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Weaving tradition of Tamil Nadu

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Published: 10th March 2017 10:25 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th March 2017 08:04 AM   |  A+A-

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CHENNAI: T amil Nadu has the highest number of handloom weavers in India and is home to many handwoven garments – both in silk and cotton. But, have you ever pondered on the past and present of these weaves...specially the sari, the one garment that has remained as a staple in the wardrobes of women? Sreemathy Mohan, textile enthusiast and an IT professional gets talking with City Express about the traditional weaves of Tamil Nadu ahead of a talk at Madras Literary Society, today.


“Sari in its various forms has remained one garment of Indian women through the ages. And, in the course of history it has taken the place as a beautiful and special fabric,” says Sreemathy, “Here we are looking at the history and culture of traditional textiles which many people are oblivious off. It’s time they look at their rich legacy…” she opines.


From body layout, contrast borders, weaves and the motifs that are embellished in a sari, the aspects that one needs to look before procuring a sari are aplenty. But, the main aspect would be the roots of the weave, the history, says Sreemathy. For example, the ‘Madurai Sungudi’ became extremely famous in the 16th century when weavers from Saurastra migrated to Tamil Nadu. “The British and Dutch came here for the rich textile. So, imagine the kind of craftsmen ship we had!” beams the enthusiast.


Talking about how forward the textile fashion was even in 10th century , Sreemathy points to the murals from the Thanjavur big temple and shares,” Just like several designers take inspiration from these temple motifs, the textile back then was also inspired by temple architecture.

It influenced the motifs in the garment and what we see there are in out garment. It’s a depiction of culture adapted on textile.”

The Devasiriya Mandapam at Thyagaraja temple in Tiruvarur, houses more than 50 panels of 17th century paintings, and several murals – which can also be seen adapted in several traditional weaves. “Thambais -- The cloth that usually adorns the top of a chariot is an example of a typical Thanjavur art,” she shares.

The predominant colours that were evident in India were red and black which was known from the Mohenjo-Daro period, later came in the famous indigo. “The new entrants in terms of colours has also had a major effect on the styling of garment today. These are small aspects, that have had large scale impacts over a period of time,” she opines.


From the Golconda Kalamkari, Machlipattnam Kalamkari to the classic Kalakshetra sari introduced by Rukmini Devi Arundale, Sreemathy has a plethora of information to share. “We have the Madras textile that’s being used for Kalabari textile in Nigeria...how many of us know that?” she asks.


Ruing about how many don’t know the difference between an original Kanjeevaram sari and a power loom, Sreemathy says, “there’s absolutely no knowledge on this! When you buy, one should be aware of why they are paying so much for a piece of garment.

Handloom is next to agriculture and we are losing out on our heritage…In a few generations we might not even be wearing saris!” she exclaims. The talk will also be focusing on the temple silks of Kanjeevaram, Kodalikaruppur of Thanjavur royalty, the Kalamkari, Calico and Chintz of the British, and other lesser known weaves of South India.

“I will also be talking about the revival of various weaves and will be she showing a few pieces from Tulsi and Sundari for the audience to get a better understanding of the traditional weaves,” she adds. The talk will take place today at the Madras literary society, DPI campus, college road between 11am and 12pm. For details, call:  044 2827 9666.

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