by Chitra Balasubramaniam , a freelance journalist

[This article appeared in the earlier issue of Silk Mark Vogue]

Tasar silk is quite familiar to all of us, one of the most popular of silks today, tasar is liked for its inherent sheen, texture and of course the range of its natural colours. But how many of us are familiar with the fact that tasar was first discovered during the Indus Valley Civilisation?  No this is not conjecture or just an off the cuff remark. It is an archaeologically proven fact recently. In a paper published titled New Evidence for Early Silk in the Indus Civilisation by I.L. Good, J.M. Kenoyer and R.H. Meadow in Archaeometry 51, 3 (2009), University of Oxford, talks of the use of silken threads in the Indus Valley Civilisation. To be precise, the words written by  J M Kenoyer and R H Meadow are, “This unique discovery of a coiled copper-alloy wire necklace (H2000/2242-01) has traces of fibers preserved on the inside. Recent studies indicate that the fibers are from the wild silk moth, Antheraea mylitta, commonly called “Tasar” silk today (Irene Good, J. M. Kenoyer and R. H. Meadow 2008). This necklace dates to Harappa period 3B (circa 2450-2200 BC) and is the earliest evidence for silk in South Asia. Its discovery demonstrates that silk production may have first been used to make fine threads for necklaces and only later used for weaving fabrics. The copper wire on this necklace is also among the earliest evidence for finely made wire in the Indus Valley. This type of wire is likely to have been made by drawing the wire through a series of graduated perforations. (Source: www.harappa.com/indus3/218.html). A path breaking discovery indeed! A knowledge which instills in us a sense of pride at the antiquity of tussar which we take it for granted.


The road from the silk yarn to the weave and innovation in its current form has traversed nearly over 4000 years. Today, the mantra is “Green” and organic – whether it is fabric, food or any other product, there is this emphasis on natural. The world is embracing natural fibers, yarns and fabrics with a vengeance. And the tasar fits in snugly into this definition of natural, organic silk, green fabric, wild silk… Every country is taking measures to boost its contribution to natural fibres both plant and animal. A further boost to the movement was given with the United Nations celebrating 2009 as the International year of Natural fibres. Tasar did find a place of pride in the listing. It is to the credit of tasar that it is as relevant and contemporary now as it was during the Indus Valley Civilisation.

India is a virtual treasure trove of silk, the only country in the world to produce both mulberry and the distinct types of non mulberry silk (Tasar, Muga and Eri). The grandeur tales of how India’s famed silks were exchanged for gold, silver and other precious metals is what history is made of. . Cut to the present, the mulberry silk rules the market with the non-mulberry varieties forming just a small portion of the production. What however undeniable is its “expensive, royal, sophisticated, very elite, exclusive image”. With these attribute associations; silk is more of an exclusive product, aimed at the niches in the higher end of the market. Tussar affords excellent potential in the domestic and export markets. The applications are varied, the innovations mind boggling, the design and motif potential unlimited. The potential of tasar as they say is yet to be unleashed! Unconvinced try this, at the recent Handloom fair during Dial at Dilli Haat, the predominant stalls were from the Tussar belt (Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam) now offered so much variation in tasar that it was unbelievable. Each stall had something different and the business – brisk with contemporary designs flying off like hot cakes. The range encompassed both fabrics, wearable tasar (salwar suits, shawls, stoles, sarees) to quilt fabrics, furnishing material and throws.

Tussar is produced by special silkworms – Antheraea mylitta and Antheraea proylei which feed on leaves other than the mulberry. The colour of the silk depends on the leaves on which the worms feed and the climatic conditions of the region where it is being reared. Thus the range of natural shades – ranging from cream, off white, light honey brown, deeper shades of brown, beige…It is slightly coarse (yes it is not smooth and soft like mulberry silk), given that it is reared in the wild – in the forest, it is also called Wild Silk. It has a natural sheen which gives the silk a very rich natural appearance. Internationally Tasar silk is called tussah or tusseah silk and is very popular amongst hand knitters and weavers. Tasar yarn has a huge export potential as it is combined with wool and other fancy yarns and is the preferred choice of knitters. The tasar yarn gives it the certain exotica.  Popularly called Kosa silk, the areas of Raigarh, Bastar produce some of the finest quality of tasar – raila. Several weavers refer to this as desi. Tasar from Bhagalpur is legendary.

Historical Speak

Apart from its linkages to the Harappan Civilisation, Tasar has found a pride of place and has been mentioned in travel accounts of voyagers to India. It has also been extensively used in Exhibitions of Handicrafts held in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The use of Kosa or Tasar has been documented in writings on Industrial Arts of India and in Exhibition Catalogues of British Raj. Sir George Watt in his book Indian Art at Delhi 1903 talks of Central provinces, “the most important part of silk craft in these Provinces is the production and utilization of tasar in Bilaspur, Raipur, Sambalpur and Chanda Districts. In the Sambalpur tasar saris, the end-piece and borders are dyed yellow or crimson and occasionally blue. He also speaks of Amru silks of Benares which had tasar silk warp and weft of imported cotton. The Imperial Gazetteer of India Vol III Economics, quotes of embroidery with Tasar done on Lucknowi Chikan especially to fill the petals, of Bengal handloom factories which predominantly shifted to using tusar.

Kamala Devi Chattopadyay, the doyen of Indian Handicrafts, thanks to whose efforts a number of crafts are alive today, writes in her book Handicrafts of India, “Ganeshpur, in Bhandara district of Maharashtra, has almost half the working population engaged in tasar silk weaving. It is almost a monopoly of the koshti community. They too claim to be descended from sage Markanda known to have woven the first fabric from the lotus fibre to clothe the gods.”  Tasar silk is also known by its Sanskrit name of Kosa.

Traditional leanings

Tasar has been used in traditional sarees, fabrics woven in the country. Orissa’s single ikkat – patola is woven in tussar. It is further adorned with motifs of fish, rudraksha, simple flowers, conch…. The colours use the natural colouration of tussar to vantage. Maharashtra tussar silk comes with an eye catching combination of again creamish to brown tussar silk with contrast borders in earthy maroons, orange, blue, green… the border further ornamented with rudraksha motifs or small kairies. In Bengal it is the base for Kantha embroidery. It works as a substitute for mulberry silk to bring down the cost. Kamala Devi Chattopadyay writes in the same book on some of the varieties in tasar weave, “motha choukada is a design in big squares, woven from the mixture of kosa yarn and mercerized cotton and lahan choukada is small squares. The gunja salai consists of diagonal designs on the cloth along with coloured lines at regular intervals, in green, blue or orange. Other varieties are teen-dhari choukada, the square patter, rasta choukada, squares with horizontal lines running through and so on.”

Today the ornate and complicated motif has its own admirers. The grand pallav, the body filled with motifs and bhutis routine is woven and bought with gusto. Here it is worked with lurex, kantha embroidery, Worli images, Madhubani paintings, Kalamkari, simple block prints, jacquard loom weaving……  The piece de resistance is the Orissa tasar saree – single ikat.  These are available in natural shades of tussar with contrast ikat borders alter in single or short colours with ikat borders.  “Kora” original coloured tasar sarees with woven borders are extremely popular amongst working women as it can be used for formal occasions and daily wear.

