Nov 28, 2010

The Kanjeevaram Sari

Kanjeevaram Sari
Kanjeevaram Sari

My family is from the town of Palakkad in Kerala, and as any South Indian would tell you, marriages in our part of the world means silk saris. One of my fondest memories from when I was a kid is my granpa taking the entire family to Coimbatore to pick Kanjeevaram saris for the ladies of the house. Those days that was the only silk deemed worthy of wearing at a wedding, and I still cringe at the "fancy" silks that I see nowadays. I guess some things just stay with you from childhood, and today, my small collection of saris is almost exclusively Kanjeevaram silks.

Traditionally, Kanjeevaram silk saris are hand-woven in two parts. The border and the pallu of the sari are woven as one unit and the body of the sari is woven separately in another colour, and then the two are attached together. The joint between the two is pretty strong, apparently stays on even if the sari gets torn. Needless to say, this is one claim I am not planning on testing.

Kanjeevaram Sari
Joint between the border and the main portion of the sari - if you noticing for the
first time, you might think you that someone tried to repair a damaged sari :)

It's the same sari in all the photos - silk just photographs differently under different lights :)

Kanjeevaram Sari
Joint between the pallu and the main body of the sari - the tufts of thread mark the joint.

However, I think with saris where the body of the sari is woven with two different coloured threads - a double colour sari - this joint will not be there.  This joint feature is missing in some of the Kanjeevaram saris I own - so maybe its just the traditional method of weaving and not all saris have it.  The silk thread used for the weaving is stronger because each thread consists of 3 threads twisted together to make one thread.

Kanjeevaram saris are very expensive. However, the price range is very wide. The important factors that determine the cost of a sari would be:
  • A hand-woven sari would cost more than a machine woven. Need an explanation for this? It is a time-consuming process - takes about a month to make 3 saris. The maximum length possible on a traditional loom is 18-yards, a sari being 6 yards, so no more than 3 silk saris would look the exactly the same.
  • Tested-zari saris are cheaper than pure-zari saris. The authentic "pure" zari is made using a silk thread over which a silver/silver-copper alloy wire is twisted, and then this is dipped in gold.* Reducing the quantity of silver in the alloy would obviously cut costs. The easiest method for the average customer to ensure that the "pure zari" is actually pure is to buy from a more established shop. Tested zari saris are made with copper wire electroplated with silver and then gold plated - which makes it much cheaper than the pure zari saris. The salesperson/shopkeeper should ideally tell you if the sari has "tested zari" or "pure zari," but lately I have noticed, people are either unaware or just not bothered as are the salespeople, so nobody is any wiser. Tested zari has a more gaudy golden colour as compared to the more subtle gold of the pure zari, and the gold of the tested zari fades off after a few years.
  • Lastly, the thicker the silk in the sari, or the heavier the sari, the costlier it is going to be.

Care instructions:
 
Kanjeevaram Sari
Step-by-step instruction - and illustrated too :)

These are just a few things I have learned from my mom and chatting staff at some of the shops I have been to.  I have only hand-woven Kanjeevaram saris, and of course, pure zari only, but that's just my preference. My friend has a lot of machine-woven saris, all fabulous colours and with some pretty designs, which you would not find in the more traditional weave.  A lighter silk makes it easier to wear, a heavier silk looks amazing.  Whatever you pick, I hope I helped in a small way to make an informed buy :)

*I am not sure if the pure zari uses silver-copper alloy or pure silver. I might be wrong about the info - not making any claims to accuracy :)
These silks are also available without zari, just lovely thread weave patterns, and so many other varieties.  I have only written about the traditional silk sari with a zari border.

49 comments:

  1. These instructions are from the kumaran's box, right? :D *high five* on being from palakkad - I'm from nurani from my mom's side!

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  2. Nallis :D :D No wonder you knew it immediately though..I am pretty sure you would have seen enough Kanjeevarams by now especially with the wedding approaching :D

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  3. Yay!!!!!

    Same pinch on the PLKd part...

    I love my kanjeevarams too..I have a small collection..again thanks to the numerous saree changes during the wedding ceremony.

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  4. this palakkad club is growing....i seriously need to find some allepians...and kochi kumaris.......:((

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  5. I dont have any sareeeeeee.... :( Not even a single saaariiiii.....Me louing these sareees of yours..and my mom's sareees toooo...Oh and good morning!! :D :D :D

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  6. I just have one silk saree that too becasue my mom had to add one silk saree for shagun purposes . I cannot carry off silk sarees , they are kinda bloated kinds na...I dunno how to explain. :((

    Yours is a very pretty saree. Mine is golden yellow kinds. :)

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  7. Oh I want to see you wearing a saree. :))

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  8. Hii Poornima :) :) Hehehee..we have to have Kanjeevarams naaa or we just won't be normal :)

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  9. Kochi Kumaris??????? Jomol..seriously...you need to patent all your words..each one is a gem!!! I worssssssip youuuuuuuuuuuu :D :D

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  10. Cali - :D :D Its one sari only..is green and yellow..but looks blue in some lights or flash or something!

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  11. Rati - I am short and round..so imagine a haystack with cloth wrapped around and that's MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE :D

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  12. I think we all should try mysore georget!! .... :D :D :D...

