The Deified Rhythm of the Warp and the Weft – Kanjivaram Weaves

The weave that has pleased the aesthetic sense of a woman from its inception, the weave that is entitled as the “Queen of Silks”, an insignia of every south Indian wedding, ceremony, or occasion – The Kanjivarams, of course.

Why has a saree that has been revered for centuries still lionized? Well, that’s precisely what you will read below.   

The Knit of Antiquity

The Abode of Gods, Kanchipuram, is considered as the purest of all lands by the dyers and weavers till date as Gods were believed to once walk this very soil. 

A minuscule town named Kanchipuram was built by the Pallavas as a place of worship and learning called the ‘Ghatiksthalam’. The Pallavas worshipped Lord Shiva who was a simple ascetic Deity who was offered simple white cotton veshti woven from the finest cotton that grew in the region. Under the Chola Kingdom, Kanchipuram slowly evolved into the “Temple City” with the Cholas being staunch Lord Vishnu’s followers, offering flamboyant robes to the Deity. The simple cotton veshti got a makeover with a silk border embellished with gold by the skilled artisans from Saurashtra known as the ‘pattunulkarars’ thus introducing the ‘Korvai” technique to the world. Gradually cotton was replaced with silk yarn as “Silk” is considered the purest of all.  

The Artisans Associated  

With famous folklores telling tales of Kanchi silk weavers being the descendants of Sage Markandaya, the master weaver who wove tissue from the lotus fiber, this Godly knit has stood the test of time.

During the reign of the Vijaynagar Kings around the 13th Century in Kanchipuram, the Kanjivaram weaves were truly popularized. The famous weaving communities of Andhra Pradesh namely the Devangas and the Saligars extremely skillful in their art migrated to Kanchipuram and the present weavers are believed to be the descendants of these two communities. Krishna Devaraya commissioned these artisans to create weaves for the royal women to wear during special occasions. Families wove together as several hands were needed to wind the thread in the beam. 

An Avatar of the Temple Architecture

With a spiritually evocative system of symbolism in both traditional and secular art, the dexterous Indian artisans truly believe that Divinity is invested in everything around capturing nature’s bountifulness in every art he innovates.

The Kanchipuram famously known as ‘The City of Silk’ is also the ‘The City of Thousand Temples’ with the temple art influence majorly portraying in the weave. The eternal font of inspiration for the weave is the ancient temple architecture flaunting intricate carvings on the pillars, walls, lintels, and dim corridors carved beautifully by the Sthapathi’s. The rich tapestry of exquisite motifs adorning the temple walls is the wondrous mythical yaalis and vyalas, majestically trumpeting elephants, joyously leaping dears, delicately carved floral vines, geometric patterns, fishes, and sensuously carved figurines. The weavers of yore never copied the designs on paper or parchments but were guided by their practical memory offering salutations to the deities by weaving the motifs into the fabric.

The Blueprint of the Weave

Immortalizing the weave is the technique used in the Kanjivaram weaves that have served as a credit to the rich heritage of this temple town.   

In this ancient art of weaving the Devas are believed to live in every point the warp and the weft meet as mentioned in the verses from Thirugnanasambanthar’s “Thiruvasagam”. The experience and the dexterity of a laborious weaver are showcased in these age-old techniques maneuvered in Kanjivaram sarees.  

Being recognized as a Geographical Indication officially by the Government of India from the year 2006-06, a pure Kanji Silk Saree should satisfy all the technicalities involved right from three-ply silk (murukku pattu) to the korvai and petni involved.

Korvai: A simple Tamil word meaning “in sync”, this technique is the Knotting and interlocking of the cotton yarn body and a silk yarn border, with a similar process followed for silk yarn body and border as well. The interlocking has a staggered finish which is the fundamental strength of the Korvai. In a single bordered saree, two wefts are used each for border and body, and for a double bordered saree, three wefts are used one each for body and the two borders. The ancient craft basically requires three-shuttle weaving and interlocking weft to get this effect. 

The Korvai technique makes use of the unique temple motifs taking the form of rows of triangles called ‘mokku’ when smaller and ‘rekku’ when the same designs are larger.   

Petni: This is the pride of the Kanchi weave that involves the highly dexterous time-consuming method of introducing the threads of the pallu in a contrast color to be woven with the body of the saree. The contrast pallu is not woven separately as this technique allows the saree to be one continuous piece by introducing a contrast pallu yarn with the existing body yarn and not woven separately and joined as many have mistaken.   

Benth: The ‘Petni’ is called ‘benth’ further down south in Kumbakonam, Thirubhuvanam, and Salem that use the same technique for weaving contrast pallu sarees.  

To date, the Pattu-nool (silk yarn) comes from Karnataka, and the zari (metallic thread) is procured from Gujarat.

The sarees intricate, rich, and heavier than all weaves, wonderful in color and contrast housing regal motifs, and slightly rough in texture truly justify the meaning of a pure zari-laden silk saree.

Our artisans from Dakshinam Sarees rightly capture the Saga of this Soulful South India weave helping you unleash your royal diva moments every single time you drape the classic Korvai Kanjivaram saree.