The town of Gadwal, situated between the rivers Tungabhadra and Krishna, is not just famous for its peaceful co-existence between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, but also for its handloom weaving industry. The famous silk Gadwal sarees are known for their beautiful zari work, well-crafted Kuttu borders and lightweight and easy to maintain fabric, while the cotton-based sarees present a perfect option to the wearer – a rich look and ease of wear. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Origin and history
Mythology tells us that the Gadwal silk weavers are the direct descendants of Jiveshwar Maharaj – the first weaver of Hindu gods and goddesses. The sarees were originally popular as festive and religious wear, worn during pujas and other functions. The weavers of the saree were sent to Benares (now Varanasi) so that they could perfect the art of weaving. However, despite being perfected in Benares, the art takes zero influence from the state of Uttar Pradesh and relies instead on South Indian aesthetics.
Commercial sale of the Gadwal sarees saw a peak in the 1930s when spinning looms and other manual machines came in existence and aided the weavers. History also points to the efforts of late Ratan Babu Rao, a veteran in the trade of handloom sarees who opened a Gadwal centre in Hyderabad in 1946 where the sarees fast climbed the popularity charts and became famous across the country.
One of the most remarkable features of the saree is the admirable zari pattern found on the textile and the well-crafted Kuttu borders. Kuttu is the art of joining in the border and pallu of the saree after it has been woven.
While a pure silk version of the Gadwal saree does exist, the more popular version is where the entire saree is made of cotton, while the borders are designed in pure mulberry silk or tussar (this is also known as the sico saree).
The interwoven weft technique used to design the Gadwal saree is locally known as “Kupadam” and the weaving style for the borders is “Kumbam”.
The silk for the saree is sourced from Bengaluru and the gold for the zari comes from Surat.
One of the most notable features of the Gadwal sarees is that it is extremely lightweight. The sarees can be folded down to the size of a matchbox without being damaged.
Gadwal sarees are also an exciting mix of cotton with silk, which means that while the sarees look extremely dressy, they are easy to wear. So, you can carry it off on any occasion with just the right mix of comfort and fashion.
Shop for Gadwal sarees
The earlier sarees were only available in earthy colours. The major inspiration came from temples and nature respectively, however, with more commercial sales, and the inclusion of dyeing and machinery, the sarees took on a multitude of colours to appeal to a more global audience. Available in contrasting colours, they are the perfect colour blocking garments.
Sticking to its inspiration from temple and nature, the motifs have always been in the shape of temples, and the architecture of religious places. However, with the globalisation of the sarees, you can also see geometric shapes and checks on the nine-yard wonder. The most noteworthy feature remains the zari work, in gold and silver, on the border of the saree, which is always made of silk.
While pure Gadwal silk sarees are available in the market, the more popular and practical options are the sico sarees, which are a combination of cotton and silk.
Current state of the art
The Gadwal form of sarees are highly commercialised and see a huge margin of sales in western countries. One of the main reasons people consider the Gadwal sarees as the best gifting option is its light weight. It can be folded into a shape as small as the matchbox and it hardly has any weight – which means it’s a perfect gift for all those relatives living abroad who are worried about additional baggage.
Of course the traditional touch that the cotton sarees provide are also a great selling factor for the textile.
The sico sarees (with the cotton-silk blend) can cost you anywhere between Rs.6000 and Rs.16,000, while a pure Gadwal silk saree can go up to Rs.20,000.
- Since the pallu of the saree is joined later, always look out for the Kuttu stitches to spot an original.
- Another feature that’ll help you recognise an original handloom saree is that despite being a blend of cotton and silk, the border of the saree will always be made of silk.
Dry cleaning is always recommended for silk sarees, and if you choose to wash it at home, avoid using detergent for the first three washes. Once you wash it, roll it in a white towel to remove the excess moisture and then hang it out to dry. Store in a saree bag or if you can get your hands on a cardboard pipe, roll the saree and store it in the pipe to avoid creases in the silk.
Discover more Indian handlooms and handicrafts.
|KNOW YOUR CRAFT: GADWAL SAREES
|Technique||Handloom||Distinguishing factor||Regardless of whether it is a pure silk or sico saree, the border will always be of pure silk|
|Place of origin||Gadwal, Andhra Pradesh||Materials used||Silk from Bengaluru and zari from Surat|
|Manufacturing hubs||Gadwal, Andhra Pradesh||Time taken to weave||4 to 8 days|
|Type of fabric||Pure silk and sico||Varieties||Pure silk and sico|
|Colours||Earlier only in earthy shades; now in bright contrasting colours||Price||Rs.6,000 onwards for a cotton saree; Rs.20,000 onwards for a pure silk saree|
|Motifs||Temple and nature-inspired motifs as well as geometric shapes and checks||Care||Dry clean the silk variety; wash the cotton variant at home, wrap in towel to remove excess moisture and hang to dry. Roll the saree and store in cardboard pipe to prevent creases.|
Shop for Gadwal sarees