Kanchipuram Sari - Tamil Nadu's Ever-Lasting Silk

2013 Sep 30 - by Nadya
Hailing from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, these brocade saris are made from heavily woven silk. They have wide borders (korvai) made of either colored silk thread or zari (fine gold thread) and their pallus feature simple stripes that come from tribal tradition.

Silk Road 2.5 - Kanchipuram Silk Sari

The raw silk itself comes from Bangalore and is washed in the waters of Kanchipuram.  This is what gives Kachipuram silk it's lustrous sheen.  The zari threads come from Surat in Gujurat.

Kanchipuram saris are traditionally woven in three parts - the pallu, border, and body of the sari are all made separately and then delicately interlocked. This is done because they are often subtly different shades.  The pallu is darker or lighter than the body while the border is a contrast piece.  The part where the pallu meets the body is usually denoted by a zig-zag line.

Kanchipuram silk is hand spun with a thick gauge and a variegated sheen, much like dupioni silk.  And as thick silk is considered more valuable, Kanchipuram saris are some of the most expensive and valuable saris sold in India.

A single Kanchipuram silk sari can go for anywhere between $38-1,500.  They are only worn for special occasions.

Silk Road 2.5 - Kanjivaram Silk Weaving

Kanchipuram saris are a staple in Indian tradition in the South as they date back over 700 years to the Vijayanagara Dynasty. Common motifs for Kanchipuram silk include suns, moons, chariots, peacocks, parrots, swans, lions, coins, mangoes, leaves, and jasmine buds.

According to legend, the weavers that make Kanchipuram silk are descendants of Sage Markanda, the master weaver of the Gods who is supposed to have woven fine fabric from lotus petals. Kanchipuram silk is also fabled to last forever.

Silk Road 2.5 - Kanjivaram 2

Since 2005, Kanchipuram silk saris come with a Geographical Indication label that guarantee its origins in Tamil Nadu.  So be sure to check for this label when you buy one.

Photos courtesy of The Kanjivaram Society

Sources: Indian Textiles by John Gillow & Nicholas BarnardSari Safari, The Usual Things, and The Kanjivaram Society

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