If you have been following my blog since the beginning you would know that I am a Bengali, hence being obsessed about wearing sarees for any traditional or festive occasion runs in my veins, by default.
Nevertheless, I am one who adores the nine yards. I love a good traditional handcrafted saree. Mostly because I empathise with sustainability, handwork and the special skills that our artisans posses, who keep working generations after generations in preserving a craft and heritage. I feel obligated in some ways to be able to help in keeping this legacy alive.
Hence, I always try to go with sarees as my first option for any festive or traditional moment instead of splurging on designer labels that have zero contribution towards sustainability, culture or heritage. I am so selective about the fabrics and embroidery, I had rather know that my investment is not only in a piece of fabric or handwork but it also goes a long way in contributing to a family who works hard day and night, stitch by stitch.
THE MAHESHWARI SAREE
The handcrafts and weaves of India are elaborate. That is probably why this country has such a rich variety of sarees and handlooms to choose from. This saree is from a boutique in North Bengal, Siliguri. Indigenous sarees and traditional handcrafts are found at the boutique.
The Maheshwari Saree comes from Maheshwar, a city in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. An ancient town on the banks of the Narmada, was originally the capital of the Malwas during the Maratha Holkar reign till 1818 and enjoyed a considerably elevated status in terms of royal interests. It was this encouragement by the royal family that the Maheshwari saree came into existence.
Legend has it that Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar employed a special team of craftsmen from Surat and Malwa to design an exclusive nine yard saree that could be gifted to her relatives and guests who visited the palace. With the first saree conceptualised and designed by the Highness herself, Maheshwari sarees went on to become a huge hit in the royal and aristocratic circle.
BENARASI CHANDERI SAREE
The town of Chanderi in Ashok Nagar District of Madhya Pradesh is known for its historical importance as well as the world famous hand woven Chanderi sarees. Records show that hand looms wove Chanderi sarees for royalty between the 12th and the 13th centuries.
While some references to the Vedic period in Indian mythology suggest that Chanderi fabric was introduced by Lord Krishna’s cousin Shishupal, one can find its mention in Maasir-i-Alamgir (1658-1707), wherein it is stated that Aurangzeb ordered the use of a cloth embroidered with gold and silver for making khilat (a ceremonial robe or other gift given to someone by a superior as a mark of honour).
The material was very expensive. The beauty of this fabric was its softness, transparency, and fringes embellished with heavy gold thread embroidery. According to the records of a Jesuit priest, who visited Marwar between 1740 and 1761, Chanderi fabric enjoyed royal patronage and was also exported overseas. A British visitor, RC Sterndal noted that Chanderi was the favoured fabric of Indian royal women because of its soft, light texture and transparency.
(Source: CHANDERI SAREES: A LOOK AT THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF THESE ROYAL WEAVES)
Though these various accounts make it hard to put a date on the birth of Chanderi sarees, it’s clear that the fabric has always had the patronage of the ruling class of the country because of its unique sheer texture and intricate embroidery with gold and silver.
As a fashion blogger and MBA in Luxury Brand Management graduate, my initiative also strongly supports the handcraft of Indian weaves and sustainability of our traditions and heritage.
It starts from home.