Contemporary Avtaar

What has seen Tussar emerge as a winner in recent times is the degree of innovation and experimentation that has taken place with tussar. Be it in yarn combinations, weave, colours and motifs. Tasar is being combined with manmade and natural fabrics. It is combined with pashmina (lena), muga silk, eri, it is teamed with wool, with lurex, noil, viscose, cotton and mulberry silk to create some exotic stoles, sarees and shawls. The introduction of Oak Tussar in areas not the traditional bastion of Tasar has given it a further boost. Oak tussar is being increasingly popularized in the Hills – Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram….. Oak tussar from Uttaranchal has seen innovations. The spearheading was done by NGOs working in this sector which roped in NID and NIFT designers to create some contemporary designs. Active in this area of weaving are several NGOs and co-operatives, including: Avani, Panchachuli, Appropriate Technology India, Kumaon Grameen Udyog. Similar innovation has also come up in the traditional tussar belt, leading the foray has been BMKS – Berozgar Mahila Kalyan Samiti, (BMKS), based in Bhagalpur, Bihar.

What stands out is that today tasar is combined with a variety of yarns which gives the products a definitive edge. It is this wealth of natural yarns with which the designers are really experimenting with. The tasar pashmina combination is increasingly being woven into sarees dyed in deep shades and with beautiful block prints. Given the novelty it is a hot seller as a weaver seller from Himachal Pradesh put it, “I don’t know why but this is very popular in Delhi, though finds little takers near our village.” It has also been experimented with mica prints.


Apart from the combination of yarns, the experimentation with the weaving technique has given the tasar an entirely new look.  Weaves commonly seen in fabric weaving are being applied to weaving saris. So there is twill, herringbone, satin, diamond which when combined with the interesting and different colour palette makes the creation stand out. The designs again are not ornate or extremely complicated, just the basic stripes, checks, squares are woven in beautiful colour combinations. A weaver reveals the range of designs as, “Chashma bulbul which is actually a bird’s eye, machli kanta – fishing hook, Dangching, khapa, simple lines and geometrical squares. Designs which have been lifted from Kullu are called well, Kullu designs, while that of Almora – Almora designs.” The entire length of the sari could be in this design or it could be mixed with simple plain weaving. The ornate and extremely complicated patterning is being done away with and in turn replaced by play with geometrics, basic stripes, checks, square with colour combinations. Combining two or more weaves in one shawl is very common. Also unlike typical shawls it does not lay emphasis on borders and ends. So reversal of techniques like motifed body of the shawl with plain borders, simple gingham checks, squares in bright colours are all part of the scheme.


Not to be left far behind are the combination of colours. Traditionally tasar has been woven in its natural colouring with value additions being done using block prints, painting, contrast coloured motif weaving or embroidery. The contemporary creations pick up the choicest of shades from the colour palette, combining it with unbridled freedom. Colours usually seen on international platforms or as colours of the season are now increasingly being seen on the desi versions. The weaving is no longer single colour or multiple but it is not unusual to see three to four shades along the warp and the weft. The result a riot of colour based gradation in the sarees and fabrics. So it is not unusual to see a shawl in green red where the warp is made of three different colours or vice versa with the three different shades used in the weft. It is this soft interplay of colours which gives it the very contemporary look. Similarly borderless sarees or sarees with single colour block borders, the body combining two or three shades of the same colour. Each of which is different and reverting. This beautiful base is further worked with over dyes, washes, embroidery, block printing, hand painting….So it is not unusual to see a tasar silk woven in Jharkhand then worked on by Kalamkari artists or Kasuti embroiderers or even sujni embroiderers. The result in an eclectic truly different piece. Some very interesting work using traditional chippa printing has been done by Raghunath Nama – Master Craftsman. An interesting outcome of several of these designs is that the saree or stole become do rookha and can be worn either ways. Like Tussar on the weft and and wool on the warp, do rookha style where the stole can be worn either ways. One weaver had come out with a saree which could actually be worn any way meaning the both ends could become the pallav, as also the do rookha interchanging of the sides; black with shot pink.

Further innovation is the use of natural dyes and vegetable colours. Though synthetic and chemical colours are used, there is a shift towards using only natural dyed colours. This has really caught on with the export market.  So Walnut, Henna, Indigo, Madder, Harda…..are all being used to derive some beautiful colours. Some unusual colours not seen commonly in natural dyed fabrics can also be seen like pretty lilacs, turquoise blue, pinks etc.

Use in furnishing

Tasar is being increasingly used in the furnishing industry and very popular for made ups. It is very popular in accessories, throws, as fabrics for furnishing and of course for garments. The structure of the fabric allows it to be stitched in any form.

So the entire range, throws, cushion covers, upholstery material, curtains, quilts….gets made from it. It is also popular in patchwork and appliqué.  Some international interior designers prefer the saree (tasar, over dyed, embroidered….) fabric to work into their own designs for the home. Given the emphasis on designs, weaves and colour combinations, the results are fabulous. The colour combination works to highlight the weaves very subtly, giving the piece a remarkably self design appearance..  Another fact which works in favour of tasar fabrics is the cost of experimentation is not very high. Ghisa and matka varieties are very popular in the furnishing market. What works for furnishing especially in the export market is that it is rich, has a natural earthy colouring both of which gives it that extra jazz. The colours bringing out the rugged look, patterns from textured effects, stripes to jacquard.

Tasar is haute and with experimentation will transcend greater heights. What is humbling is that the silk, over which we go gaga, where export targets are laid, is a silken thread which bridges the continuity of civilization. This year it found representation in the State Tableau of the Republic Day. From Indus Valley to the present day Republic Day Rally, it is indeed a thread of antiquity.


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The Grace and Glory of Banarasi Sarees

Shri. Devender Singh, B.Tech (Textiles),LLB.,MBA

[This article appeared in one of the issue of Silk Mark Vogue]

Saree is the national dress of Indian women and plays an integral part in a woman’s life. They are the most popular choice for Indian women and are preferred taking into consideration Indian values, ethos and tradition. Banarasi Saree is an Indian woman’s coveted possession. For a long time Banarasi Saree has been an important part of the Indian bride wardrobe and rarely fails to flatter a woman, making her feel delicate and feminine. Varanasi (or Banares) is one of the most prominent centres of silk handloom weaving in India. The most famous product of Varanasi’s handlooms is the Banarasi silk saree, which is most in demand in weddings as well as bridal dress.

History of Banares Sarees

In fact, the tradition goes far back that sarees are mentioned in the Mahabharata (one of the two epics that play an important part of Hindu mythology), which dates between 1000 and 300 B.C. Indian saree market divides itself broadly into two; traditional bridal and designer segments.

When we talk about wedding or bridal sarees, the first kind of saree strikes in our mind is Banarasi sarees that comes in various designs, colours and textures such as embroidered Banarasi sarees, silk Banarasi sarees, designer Banarasi sarees, cutwork sarees, Butidar sarees, tissue sarees, etc. On the occasion of wedding ceremony an Indian bride clad in Banarasi designer saree complete with her solah sringar, that the looks like are beyond description.

These stunning sarees are woven in Varanasi, the oldest city in the world. In ancient times, weavers of Indian Banarasi sarees took inspiration for designs from Jasmine, Thousand Emeralds, Marigold flower, Betel nut leaf, Diagonal stripes, Corner-motif with a mango flower etc.


The famous Varanasi saree made in the holy city of Banaras in the state of Uttar Pradesh and  since the ancient times is ranked among the finest traditional sarees of India. These sarees are quite heavy due to its rich embroidery and are donned by Indian women only during special occasions like wedding, parties and festivities.

