Meet Sourav Das, a 29-year old textile revivalist in love with the sari

The young textile expert is recreating old weaves and replicating the styles of Indian aristocracy and royalty

Published: 02nd January 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st January 2022 06:24 PM   |  A+A-

Sourav Das

Sourav Das

The love affair with the sari by Indian textile aficionados turned into an unquenchable passion with the advent of Instagram. Designers and heritage mavens began to drive the bandwagon the whole nine yards. There are also fashionistas like Sourav Das, the 29-year old textile revivalist and designer, who try to look behind the drape.

"In the past, there were regional variations in the way women wore saris. In no two regions did they wear them alike. I still remember my grandmother's 8.5 yards sari that had to be draped around the chest, since there were no blouses or petticoats then," says Das, who is currently based in Hyderabad. The ubiquitous Nivi style evolved later when the ladies from Tagore household took to wearing petticoats and blouses in keeping with Victorian sensibilities.

The six yards sari that we know today did not exist then, he says.

In Baroda, the Gaekwad royalty wore the Navari (nine yards) whose pallas literally swept the floor like a train and covered the women’s feet. Over and above that, they would throw a five-metre shala (a kind of shawl) over their shoulders for effect. 

Traditionally zari tissue saris are soft because they used to be woven with real gold thread. Das, working with weavers in Maheshwar, could get the same effect in interesting hues of copper with real gold, silver beaten zaris and copper. “My secret formula to make them soft is to dip the fabric in castor oil,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes, explaining that his tissue saris have the feel of heirloom gold saris. 

He is also working on the Mau sari, which are cotton saris with authentic gold zari formerly woven near Benaras. “When I visited the village near Kashi, the weavers could not recollect the weave and none of them was willing to experiment,” he says.

So, Das went to Maheshwar, where a master weaver now works on Mau saris for him. He explains that weavers have always in the past as well travelled between regions, which is the reason behind the versatility of traditional weaves.

For instance, when there was a drought in Gujarat, the Ashavali weavers moved to Benares (he says there are still Ashavali weavers in Gujarat). Balucharis that depict elaborate stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were initially woven in Bishnupur, Bengal, can now be found in Benares though colours are radically different.

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The Shikargarh saris with elaborate motifs of hunting scenes have an interesting origin. When a Mughal emperor went on a hunt and killed a tiger, it was a reason for celebration. So, the weavers of Benares wove elaborate scenes of the hunt. In the late 17th and early 18th century, it became a huge rage in Benares. Subsequently, the saris were also woven in Bishnupur by Baluchari weavers.

His aesthetics are based on research and study, Das claims, since his master’s at NIFT was about documentation. But his love for textiles was fine-tuned even as a young boy growing up in Assam where every home had a loom, and just before Bihu (New Year) women would be seen weaving a cotton sari or a gamosa. Recently he has taken up translating the patkas (royal sashes) into saris and dupattas.

"The Mughals loved intricate meenakari work that you see on their jewellery. Patkas are this intricate weave for tapestries and rugs. We are now doing patka saris with the subtlest of colour palattes." 

While royalty was the patron of woven textiles at one time, now textile buffs ubiquitious on insta are buying them faster than they can be produced.

Quick Takes

The men and women who look good in handlooms: Rekha, Aparna Sen, Vidya Balan, Jaya Jaitley, Radhika Raje
Designers in India who inspire you: Early Ritu Kumar, Mapu (Martand Singh), Anuradha Waqil, and Anamika Khanna
The  weaves you'd like to revive: Kodali Karuppur, Jamdani technique and Mau saris

My other love:  Odissi dance and Hindustani classical. I received training in both.


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