Finding mention in poet Avvaiyar’s compositions, attaining much significance in the empires of Chola, Nayaks and others; it was the textiles that had brought the Europeans to the city as they were fascinated by the Madras checks. The checks also travelled to Nigeria, where it became an integral part of the culture, including something to be worn on funerals. This, along with other interesting information about textiles and their history was put forth at the ‘Textile Weaves of Tamil Nadu - Past and Present’ by Sreemathy Mohan on Saturday.
Sreemathy said, “Tamil Nadu textiles have a distinct grammar that hasn’t changed over time. In fact, despite having had different influences — from the Mughals to the British — even the famed Kanjeevarams still can be characterised by the getti pattu (the heavy silk) and the contrast border. In fact, here the colour palette is denoted using terms like mambazham colour for a pleasant shade of yellow or vadamalli colour which is a shade of violet, apart from killi patchai (parrot green) or elai pachai (leaf green) and sometimes, even Rexona green.”
Kalakshetra Green saree
The talk spanning a little more than an hour spoke of the influences that the six yards has witnessed and has yet retained its identity, apart from taking up some of the most exquisite forms and the Saurashtran weavers or Pattunoolkara, who were engaged in the trade.
Closer home in Chennai, Chintadripet area also derives its name from the looms (china thari or small looms) as it was a centre for weavers, in Circa 1734. As many as 230 weaver families were housed here and the small looms were seen across the 15 streets in the area. She added, “Geography and locations, apart from rivers that flowed in the areas, where weaving was popular — all had an impact on the features and designs of the sarees. The weavers in Kancheepuram say that the sheen on the saree is supposed to resemble the sparkling waters of Palar river.”
Textile revivalist Sreemathy Mohan
Unfortunately, the Madurai Sungudi sarees that are also a household name for saree lovers has undergone a sea change, she said. “Madurai was well known for its Saurashtran weavers, and their skill of tie and dye. The sarees from there were called as Sungudi sarees for the small dots that denoted zeroes or sunyam . The original Sungudi-making technique is no more available. Today, they resemble batik or possibly even bandhani prints in some places,” she said.
The Kodali Karuppur sarees were extremely popular during the times of Maratha empire, woven exclusively for the royalty. These were made in the village by the same name in Thanjavur district. Interestingly, the Jamdani technique of weaving, famous in the East, was used. Almost ten years ago, Weavers Service Centre revived it and Kalakshetra Foundation too followed suit some years ago. Sreemathy said, “When Rukmini Devi Arundale took to stage, she not only brought about a revolutionary change to the dance form of Bharatanatyam, which was the forte of devadasis, but also the textiles. In her first production, Kutrala Kuravanchi she came up with a beautiful vadamalli saree with Fanta orange border and a pallu replete with deer, flora and parrot. In fact, Kalakshetra that was also managing its functioning with limited funds used jarigai (zari) only in the area around the waist, that was visible.”
The MS Blue named after its famous patron classical singer MS Subbulakshmi, too has an interesting story behind it. “Known for her sarees that had broad borders and captivating colours, it is said that the singer walked into a Nalli store with a blue thread, asking Muthu Chettiar to make a saree in the colour of the thread. After she wore it for one of her concerts, the shop was flooded with calls with enquiries about the saree,” she said.
MS Blue patronised by MS Subbulakshmi
With a display of revived Kodali Karuppur saree and the Kanjeevaram silk saree from Tulsi Silks that was a hit at the Lakme Fashion Week recently, the audience got a first-hand experience of the variety in silks and cottons from the state.
Dia Mirza flaunts a Kanjeevaram with a musical instrument motif