The zardozi work and other thread embroidery will make this saree look elegant, classic yet fashionable. Heavy sequins, beads, and buttas will add glamour and shimmer to the saree. You can also grab a net and Banarasi combined wedding saree for marriages. Colors like maroon, brown and red in combination with green and golden will definitely stand out uniquely enhancing your stature. Banarasi silk sarees are traditionally made in four varieties: pure silk (Katan), organza (Kora), Georgette saree, and Shatir saree. Traditional designs of the brocade include jasmine (chameli), thousand emeralds (panna hazar), marigolds (genda buti), betel nut leaves (paan buti), diagonal stripes (tircha) and the corner motif with a mango flower (konia). Originally the sarees were embellished with threads made from real gold and silver for use by the royal family. In modern times, this has been replaced by gold and silver-colored thread, making the sarees affordable for the general population.

Created in eye-catching shades and pattern, the Banarasi sarees of India are so famous today that they are exported all over the world.  Woven on the handloom, attached with dobby or Jacquard mechanism, normally three people are required to make one Varanasi saree. Production of a Banarasi silk saree may take 15 days to six months to complete depending upon the intricacy of the designs. Banarasi saree manufacturing hubs are located in areas like Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh.

Making of a Banarasi Silk Saree

An ideal Banarasi Saree comprises of  around 5600 thread wires, all of them within 45-inch wide. In case of weaving the warp, the craftsmen make the base, which is around 24 to 26 m long. One of the most important aspects of weaving Banarasi silk sarees of India is the teamwork involved. Typically, three weavers are involved in the creation of the saree. One of them weaves the saree, while the second one is engaged at the revolving ring, where bundles are created and the third in assisting the border designing.

At the time of bundling a new process of designing the motifs begins. For creating design boards, an artist   sketches the design on a graph paper, along with color concepts. Before selecting the final design, punch cards are created. A single design of an Indian Banarasi saree requires hundreds of perforated cards for the implementation of the idea. Different threads and colours are used on the loom to knit the prepared perforated cards. The knit perforated cards are then paddled in a systematic manner. This is done to ensure that the main weaving picks up the right colors and pattern.

Resurgence of Banarasi silk Sarees

Reports suggest that Indian silk is being exported to around 200 countries and the demand is increasing steadily particularly from the American and the European countries. India stands second only to China in silk production. Varanasi is known for its silk a time-tested icon of craftsmanship. The Banarasi silk saree industry is the mainstay of the holy city and adds considerably to the Indian silk export basket.


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Pochampally Sarees A Sheer Delight for Women of Fashion

Written by :  B. Chandankumar, Assistant Director(Insp.), SMOI, Central Silk Board, Hyderabad

Pochampalli – the silk city of Andhra Pradesh consisting of 10,000 weaver families spread over to 100 villages is famous for “Pochampalli sarees” with a unique tie & dye design- a sought after delicacy of the modern woman. Surrounded by hills, tanks and ponds and lush green fields, spread-out silk warps, neera tapping from palm trees, mat making women, bustled with shuttle sounds, Pochampally has earned a name to reckon with in the map of popular weaving clusters of India.

Bhoodan Pochampalli

Pochampalli is well known for the bhoodan movement of Vinoba Bhave and hence fondly known as Bhoodan Pochampalli. Acharya Vinoba Bhave, (Shri Vinayak Narahari Bhave), teacher of Non-Violence and Human Rights was at Pochampally on 18th April 1951.  Inspired by Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s proposal to resolve the problem of providing land to landless villagers, Shri Vedre Ramchandra Reddy, a local landlord of 46 years old spontaneously offered to donate his own land of about 250 Acres for distribution among the local villagers, igniting the bhoodaan movement throughout the independent India.

Pochampalli is the place where threads and colours find their way into the hands of skillful weavers where it is transformed into exotic sarees with intricate magical designs based on Ikats. Basking under the glory on par with the weaves of Kanchi, Dharmavaram, Gadwal, Venkatagiri, the uniqueness of Pochampalli sarees lies in the transfer of design and colouring onto warp and weft threads first and then weave them together forming electrifying patterns on the body and pallu.

Silk Weaving in Andhra

The state of Andhra Pradesh has silk manufacturing and processing pockets in the Districts of East Godavari (Uppada, Peddapuram), Mahaboobnagar (Narayanpet), Gadwal, Anantapur, Dharmavaram, Hindupur, Krishna (Machilipatnam), Nalgonda (Pochampally), Chittoor (Madanapalle). Pochampally (17° 23′ N, 78° 38′ E) in the district of Nalgonda, Andhra Pradesh is famously known as Bhoodan Pochampally.

The people from this special land have lot of patience and perseverance to produce the designs requiring a lot of co-ordination in each set of processes, with utmost concentration & care not to loose even a single thread which plays its own role in forming the required design. Pochampally is known for the unique type of designing known by names  Ikat, Ikat, Ikath, Tie And Dye or Pochampally Design. However, origin of these designs is Chirala a town in the district of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.

The Pochampalli style

Design containing 3 to 4 colours in general is drawn on to a graph sheet to decide the requirement of number of ends and picks for a given design Motif, accordingly dyeing  warp and weft yarn groups after tying them by rubber bands, as many number of times as the number of  colours for a given design. Spectacular designs are produced using the combination of colours, counts, pitch of threads etc. Once the fabric is made, one can see an aura of colour around each motive due to difference of millimeters in setting the design while hand weaving of the fabric.

Yarns are subjected to three ways of preparation for making Ikat designs as detailed below.

Whole weft yarn dyeing and tying & dyeing of warp yarn, results in warp Ikat.

  1. Whole warp yarn dyeing and tying & dyeing of weft yarn, results in weft Ikat. and
  2. Tying & dyeing of both warp and weft yarn, results in double Ikat.

Around 50 mtrs. of fabric (approximately 8 Sarees length) can be woven in one to two months depending on the intricacy of the design, number of colours, count of the threads used, type of preparation of threads & seasonal changes.

Considering the fact that the silks tend to loose some dye stuff particularly during washing and perspiration, which may result in running of different colours in to each other, which may defeat the entire efforts of every artisan, who puts his innovative thoughts and workmanship into the fabric, weavers ensure that they use only those colours which are having better fastness to washing, perspiration and water.

Features of Pochampally designs

They are perfectly reversible with same appearance of the design on both sides making them most suitable for sarees, dupattas, Scarves& Stoles which tend to folding and curtains for getting similar look from either side.

Design Motifs are produced by using the yarn tie and dye effect, unlike checks and bar or stripe effects produced when yarns are dyes wholly and used for dyeing. Each and every thread is adjusted before it is set in to weaving of the fabric producing exquisite effects by a little deviation in setting the threads while weaving, which will be difficult to make on power looms due to high speed and the precision of Power looms may snatch the natural effect induced by human hands, thus the popularity of the design.

Andhra Pradesh State Weavers Co-operative Society under the state government is playing vital role in merchandising the pochampally products in the country, while, Ministry of Textiles, Govt of India has initiated efforts yielding positive results in setting up huge Handloom Park (Member of Silk Mark Organisation of India and Authorised User of Silk Mark) located near pochampally, providing support to the artisans and weavers. Channellising this household cottage based traditional artistry by innovating and modernizing the designs, & varieties. The Handloom Park is preparing itself to flood the international market with never seen before designs and varieties in the form of Sarees, Furnishings, Garments & Ties, Upholsteries, Made-ups  viz, (Scarves & Stoles, Cushion Covers, Place mats to name a few)  protecting the age old Indian tradition even in the era of IT boom.

