rui Phul Kinar, Meena Buti, Kalgi, Ghoongra, Khajura, Dunaliya, Iknaliya Buti, Iknaliya Buti and Geometric designs are also used. These motifs are used in borders, pallav and main field of the sari. Plain saris are also woven, sometimes zari is also used.

Chanderi Saree Colors :

The Chanderi saris which were woven in the natural white cotton, and were then washed in saffron to give them their charecteristic golden hue and fragrance. Interestingly the colour was introduced to Chanderi in nineteen fifties only

Chanderi sari is known for soft colors and the perfect balance between the border and the body of the saree.These sarees have a rare fusion of soft and contrasting colors.The traditional colors are pastel shades of green, peach, pink, and blue. Cream and off white is also used now.

However, to meet present day demand dark colours also have been introduced. The hues and shades of the fabric are referred to in the vernacular as follow

    Dalimbi (deep pink)
    Angoori (grapevine)
    Rani (deep mauve pink)
    Gul Bakshi (magenta)
    Jaamla (purple)
    Kassni (light violet)
    Aamrak (golden)
    Chintamani (peacock blue)
    Kesari (red)
    Tapkeeree (deep brown)
    Mehndi (olive green)
    Phalsa (maroon)
    Katthai, Pyaazi (mauve)

Decline of Chanderi Sarees:

Over the years Chanderi saris have undergone many changes.The handspun yarn, which gave the fabric its gossamer quality, has been replaced by imported silk in the warp and by mill made cotton thread or unboiled silk in the weft. In 1920s The British  imported cheaper 120 to 200 count cotton mill made yarn from Manchester via Calcutta,which greatly eroded the market for the original handspuned cotton Chanderi fabric. It is said that around 1930 Japanese silk came to Chanderi via Calcutta and was introduced in to the warp, while cotton was retained in the weft of the Chanderi sari. Since the single silk warp yarn is not degummed the threads tend to crack and break, if the fabric is kept in a folded condition for a long time.These substitutions have led to deterioration in the quality of the Chanderi sari.

Chanderi Sarees Furture:

Chanderi Sarees have have made a place in the closets of top Bollywood actreses like Mini Mathur, Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor. Designers are prsenting this traditional saree on top fashion shows to popularize this art.The production is protected by the Government of India as a Geographic Indication (GI). (GI) is a sign that is used on products manufactured in a certain geographic location using local traditional methods and have certain reputation because of the place they have originated from.
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