CHENNAI: The white walls at Café Amethyst stood in contrast to the variety of weaves stacked in racks. Taneira inaugurated their second edition of sari exhibition at the city in the presence of the handloom expert, Sabita Radhakrishnan. “Every time I talk about textiles, I can’t resist myself from mentioning saris,” she says.
With more than 30 years of experience in textiles, she was able to draw a repertoire of references to illustrate the history of many different kinds of saris across India. “Saris are quintessential nine-yard unstitched garments which are the main attire for women across the nation,” she says.
The genesis of saris is a mystery yet to crack. Though there are a lot of conjectures, nothing is proven until now. She says that one of the conjectures of the existence of the saris was during the Harappa Civilization. As per the excavations, the long piece of clothing was worn by the people of those times too. Most of the ikat saris at the exhibition come with the GI tag, which certifies it to be a handloom.
She also delved into the weaving techniques of various saris. The patterns in ikat saris are created by wrap dyes and weft thread colours. “At first the thread is stretched and then designs are made to stand on the frame,” she says.
While pointing at the intricate bandhani work in a benarasi sari, she adds that it usually takes several months to make one sari. “Due to the mechanisation of weaves, it has now become harder to find a skilled weaver. Earlier, several Benarasi weavers had to kill themselves as the Chinese plagiarised the designs and sold it at a cheaper price,” says Sabita.
While talking about region-based saris, she says that she has travelled to different states. The talk that started with Kanjivarams travelled to Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and many more. Pointing to a chanderi sari displayed at the exhibition, she says, “These saris are from a village in Madhya Pradesh. Earlier the motifs were only weaved in cotton saris.”
One of the visitors, who came to look at kanjivarams, was fascinated by her talk. “I never knew that India has such variety of weaves. I learned to separate a kanjivaram sari from other silk. I am looking forward to buying a chanderi and a kota sari,” says Kalpana Ramani, a visitor.