The Pochampally facts

  1. Pochampally is the single largest Handloom Tie & Dye Cluster with about 2000 Pitlooms and around 5000 artisans most of them are called Padmasali Community.
  2. Weaving is the main livelihood for the people of Pochampally.
  3. Efforts by Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India resulted in setting up Pochampally Handloom Park giving new & 3G dimension to Pochampally Designs & making them more popular in the domestic and International market.
  4. Pochampally Ikat is the first from the traditional craft sector awarded a Geographical Indication status under Indian GI Act, 1999.
  5. Co-operative Societies, Independent Weavers and Master Weavers are competing among themselves to reach Pochampally designs.
  6. Andhra Pradesh State Weavers Co-operative Society Ltd (APCO), Special member of Silk Mark Organisation of India is playing very important role in procuring and distributing most of the pochampally products.
  7. More than 50% of Pochampally population is directly or indirectly engaged in producing Pochampally Ikats.
  8. Initially the all natural dyes were used to make Ikat designs, due to intricacy of designs and cost of production, synthetic dyes gradually replaced the natural ones.
  9. Pochampally is about 50 Kms. from Hyderabad, the capital City of Andhra Pradesh.
  10. More the number of colours used more would be the time and labour consumed, hence higher cost of production on handlooms.
  11. One can comfortably change the design for every 50 Mtr, making it possible to get varieties of designs in short intervals.

Caring Pochampalli Craft: Suggestions

  1. Most of the siblings of Padmasali Community are switching over to apparently lucrative Jobs outside, leaving the very base of artistry to fade away with their elders.
  2. In spite of huge efforts from the Departments of Ministry of Textiles, response is missing in the cluster of Ikats.
  3. Textile Technologists should come forward to study the basic process and development help the artisans with easier way of Ikat manufacturing.
  4. Designers with their innovative should accept the challenge of testing the skills of Ikat artisans, with buy back facility.
  5. Textile and Designing Students should be given the task of studying such Clusters Technically for their thesis.
  6. Artisans from the clusters should be made to compete in making best designs & qualities and honor them accordingly to instill josh.
  7. Hospitality sector should be enlightened with different varieties from all clusters and motivate them to use the products to make a positive turnaround.
  8. Exclusive websites should be opened for each cluster, giving entire information making it closer to the large scale buyers, designers, students & consumers, with facility of online buying.
  9. Relevant organizations should compulsorily provide opportunity to the clusters in the exhibitions organized by them in national as well as international platforms.





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Gharcholas of Gujarat

by Shri Gautam Mitra & Shri. M. A. Moon, Scientists, CSTRI

Handloom delicacies of India keep amazing people around the globe with its varied weaves, intricate designs and spectacular colour combinations which are very unique and special for every weaving cluster. Advances in science and technology have provided a sea-change in productivity and quality of textiles, but that can not deter fantasizing handloom products especially the wide range of silk sarees. The lustrous and drape-friendly quality of silk saree enhances beauty and grace of any woman and that is why it has become an integral part of the wardrobe of Indian women. Sarees from different regions reflect the cultural identity of the region with unique features evolved over a period of time suiting to the climatic conditions, topography, cultural heritage with an aesthetic sense and skill of the master weavers. Varanasi, Kancheepuram, Pochampally, Baluchari, Chanderi silk, Paithani silk, Patola etc. are   some of the renowned sarees of different regions are the examples of such combinations. Panetar Gharchola sarees of Khambhat cluster is one such product which is immensely popular in Gujarat and its surrounding States. A humble attempt is made through this article of Silk Mark Pilgrimage to know more about this particular art of Khambhat.



Gharchola means a women’s house garment and is traditionally used as odhnis (shoulder cover) by the women in Gujarat. On the other hand Panetar is white saree of satin weave with red border of Bandhani design (tie & dye). Generally it had a check in gold thread with small motif of a lotus or peacock worked in gold in the centre. Besides, it carried Bandhani design within the square. Gharchola and Panetar were worn together by the brides and women of all communities in Gujarat in wedding and other auspicious occasions. Bandni designs are main attraction of these sarees. Now-a-days, these beautiful designs are created on sarees. Generally it is available in two varieties depending on the quality of zari used in checks and squares in the sarees. Gold thread is used for sarees to be bought by rich and affluent society while plain zari is used for other groups of customers. The most popular variety of this saree is one that comes in combination of red and white. The entire body of the saree is covered with repeat designs in squares and when the saree is opened out, it looks like a number of gardens complete with bed of flowers. Each square encloses a motif such as elephants, dolls, flowers. Other popular patterns are Bhavan Bagh, Fifty Two Gardens, Raas Leela etc.


Gharchola saris are the most symbolic element of a Hindu or Jain wedding in Gujarat. These saris are first woven by using silk and zari thread and are later embellished by tie and dye or bandhani work. The golden grid pattern of a gharchola sari, dyed in rich red and pecked white dots illustrating varied themes, make the ceremony of wedding or any other ritual a picturesque and glorified occasion.



A typical Gharchola sari is marked by the large zari checks, 12 section patterns is known by the name of ‘bar bagh’ and the 52 square saris are known by the name of ‘baavan bagh’. These checks carry small golden motifs, the most common motifs used in the Gharchola saris are those of peacocks, lotus, human figures, floral patterns and the like. Where more than two colors are used, the design is known as ‘phulwari’ or garden and where animal motifs predominate it is known as ’shikari’ which means hunting scene. The main color used is red, with white and yellow dots, though green Gharcholas are also fabricated based on personal request of the client.

This silk sarees first came in from Khambhat formerly known as Cambay. Earlier it was the capital of princely state of British India within the Gujarat division of Bombay. It lies on an alluvial plain at the north end of the gulf of Khambhat which was famous for extreme rise and fall of tides. Dating back in 13th century Khambhat was a very flourishing city with important trading centre and celebrated with manufacturing silk, chinz and gold stuff. Famous traveler Marco Polo noted it as a busy port in 1293. But the decline of the city started in early 17th century mainly because silting up of gulf and difficulty in accessing the port. Presently the area is in Anand district of Gujarat with population of around 80 thousands. The only industries survive today are the handicrafts of the unmatched art of working on Akik (Agate stones), cutting & polishing of precious/ semi precious stones and handloom weaving.




Only a population of 300 weavers’ family with 200 handlooms is keeping the tradition of manufacturing Gharchola sarees. The looms used are pit and frame looms with no new tools or equipment attached. However, most of them are attached with dobby and jacquard of 240 hooks. The metal reed of 88’ and 94’ are used in the looms. Raw materials used are 20/22 denier raw silk for warp and 20/22 denier bleached/ coloured silk yarn as weft. The warp yarn is procured in ball form of 42 meter from Bangalore and zari yarn from Surat. Although weaving and tying work is done at Khambhat, but for dyeing and block printing on sarees, it was sent to Jamnagar where brilliant shades are produced due to superior water quality of the region. The art of Gharchola saree making has also spread to other cluster like Joravarnagar, Kataria under Surendranagar district.




