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.
|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 :)
|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.
|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.