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  13. Georjette..Jeorgette...Jeorjette....duh! Whats the spelling????

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  14. Hi Rads,
    your saree collection may be limited but i can see you've a deep love (reverence) for them...why did you show just one..i usually don't wear saree i have about 3-4 i don't even know what they are, they don't suit me and yet i dream to wear these beautiful silks and cottons and other traditional indian ones the way they are meant to be worn..but as they say abhi dilli door hai...

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  15. @ Rads - lol...yeah. And best part is that we keep adding to the collection, whether we wear it or not.

    @ Jomo - kochi kumari?? ok..im half added to that group as my inlaws are thr..okies?? btw, u have pathumma no? she is fulltoon "KochiKumari"..lol

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  16. Hii Rajeshwari :) I was at Fabindia yesterday - realized is what I love handlooms and handicrafts, so thought might write about those once in a while :D Photographing one was such a pain..I really won't have the patience to photograph any more!

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  17. Poornima..you are become an All-India Kumari now :D :D :D :D :D

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  18. ..have become..are become??!!!

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  19. @ Rads - at this rate..yes..ALL India Kumari..wah wah..kya naam hain

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  20. :D :D Just passing on a title Poornima. People used to ask me where did you study and I would start listing all these places, cos we shifted every 2 yrs...and invariably the person who asked me would be like ohhhh you are an All India person...used to hate it goodness knows why!

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  21. ooooooooooii!:D i say mom is marathi papa is telugu i am pakka fauji kid!:P oh and pretty! how many silk worms died contributing to this one sari! good you dint show more:P

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  22. Rads...buuuutifullll sareee..me luv all south indian sarees...sorry cant differentiate...it maybe irritating like it was foir that gal in CHAK DE INDIA...but as i m geographically challenged cant help it...eneways bottom line is i luv kanjeevarams,gadwals..kasavu...n did i mention i loooveeee idli, dosa, kudi rutti, chilla!!!!! Yummmyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!

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  23. Yup true..loads of silkworms died Ikky :(

    Farah - Yup I loved that part in Chak Le India..cos I hate people asking me are you a mallu, andhrite..etc. etc. and then there is this "mother tongue" theory!!!! I don't speak Malayalam at all unless the other person doesn't know any other language, but then that's my "mother tongue" CANNNNNOT understand that concept!

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  24. Hehehe...even i went to Fabindia yesterday...even they hva a beautful saree collection...Dey said coral glow facepack has been discontinued..so got Vit E and liquorice gel facepack....so wanna try it asap!!!!

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  25. Oh there were loads of the coral glow pack in the Fabindia I went too. I have some face packs to finish so didn't buy it.

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  26. Oh....wil search for it den in my nxt trip to Mumbai coz there is only 1 outlet in Surat...

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  27. Rads i will be nice. i swear. dont disown me. please.

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  28. raddhhhiiikkkkkkkaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ssssssssssssspammm sssssssssppaaaaammmmm ssssssspppaaaaaaammmmmm ssssssssppppppaaaaaaaaammmmmmmm ssspam spam spam sssssssssssssssssssssspaaaaaaaaaaaam!!!

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  29. ???!!!!!! Go eat some ice cream...

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  30. hawww!! why you being mean to ogreee.....me five you all the gyaan in mail. :P :P

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  31. Ikky me give you ice cream and saunf ka paani saath saath. :D :D :D

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  32. silkworms died....eeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkkkssssss!!!

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  33. Err..am I missing something here?? When was I mean to ogre...she said "how many silk worms died contributing to this one sari! good you dint show more" I said "Yup true..loads of silkworms died Ikky :("

    Where is the mean part in this????????????

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  34. she made sad faces..i thought youw ere being mean to her..hummmphhh..any hooo....hooo hooo

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  35. :-(( Everyone mean to meeee :-((

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  36. she was being mean to me Rati! i can tell when she is being so polite. i know she hates me and now shes being politely mean to me! :(:(:(

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  37. you are being mean to me!!!!!!!!!!

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  38. Rolls eyes..eye fell down...me go searching for my eyeballs...!!!!!!!!!!

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  39. Nice saree Rads!! Post pics of u wearing it na.Plzzzzzzz

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  40. Haystack + sari round it = Radhika!

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  41. beautiful color...i have stopped buying kanjiva now...beca in my collection i only hv them...

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  42. Oh wowww...You Kanjeevaram crazy too :D :D Now get back to the other post and tell me the story!

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  43. totally
    i have lot of silks all gotten on marriage
    the heaviest is kanji from calcutta and so heavy
    sometime i wonder how i wore it in the first place
    was so informative
    specially the wash instructions for lazy ppl like me:)

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  44. hey rads since u know abt silks
    is nalli still a big name?
    mine are mostly nalli silks
    my granny used to like nalli but now whats the situation with nalli silks?

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  45. I like Nallis, but it seems smaller than what it was before. It remains one of the most reliable shops to go silk shopping in, just like Kumarans. If you are in Chennai, though, there are some other newer places you can go to. If you need info, I will find out and let you know some other shops too.

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  46. Lazy people like you and me should give our saris for dry cleaning obediently :D

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