The sarees are available in 46” width in the price range of Rs. 1200 – 1500/ per piece. A typical Gharchola saree specification is as given below,


Length                                             —     5.5 meters

Width                                               —-     46 inches

Pallu Length                                    —-     30 inches

Reed                                                  —-     88

Ends per inch                                    —-     88

Picks per inch                                   —-     100

Widthwise no. of boxes of 2×2 inch  —-     12

Weave                                               —-     Plain for body and twill for

border and pallu

The making of above sarees is a complicated and time consuming process. A starched silk odhni or saree is fixed to a large wooden frame using nails. The odhni or saree coloured red or green, is divided in to net work of squares by rows of white tied – dyed spots or woven bands of zari motif within each compartment ranging from elephant, parrot and flowers to dancing girls. The weaver needs about 6-7 days to arrange the looms ready for weaving through preparatory processes and then take another 6 days to complete weaving if there is check pattern, 10-12 days for double check pattern and only 3 days for plain body weave.


The main marketing centres of the saree are Bhuj – Kutch where big weavers/ master weavers have linkages to push off the products which small weavers can not do. As a result small weavers only work for the master weavers and have to satisfy with lesser margin of income.


Geographical distribution Communities Involved Raw materials


Dyeing technique
Kutch district Khatris Silk Yarn dyeing
Ahemedabad Chhippas Cotton Tub dying
Jamnagar   Georgette Tie & dye
Rajkot     Block printing



Panetar Gharchola sarees are gradually losing its demand due to lack  of market promotion, design development, product diversification, use of duplicate silk yarn and competition from Benarasi saree which have more intricate design. However, there is no reason to be panic for this traditional product as it has strong ceremonial identity in Gujarat and the weavers are skilled enough to adapt changes in designs to boost market demand of this kind of sarees. The need of the hour is to extend encouragement and support to the weavers who are keen to produce attractive sarees with newer designs. The support in the form of various central and state sponsored schemes is available, the only thing is to know these schemes and take advantage. Gujarat State Handloom & Handicraft Development Corporation Limited has made a diagnostic study of the Khambhat area and is extending support under Cluster Development Programme for saving this precious art of saree making.  Central Silk Board under Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India has various schemes on weaving and wet processing sector and an awareness programme was organized at Khambhat to explain those schemes. The schemes like Loom Upgradation, CATD and Yarn Dyeing would definitely boost the quality of this kind of traditional sarees and help attract market demand.


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Pride of Bengal – Baluchari Sarees

Written by Ranjeet Bhattacharjee

Joint Secretary (Tech.), CSB & Nodal Officer, SMOI

Bengal is famous for its unique craftsmanship and artistic values. The unique products of even rural artisans bear the impression of high artistic values. Similarly the Bengal handloom Sarees has created its own global identity due to its unique designs and craftsmanship of weavers of Bengal. The traditional handloom Sarees of Bengal occupies a special status even in the era of modern fashion. The variation of design, colour combination and the weaving pattern of Bengal handloom Sarees like Dhania Khali, Tangail, Aarong and of course the unique Baluchari. A number of traditional weaving villages are still in existence in West Bengal such as Shantipur in Nadia district, Begumpur in Hooghly district, Kenje- Kura in Bankura district. Centuries back these villages were known as Weavers Heaven of Bengal. The Baluchari Sarees are adorned all over the world for its unique designs, depicting ancient stories on its Borders and Pallus. Some times it revives the themes of vedic or events of ancient times.


The history of Baluchari Saree is very much interesting as it goes back to 200 years ago in the 18th century during the regime of Nawab Murshidquali Khan though Baluchari originated much after Muslin. Murshidquali Khan happens to be the Nawab of Bengal during 18th century with a very deep sense of rural artistic craftsmanship and showed great concern to bring up unique product of rural Bengal into the lime light. He had a special craze for the creativity of the rural people and the traditional crafts of his regime.

The origin of Baluchari Sarees is stated to be in a very small village named Baluchar in the bank of river Bhagirathi in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. The word Baluchari itself means sandy river bank. The Bhagirathi river remained the main waterway for transportation of various product from one part of Bengal to another during that period. The Bhagirathi river remained changing its course time to time and the social set up and cultural pattern also changed remarkably with the change of the river’s flow. There was a significant topographical change on both sides of Bhagirathi river. The villagers and agricultural farmers had to shift their home stead with the change of course of Bhagirathi river. But during British regime, there was a set back for the rural industries and crafts of the then undivided Bengal. The Bhagirathi river became means of transport for the valuable agricultural products viz. Rice, Jute, Silk and Metalwares to Kolkata port and finally these were used to ship from Kolkata  port to Britain. The ignorance of unique art and craft of Bengal and many intricate handicrafts by the British rulers created a threat to existence of these artistic creativity of rural Bengal. The artisans were compelled to switch over to some other works. Similarly Baluchari handloom craft was also at the threshold of ruins. It is stated that a famous artist named Subho Thakur who took a pledge to re-cultivate these unique tradition of Baluchari crafts, which was almost at the phase of disillusion. Shri Subho Thakur came into contact with a Master Weaver named Akshay Kumar Das of Bishnupur, now in Bankura district, and invited him to his centre. It was Subho Thakur who inspired Akshay Kumar Das, Master Weaver to pick up the technique of Jacquard weaving. Shri Das, Master Weaver worked hard and mastered the weaving of Baluchari on their looms and returned to Bishnupur after some time. Thus the Baluchari craft survived due to its shifting to Bishnupur from Murshidabad during the British rule.


A stage in saree production

Bishnupur remained a prominent place in the history of Bengal for being capital of Malla Dynasty. The original art of Malla dynasty is witnessed even today on the bricks of old temples and in the architectural ruins of Malla Dynasty in and around Bishnupur and Bankura. The art works of temples of Bishnupur are known as Terra Cotta. The brick art was also transformed into earthern pots and ornamental pieces placed in religious places of Bishnupur area and it was spread over even in the contiguous areas ruled by Malla Dynasty, which stretches to the neighboring districts of Purulia, West Midnapur and some places of Jharkhand also.

Saree being woven on the loom

The artistic designs of Baluchari Sarees are mostly depicting mythological stories similar to that commonly found on the temples of Bishnupur & Bankura of West Bengal. Baluchari Sarees are mainly distinguished for their elaborate borders and fabulous pallus. The borders are ornamental and surround Kalka motifs within it. A series of figures is designed in rows and motifs, which are woven diagonally. Mostly the motif designs are in four alternative colours on a shaded background. The most popular colours of Baluchari saree designs include red, green, white, blue and yellow. Initially these motifs were woven on silver jari, which has subsequently been replaced by various shining threads. The theme of Baluchari weaving remains focused to depict mythological stories and folk tales on the pallus of sarees. Some of the designs include tales of Ramayana & Mahabharata. Motifs are interspersed with flowering bunches, animals, architectural scenes, women riding horse with a rose in one hand, pleasure boat, court scenes of Muslim era, women smoking ‘huccah’ etc.



Weaving of Baluchari Saree passes through a series of processing.

  • The main raw material of fabric is Silk which is obtained by rearing of Silkworm to harvest a crop of quality silk cocoons.
  • These silk cocoons are reeled into fine silk yarn by boiling in Soda & Soap solution and then reeled in silk reeling devices.
  • Motifs are the main focus of the Baluchari Saree and this is an intricate process. Designs are drawn on graph papers duly coloured and then punching is done using cards. These cards are sewed as per design and fixed in the jacquard machine.


Baluchari sarees are also known as land mark of handloom weaving of silk sarees. The fabric of Baluchari saree is very fine and transparent mostly made of Murshidabad silk used with a soft drape. A Master Weaver, almost takes 20-25 days to complete weaving a Baluchari Saree with exquisite design. Surprisingly, creation of its intricate designs with high demand in the fashion world called for technical intervention for easing out the production mechanism. The latest development in weaving technique of Baluchari saree inspired scientists of Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur to develop a machine to reduce the time of Baluchari saree weaving with an attractive finish. The innovated machine is called Jaquard Card Punching Machine which can be operated for weaving of computerized designs also. This machine will help a Master Weaver to complete weaving of an exclusive Baluchari Saree within 10-12 days and will facilitate replacing of traditional motifs and theme with an attractive and latest concept. The machine is likely to cost Rs. 1.5 to 2.0 lakhs if commercially manufactured. NABARD has also taken up Baluchari as part of its plan to promote traditional crafts of Bengal like Terra Cotta and Bell Metal work. The weavers of Baluchari will have easy excess to CAD/CAM facilities due to promotional efforts of NABARD.

Geographical Indication:

G.I. helps a community of producers to differentiate their products to fetch premium price. It can also be used for protection of products based on traditional knowledge. The geographical indication refers to the products as originated from a particular place with a given quality reputation and other characteristic attributed to its geographical origin. A number of traditional products of West Bengal like Darjeeling tea are identified to qualify for GI protection which includes Baluchari, Murshidabad Silk, Phulia Tant Sarees, Bishnupur Terra Cotta and Krishnanagar Martir Putul, besides several varieties of Mango, rice and beetle leaves produced in the state. An intensive awareness amongst stakeholders is still needed for GI protection of Baluchari Sarees in West Bengal.

In the era of global fashion, Baluchari Sarees are adorned as sign of aristocracy, symbol of status, taste of aesthetic fashion and of course legend of Bengal handloom. Let’s stretch our helping hand in whatever way possible in supporting the poor weavers of this unique craft and try to preserve such endangered craftsmanship from extinction.

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[By K.M.A. KADHAR &  Dr. G. HARIRAJ, Scientists, Silk Testing & Conditioning House,  Kanchipuram and appeared in Silk Mark Vogue]

Kanchipuram town is also known as silk city since the main profession of the people is weaving silk sarees. The silk weavers of Kanchi settled more than 400 years ago and have given it an enviable reputation as the producer of the best silk sarees in the country. Its economy is entirely dependent on tourism and handloom industry.

THE USP A typical Kanchipuram silk saree is known for its distinguished characteristics of heavy weight coupled with classic colours and rich zari border and pallu. Two types of warps are used for manufacturing Silk sarees viz. Jari warp of 2 ply 2 fold threads and Jodupuri warp of 2 ply threads. Zari thread consists of coloured silk thread as core wrapped with flattened silver wire with gold plating. These silk sarees are well known for inter woven lace work and its lusture, which are the dexterity of the dyer and weaver in bringing the lusture and design respectively.

THE LOOM: Two types of looms are used in for the production of Kanchipuram silk saree viz. Frame loom and Pit loom. Throw shuttle is invariably used for the production of saree on the two types of loom. The main parts of the loom are: Sley, Treadles, Reed, Healds, Warp Beam, Cloth beam, Shuttle and Lease rods.

Figure below, illustrates the layout of a weaving loom used in the production of silk saree production. The sheet of warp yarn , consisting of the required number of ends wound into considerable length, carried upon a suitable device and folded and tied in such a way that necessary tension is obtained for weaving the cloth. The specification for making the warp, in addition to stipulating the type of yarn, the number of ends and the length of the warp, may also include a pattern if it is desired to produce a cloth with colored stripes but the zari thread is always used as extra warp only.

The warp threads from the ball or beam are then drawn through the healds, H1 and H2, threaded through the splits of the reed R and at the point I interlaced with the weft supplied by the shuttle S (throw shuttle). The cloth is formed at the fell of the cloth F, and is wound upon the cloth roller situated at the front of the loom CR after passing through the take up roller TR, which ensures enough tension for winding the cloth. The reed is fixed on the Sley, which moves freely. The treadle operates the healds to form the Shed. Lease rods are used to minimize the entanglement of warp threads by re grouping them.

The weaving process itself consists of three basic operations viz. Shedding, Picking and Beat-up which form a continuous cycle in the simple handloom either pit loom or frame loom. The picking and beat up operation are fixed no matter what type of fabric is being produced, but the shedding motion is variable and can be described as the heart of weaving as it is here the nature of interlacing, the weave is decided.

RAW MATERIAL: Pure indigenous raw silk is used for the production of Kanchipuram silk saree. Cross breed silk (Bivolltine X multivoltine) variety is used in silk saree production. The Filature/ Multi end fine quality raw silk of 16/18 denier is used in warp preparation and Filature/ Charka coarse quality silk of 22/24 denier is used in weft preparation. The raw silk is twisted as organzine or tram yarn for the preparation of warp and weft respectively. Both warp and weft are dyed at Yarn stage using either acid or metal complex dyes. Thus, the silk saree produced is a loom finished fabric.

ZARI: Zari thread is also extensively used as raw material for the production of silk saree. It is also used as extra warp and or weft in order to produce intricate designs on silk sarees. The main component of zari, which is predominant, is given below.

a)         Silk (Dyed)     -           20 – 22 %

b)         Silver               -           50 – 55 %

c)         Gold                -           0.5 – 0.6 %

d          Others             -           22 – 29 %


1. Winding, Doubling and Twisting: In the case of warp preparation, the raw silk is first wound on a suitable small bobbin, which is taken for primary twisting (18-20 TPI) in S direction, then doubled and finally twisted for secondary twisting (18-20) in Z direction. For weft preparation, the raw silk is first doubled and twisted (8-10 TPI) in S direction using up twister.


2. Degumming & Dyeing: Warp length is generally of three saree length and the weft is of small hanks. Both warp and weft are first degummed using soap and soda solution at alkaline pH at near boil for definite time and dyed using acid / metal complex dyes at acidic pH medium using Glabour salt as exhausting/ leveling agent. Warp yarn is dyed using tie & dye method in order to have different body and pallu colours in a single warp.

3. Dressing & Sizing: The warp is given a dressing by stretching it out in the open by using stout bamboo rods. Dust and dirt are removed and the warp is looped. The looped warp is immersed in rice kanji (Diluted rice Gruel) and this process is called sizing. After sizing, the warp is stretched once again for dressing and dried by exposure.

4. Piecing: The newly prepared warp is attached to the corresponding thread of the previous saree, threads of the saree already woven on the loom remains behind after the saree has been cut out. This process is called Piecing. This is a delicate and slow process and requires dexterity and patience.

5. Drawing & Denting (Aluppiduthal): The new warp which has been joined to the old warp by piecing is again stretched in order to remove entanglement. The newly pieced warp is drawn forward through the healds and reed. The above process is called Aluppiduthal in local parlance. The yarn is divided on the loom into segments. One end is fixed to the cloth beam [PADAMARAM] and the other end to warp beam [OODU KATTAI]. The distance between cloth and warp beam is 12 feet and this length ensures the required tension for weaving.

