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Kancheepuram Sarees: Revival of Indian Heritage

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on June 21, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Simrat Chadha and Nalini of Shilpi bring alive the classic Kancheepuram saree, with near-forgotten designs and colour combinations. Mala and Pradeep Sinha of Bodhi Baroda joined hands with the revivalists to bring 125 of the classic revived Kancheepuram sarees (in pure cotton, cotton-silk blends and pure silk) in a special exhibition at their Baroda store, earlier this year.

© Courtesy of the designers

Designers Mala and Pradeep Sinha are graduates from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Pradeep is a Product Designer and Mala is a Textile Designer. Both of them have set up Bodhi that designs textiles in mul, pure cotton, silk and other organic textile materials at a huge unit in the Makarpura Industrial Estate in Baroda and sell their products at the Bodhi showroom on Old Padra Road in the city. Mala works with several premium lifestyle stores all over the country taking Bodhi products to exclusive exhibitions that she holds in these stores. Their textile design work is anchored in tradition though it is extremely contemporary.

Earlier in the year, they had an exhibition on ‘Heritage Kancheepuram Sarees’. “The Kancheepuram Pattu is the pride of South India, a saree that every Indian woman of elegance would want in her wardrobe. However, over the last few years, many of the classic features of this wonderful saree have almost vanished leaving behind a rather soulless coming together of colours, uninspired borders and short-lived trendy, ‘modern’ motifs,” explains Mala.

In recent years, Chennai-based Simrat Chadha and Nalini, both Pattu revivalists, went on a passionate journey of revisiting and recreating the classic Kancheepuram to stop “a bit of our culture and heritage from vanishing in front of our eyes and to entice the young person into appreciating and wearing the saree. It’s also our journey of responsibility. We are building pride of association at two ends - the customer and the weaver.” They read books on Kancheepuram sarees and began collecting originals, especially those that belonged to mamis – friends’ mothers, aunts, grandmothers and even great grandmothers! They then took a few of these originals and visited weavers and weaving centres in Kancheepuram, