Speak of handloom sarees and you cannot not mention the famous Chanderi sarees. Named after their birthplace, the town of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh, these sarees have been a favourite with women of all classes. And why not, the glossy texture, the light weight and the richness of the fabric are enough to enchant anyone. And any woman who loves handloom weaves is sure to have a few Chanderi sarees in her collection. If you too are drawn by the charm of Chanderi sarees, here are some unknown facts that would blow you away.
1. Though historical records show that Chanderi weaves have been around since the 11th century, references in Indian mythology to the Vedic period suggest that the Chanderi fabric was introduced by Lord Krishna’s cousin Shishupal.
2. Chanderi sarees are referred to as ‘woven air’ because of their transparency and the sheer texture of the fabric. The sarees owe this quality to the high-quality and extra fine yarns that are used in weaving the Chanderi fabric. The yarn used to weave Chanderi fabric doesn’t go through the degumming process to prevent breakage during weaving, giving the fabric its unique shine and texture.
3. Originally, Chanderi fabric was woven with handspun cotton yarn which was as fine as 300 counts, making the fabric as famous as the Muslins of Dhaka. The fine count cotton for Chanderi was extracted from a special root called the Kolikanda. Light yet strong, it gave the fabric a glossy finish.
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4. A craft practised mostly by Muslim weavers in the beginning, it moved to Chanderi when Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to the town and settled down there in 1350. Chanderi was established as the hub of Chanderi weaves in the 17th century when the Mughals established a karkhana dedicated to the craft until 1677 when emperor Aurangzeb ordered to shut it down.
5. Chanderi weaves were revived when the royal family of Scindia extended its patronage to the craft in 1910. It was during this time that gold thread motifs were introduced to Chanderi weaving. However, the craft declined during the British Raj in the 1920s when they started importing cheaper quality mill-made yarn from Manchester via Calcutta, which badly affected the market of handspun cotton Chanderi. The quality of Chanderi fabric further deteriorated in the 1930s with the import of Japanese silk which was introduced in the warp, while cotton was retained in the weft of the Chanderi saree.
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6. The three most popular fabrics used to weave a Chanderi saree are pure silk, chanderi cotton and silk cotton.
7. The butis on Chanderi fabric were woven on the handloom with the use of needles. Separate needles were used to create different motifs. Weavers then coated these motifs with gold, silver or copper dust. Inspired by the Banarasi sarees, some of the motifs used in Chanderi handloom sarees are ashrafi or gold coin, churi, bundi, keri, phul-patti, phul-buta, akhrot, paan, eent, suraj buti, meena buti, kalgi and ghoongra among others.
8. Some motifs exclusive to Chanderi weaves comprise nalferma, dandidar, chatai, jangla, mehndi wale haath. Though available in bold colours like red, black, navy blue and fuchsia, Chanderi sarees are characterised by soft pastel shades.
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