6. Joining of Lace: Saree border designs are first prepared on graph sheets and then transferred to the harness known as Adai. These Adais are given necessary cord connection, while the gold threads on either side of the warp are drawn through the eyes of the design healds (Pettuvizhudu). At first, some old silk threads are passed through the glass beads of in the design healds. Then, lace is connected to these old silk threads in order to avoid contacts of fingers with the lace. The lace is stretched on the outer side of the warp to the same length and is fixed to one end of both sides of the warp beam depending upon whether the saree has a one side or double side border. After drawing the lace threads through heald eyes and reed dents, it is firmly fixed to the cloth beam with the help of the old silk threads. After this, the lace, which has been tied to one end of the warp beam is detached and fixed to a separate rod known as “Pattu Oodu Kattai” or lace beam.

7. Preparation of Adai: An outline saree border design is first drawn to scale on drawing paper and the design is traced on graph sheet paper. The required design is given to the design and inked-in squares are marked on the paper for the portion where figures come in. Now, this design is ready for the harness or Adai preparation. Jacquard attachment, which read the cards, punched to the requirement of the design, and accordingly lift the thread associated with the design formation and pattern on the saree is achieved.

8. Weaving: The Kanchipuram silk saree is distinguished by its 1) Body portion, which is either plain weave, motif & butta or rich brocade 2) Border portion, which is either single or double sided with motifs /medium design and 3) Pallu/ Mundi portion, which is generally of rich designs.

Plain weave is achieved by operating the healds, depending upon the need, by operating the treadle attached to it. Motifs in the border and rich designs in the Pallu / Mundi are generated by pulling the lever connected to the Jacquard boxes of different hook capacity. Thus, while weaving the body and border portion, treadle is operated along with or without jacquard lever with great care and dexterity. Weft insertion is always with hands by throwing a medium size shuttle from one end and beating the weft to the fell of the cloth. Small pirns of silk or Zari are used as shuttle for the weft insertion in the case of small butta, motifs in the body, Pallu and border. Thus, for the preparation of double side contrast border silk saree, three shuttles are used, which requires an extra manpower that is generally achieved by employing one semiskilled laborer.

9. Designs: The Kanchipuram silk sarees are popular for their technical excellence and novelty of their designs. Even though traditional methods of weaving are adopted by weavers, they have tried to keep pace with the changing preferences and tastes. This helped them to cater to the needs of varieties of tastes of young and old, rich and middle class consumers. To reduce the cost of production weavers manufacture sarees with borders on only one side with delicate designs. The popular designs in the border are brick, birds, animals, leaf, mango, nayapaisa, sovereign etc., The colours of the sarees must be pleasing and evoke consumer demand. The most popular colours used are blue, black, green and mustered.  However, of late lighter shades are also quite popular.

Some of the popular designs worked into the saree are:

  1. THANDAVALAM or PARELLEL LINES: Where the stripes run along the length of the saree.
  2. KOTTADI or CHECK PATTERN: With squares or rectangle of various dimensions where the stripes run both the lengthwise and breadth wise.
  3. PUTTAS: The figures and flowers are independently worked into the saree and joined to the pattern found on the saree.
  4. TISSUE SAREES: The entire weft is woven with golden lace.


The Kanchipuram silk saree is unique in many ways. The main features among them are Korvai and Petni.  Korvai is the technique of joining the border to body of the saree [Single/ double sided border]. This techniques requires additional manpower, which generally fulfilled by employing household labourer. More clearly, few ends of body portion of the warp on both sides are interlaced with the border ends resulting as thick diligent stitch, which run parallel to the selvedge [Jamudu] up to the pallu portion. In order to achieve this effect, three shuttles are used, two are handled by the weaver concerned and the third one is handled by the household labourer. Since this process requires additional labourer, who has to synchronize his activity of weft insertion with the experienced weaver, results in enormous delay.

Secondly, the Petni process, which is nothing but mending the Pallu portion of warp with the existing portion of the body in each saree. This involves mending of all the warp threads in the body portion of the saree, which counts to few thousand. Moreover, after mending, the ends have to be cautiously drawn through the delicate heald high as well the tender stalk of Cholam. Also, after drawing the newly mended threads/ ends, one has to care fully weave to certain extent, which requires more skill. This results in homogeneous blend of differently coloured warp yarns as a special effect which runs across the length of the saree.

The main disadvantage associated with this Petni process/ effect is that it requires more skill and labour for the proper formation of this effect. When high value items are woven, extra care is warranted for producing this effect. Also, considerable quantity of material is wasted besides wasting precious time. Now a days, this Petni process is seldom employed in regular sarees production, where as the production of high value items and traditional sarees involves Petni process.

In most of the silk saree production, the Petni process, which is mending differently coloured end for the production of Pallu/ Mundi portion, has been replaced by tie – dye process. In this process, a single warp is dyed with two or more coloured dyes in order to have different body and pallu hues. This is generally achieved by dyeing one saree warp length [both body and Pallu portion] with body colour first, stripping the Pallu colour by means of bleaching, which is a reduction process and finally dyeing the Pallu portion with different colour.

The main disadvantage associated with this tie & dye process is that repeat dyeing of warp and stripping/ bleaching of Pallu / Mundi portion results in poor tenacity properties. Thus, the life of saree and its durability particularly the Pallu portion is reduced. Also, the reduction process of bleaching has its own disadvantage in silk dyeing system; reformation of stripped colour due to natural oxidation at Pallu portion is highly undesirable. Of late, the silk industry resorted to dyeing the body and pallu portion part by part without stripping the Pallu colour.

This uniqueness of the Kanchipuram silk saree especially the Korvai and Petni with its associated disadvantage should be maintained. This should be the main aspiration for any process invention, loom modification and product development in manufacturing of Kanchipuram silk sarees, which is being tried by master weavers time and again.



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An exclusive saree – Paithani Silks

Paithani Silks

(Written by : T.Sivakumar, Assistant Director (Insp.), SMOI, Central Silk Board, Bangalore and is a certified Black Belt holder in Six Sigma)

I have heard people talking about Paithani Silk sarees for years and in spite of working in Central Silk Board for 26 long years, I never had an opportunity to see it.  Thousands and thousands of Silk sarees have been certified by me, which were meant for Exports and it is a wonder that I missed. Surprisingly most of my colleagues who work in this profession have not seen it.

The eyes were wide open and jaws dropped in wonder, for me and my colleagues, when a man opened the suitcase containing Paithani sarees. The designs were intricate and motifs very delicate and he explained that each saree making, using hand loom,  consumes  minimum of 3 months and can go on for upto two years also. The entire design is created by hand using interlocked-weft technique.

These were the most luxurious fabrics of the Mughal rulers and apparently even now are luxurious for the common man, as the prices range from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5,00,000.  The borders and pallus have elaborate designs and patterns either with silk or zari.

The sarees are rare because only few hundred weavers are left now holding on to the craft. There are only few customers who understand the intricacies and craftsmanship of making these elegant sarees.

These sarees used to be manufactured in western Maharastra and southern Madhya pradesh, but are now limited to the village Paithani(near Aurangabad in Maharastra),  the saree name is derived from this,  and its surroundings.

Without the patronage of the government and special care to protect this rare weaving art, one more heritage would vanish from the surface of the earth, forever.

