The Exotic handlooms of Madhya Pradesh: Chanderi Silk


The gorgeous weave of Chanderi silk which is a famous textile tracing its roots in the heart of India; Madhya Pradesh. This dates back to as early as the 7th century and 2nd century B.C. Ashok Nagar being the central location for the world-famous hand loom Chanderi silk. The central region witnessed the maximum production of chanderi silk and rose to proximity in the 11th century to the arterial ports of Gujarat, Malwa, Mewar and Deccan regions. Chanderi silk further rose to popularity in the 12th and 13th century when the Royals began wearing this traditional attire. Made of real gold and silver thread work, Chanderi is regarded as one of the most elite handlooms of ancient India.

 

The tales of Chanderi fabric dates back to the times of Lord Krishna when his cousin Shishupal cited the use of Chanderi in the ancient literature. Also, one can find its mention in the old books like Maasir-i-Alamgir where Aurangzeb ordered the use of cloth embroidered with gold, silver and zari for making the khilat (a ceremonial robe or other gift given to someone by a superior). The grace and beauty of this fabric is enhanced by the fringes embellished with gold and silver threads. Transparency and softness of this fabric favored royal patronage and was also exported overseas. The rich upper-class women of the highbrow society favored the exotic handloom of chanderi silk to reflect the essence of Indian traditional wear.

As the aristocrat and royal families preferred the gorgeous weave of Chanderi silk being the royal lineage because of the authentic use of gold and silver threads emanating the unique sheer texture and intricate embroidery.

Weaving Process

Have you ever wondered the skill of weaving Chanderi has been practiced in families for generations? The precious and royal fabric of Chanderi is regarded as the shining example of India’s textile industry and holds a special place in the hearts of Indians. The skilled artisans have been practicing the art of weaving this peculiar form of handloom since ages which is also one of the reasons that the new-age power looms do not justify the handcrafted embroidery of the ancient art.

 

The art of making chanderi requires the use of handspun cotton which is as fine as 300 count, which is similar to the glamourous Muslins of Dhaka. The fine count cotton of Chanderi is extracted from the roots of Kolikanda which is mostly light and soft, it exudes a glossy finish that further gives a shining sparkling appearance to the Chanderi textile. This is quite a famous form of handloom amongst the princely communities of Mughals and Rajputs. The fabric involves the weaving of warp, set out threads, which passes through the weaves of weft in a regular motion. This practice of weaving Chanderi continued on the white an off-white cloth which was later embellished gold and zari weave. This tradition was only till the 1920’s. The thread cotton in a warp consists of 4000 to 17000 while in the weft, mercerized cotton raw silk or katan is also used.

Today, raw silk, which is 20-22 deniers thick, is used in the warp in most of the sarees. Silk not only imparts a lustrous effect but also makes it stronger. Silk is mixed with zari in the warp to make a tissue saree. Weaving a chanderi silk is quite a tedious process that allows the weavers to sit side by side on the loom. However, with the introduction of the power loom the fabric is now easily woven. Earlier, the yarn of weaving employed natural dyes for coloring. Nowadays, chemical dyes are used for the coloring of the fabric.

Things like fruits, vegetables, flowers etc are used to extract the color for the dye. Spinning a Chanderi silk takes about six months to a year.

Special Aesthetics

Chanderi weaving is referred to as woven air weaving which imparts transparency and sheer texture to the fabric. This contributes to the high-quality and fine yarns of the cloth embroidered with gold and silver threads. The yarn used to weave Chanderi doesn’t go through the degumming process that helps in preventing breakage of the thread during weaving, this gives a soft sheer glossy finish to the textile and the fabric further owes transparency due to this.

The distinguishing features of this fabric includes the use of motifs like peacocks, celestials, lotuses, coins, geometric patterns, artistic intertwining patterns and figures of animals.

Chanderi silk sarees are generally found in pastel colors like blush pink, ice blue, mint or even lavender hues. However, with the modern times kicking in, vibrant combinations of violet, fuschia, red, black, turquoise is also used. The motifs on the Chanderi silk sarees take their inspiration from the benarsi silk Ashrafi, paan, eent, akhrot, sooraj buti, meena buti etc. When these butis expand in size, they are referred to as he butas. This delicate handwoven Chanderi fabric gives them an upper-class feel while they are also an absolute favorite of the elite too.

Varieties

Traditionally, Chanderi was available only in the signature white, off-white or small chequered white silk, a gold chequered, a gold broad border embroidered Chanderi silk were often draped by the Indian women in the earlier times. However, the most popular fabrics to weave Chanderi are mainly pure silk, silk cotton, chanderi silk.

 

There are over 3500 looms working today and over thousands are dependent on this craft to support their living. The Government of India has also petitioned to the World Trade organization for the recognition of this exotic craft at a global level.

Ever since the Ex. Textile Minister, Smriti Irani brought the revival of handloom by promoting the use and sales of the ancient Indian fabric, the fashion designers also came forward to support their stand on #IWearHandloom. Designers like Soham Dave who loves to work and experiment on a canvas of Chanderi fabric has garnered enough attention by endorsing celebrities like Kareena Kapoor Khan in a black chanderi silk saree.

How to identify an authentic Chanderi silk saree?

 The buti embroidery is intricately woven on the surface f the Chanderi silk saree.

They have a soft unique texture with fair transparency and glossy finish

It will have an uneven surface.

These handwoven Chanderi silk sarees have their treads at the edges coming out easily. This shows the purity and chastity of the silk saree.

Image Courtesy: 1. Artist India, 2. Faking News, 3. Design Menu, 4. Fashion Lady, 5. Fashionpro

Pure Elegance


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