When one thinks of the quintessential Indian woman, the inevitable picture that comes to mind is a beautiful, lithe lady clad in six yards of absolute magnificence. Our land has been blessed with many virtues, one of them being natural fibres that make India home to some of the finest fabrics in the world. And what’s more beautiful than silk? Among the different kinds of silk, tussar silk sarees are a fixture in almost every Indian woman’s wardrobe and rightfully so. Here’s a look at the history of tussar silk and why it is so popular.
The tussar silk moth
Amongst all the types of silk known, tussar distinguishes itself with its unique charm. Its rich texture and natural gold colour makes it akin to a natural treasure which is passed on as inheritance popularly by women of the household. Though traditionally worn mostly as sarees, it can be worn in a number of ways as it looks beautiful in every way. From sarees to kurtas, and zardozi skirts to stoles, tussar reflects the elegance every woman desires. With new designers taking a renewed interest in tussar, it has made its way into the modern office chambers in a formal avatar. So if you want to be fashion correct this season, make space for tussar waiscoats, blouses and skirts in your wardrobe.
Tussar silk is made by the larvae of several species of silk moths. The scientific name of these moths is Antheraea Paphia and they are a part of the group known as Emperor Moths or Saturnids. These moths are embellished by circular markings that look like a mirror. Unlike other silk worms, they live in the wild forests and do not breed on mulberry, which is the common food source for most silk worms. Hence, the silk formed out of their oval, single-shelled cocoons secured the name, ‘wild silk’. When boiled, these extract thin, naturally gold threads.
The history of tussar silk
Classically, tussar silk production has been the forte of the tribals living in the Eastern part of the country. The tribals employed in making the yarn are mostly women who are skilled at their work and highly dedicated to delivering what we see in the markets. It takes them three days of hard work to produce a 10-metre tussar silk cloth.
Tussar shares its history with raw silk and is rooted in the medieval times. It was originally called kosa silk in Sanskrit. Although desi tussar is made throughout India, Jharkhand stands at the peak with the biggest amount of tussar silk being manufactured there. Kharsawa district of this state is the epicentre housing several skilled tribal workers, who have been passing their craft down the generations. This makes them a store house of knowledge and unparalleled technique, which are typical to just them and cannot be replicated. Sericulture being the most viable income generating source, gives the makers a reason to work hard over the silk and deliver fault-free thread.
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The charm of tussar silk sarees
An interesting fact about tussar is that it is the first silk produced by silk moths feeding on leaves other than mulberry, thereby producing silk sarees at a much cheaper cost (read: anywhere from Rs.3000 to Rs.3500). Its elegance combined with the low cost makes it the go-to silk for special occasions. One of its biggest advantages is its property to refract two different shades at different angles. This unique feature makes the wearer of tussar silk stand out easily in a crowd, as every movement is beautifully highlighted in a merry dance of colours.
Tussar is light and one of the most convenient fabrics to drape. What’s more, its porous nature makes it cooler than other silks, perfect for people living in warmer parts of the world.
Tussar silk today
Tussar silk suffered a blow during the Industrial Revolution, as did all other Indian woven fabrics. However, patronage by leading political and movie personalities over the years and the fact that the saree forms a critical part of every Indian woman’s wardrobe helped stimulate the comeback of tussar.
Today, though the market is stable with both national and international interest being taken into consideration, tussar faces the same issues as other weaves. The newer generations do not want to invest so much time and effort and the charm of beautiful silk is slowly losing out. However, leading designers like Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra have experimented with this fabric and come out with what seems to be an entire universe of sarees. The lovely tussar is finding its footing again with government agencies in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand taking active steps in making tussar weaving a viable living option.
Check out the tussar silk saree collection on Craftsvilla.
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