The sarees are courtesy Taligar’s Diamond Paithani Saree Centre


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Care for Vanya Silks

(Written by : T.Sivakumar, Assistant Director (Insp.), SMOI, Central Silk Board, Bangalore and is a certified Black Belt holder in Six Sigma)

There are now over 500 different varieties of natural silk identified and out of this only four of them have been commercially exploited. They are Mulberry, Tassar, Eri and Muga.  Natural Silk can be broadly classified as domesticated silk and non-domesticated or wild silk.  The most popularly known silk is Mulberry and is the only variety fully domesticated. The mulberry plants are cultivated and the leaves are used for feeding the mulberry silkworms in a controlled environment. Whereas the wild silk cocoons are obtained from the forests,  without interference or with little interference from the humans.

The wild silks have been collectively branded as ‘Vanya’ literally meaning forest in Sanskrit. Vanya silks are the least known and least understood. In the recent years, the brand has been promoted widely with lots of publicity through various media. There were several Vanya Expos held across the country to popularise Vanya silks.

All these years, the mulberry silk wash care instructions were followed for the vanya silk products also. But due to the increased popularity of Vanya,  there was a necessity to undertake a study of wash care separately for vanya silk products as the properties are somewhat different from Mulberry silks. A scientific study was undertaken by Central Silk Technological Research Institute(CSTRI), a premier institute  in silk research in India and accredited to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)

CSTRI took up the project and studied fabrics and garments of vanya silks for the changes in dimensions, feel, appearance, color, luster etc. with wet and dry washing. The study covered the following commercially available products :

  1. Muga plain fabric
  2. Eri plain fabric
  3. Eri loom finished fabric
  4. Tassar Ghicha sarees
  5. Tassar printed stoles
  6. Tassar loom finished stoles
  7. Tassar printed sarees
  8. Tassar shirts
  9. Muga silk shirts
  10. Muga silk ties


Vanya silk


  • Professional dry cleaning is recommended for all vanya silk products, as there are unacceptable level of changes in dimensions, appearance, luster and colour.
  • Drying should  be done under shade with spreading on a surface
  • Ironing should be done without steam at low temperature (below 120 degree C)
  • No bleaching and wet washing to be done.
  • Silica gel sachets are recommended to be placed in the storage area.


The project report was published by Dr. Arindam Basu, Director, CSTRI

Investigators :

1. Dr. M.A. Joseph, M.Tech, Ph.D(Textile Tech.), Scientist ‘C’

2.  Shri. S.A. Hippargi, M.Tech(Textile Tech.) , PGDIRPM, Scientist ‘C’


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A Historic Moment for Indian Silk

(Written by : T.Sivakumar, Assistant Director (Insp.), SMOI, Central Silk Board, Bangalore and is a certified Black Belt holder in Six Sigma)

In tune with its status as  second largest producer   and largest consumer of silk in  the world, India has been a leading sericulture player in the International arena. India was the founding member of International Sericulture Commission (ISC), which was formed in 1960 with its head quarter in Lyon, France.

The ISC is an inter-governmental organisation of silk producing countries and at present, 13 countries are the members of ISC viz., Brazil, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Romania, Thailand and Tunisia. The primary aim and objective of the ISC is to encourage and promote the development and promotion of sericulture, globally.

ISC has been supporting the development of silk industry in India in the areas of strengthening the R&D activities and acting as a facilitator for sourcing funds from international funding agencies for taking up developmental projects by the Central Silk Board and State sericulture departments.

A pinnacle of success

Ms. Ishita Roy,  Member Secretary, Central Silk Board brought laurels to the country by  getting  elected as the Secretary General of International Sericultural Commission (ISC) in a special Conference of ISC held at Cluj Napoca, Romania on 14th June 2012. She would be assuming the charge of Secretary General for a three year term from January 2013.

International Secretariat at Central Silk Board, Bangalore

With this, the Secretariat of ISC would also move to India and will be housed in the campus of Central Silk Board, Bangalore. This historical change would mark the beginning of a new era in the development of global sericulture silk industry. This would also help Indian Silk Industry to take advantages of global silk platform.

What it means to India and Indian Silk Industry

  • India will play a major role in framing policy related to sericulture development globally
  • Collaborative R&D activities by the member countries
  • Genetical traits from different geographical regions can be aggregated
  • Generic promotion of silk as a natural, eco-friendly fibre across the globe and Silk Mark can play a major role
  • India would have greater role in channelizing funds from international funding agencies to its member countries and also to many sericulturally developing countries in South America, Africa and Asia.
  • R&D Institutes in India could be elevated to international standards by forging fruitful collaboration with other reputed institutes of the world.
  • India can offer its large pool of expert service and training facilities to other silk producing countries. It can act as the centre for any major initiatives globally
  • ISC would provide a larger platform for sharing expertise among the silk producing countries and improve value realisation
  • India would also strive to enhance the membership base of the countries at an international level.
  • India will avail the advantages of technological innovations in silk reeling, processing and finishing technologies developed in other countries.

Nobel Prize of Silk Industry

The prestigious Louis Pasteur Award, being awarded to persons who have done outstanding contribution to global sericulture industry, has been instituted and awarded by the ISC.  Louis Pasteur Award is considered as the “Nobel Prize” of silk industry and is given once in three years. India has been one of the major recipients of this coveted award and till now, 11 Scientists from India have been conferred with this award for their contribution to the silk industry.







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Srinagar Silk Mark Expo

(Written by : T.Sivakumar, Assistant Director (Insp.), SMOI, Central Silk Board, Bangalore and is a certified Black Belt holder in Six Sigma)

Silk Mark Expos are back again with a bang. The first Expo will be held from 16 - 24  June 2012 in Srinagar,  summer capital city of Jammu and Kashmir(J&K)

This is the first time ever that the Silk Mark Expo is going to be held in this beautiful
city. Earlier last year, a Silk Mark Expo was held in Jammu, the winter capital of
J&K, with a large number of silk lovers visiting the Expo, in spite of the
inclement weather.

Jammu & Kashmir is a traditional state producing raw silk and is also popular for
the finished silk products like shawls, kashmiri chiffon, hand embroidered silks,
handknotted silk carpets etc. Silk carpets are being exported in large numbers to
different countries and Kashmir carpets have made niche for itself
internationally. Silk industry provides significant employement in the state of

The Silk Mark Expo is an unique platform for the different varieties, kinds and
ranges of silks brought from across the country for showcasing and sale.  The
consumers not only get a range of silk items, but also ensure that they  purchase
only Silk Mark labelled products.

These expos cater to all kinds of needs of silk lovers and the following are available in this Expo -

  • Chiffon, Chinnon, Crepe and satin weaves
  • Plain, printed, hand painted, embroidered, ikat, handwoven, powerloom woven, knitted items etc.
  • Kancheepuram, Banarasi,Mysoori, Murshidabad, Kashmiri, Paithani, Valkolam, Venkatagiri, Dharmavaram etc. in sarees
  • Mulberry, Tassar, Eri and Muga varieties
  • Sarees, Chudidars, Shirts, Lenghas, blouses, Ties, hand bags, cushion covers, bed covers, liners, curtains, children’s wear, fashion garments for women and men

The Expo is being held at SKICC, Banquet Hall, Chasm-e-Shahi, Srinagar and has a
theme pavilion, a free silk testing counter and live demo of silk production
process. An interesting silk identification game has been included for the
consumers to win attractive prizes. There are totally 35 stalls from 11 states and
silk lovers of Srinagar has a very rare opportunity to make use of this.


Inauguration of Expo

Silk Mark Expo calendar


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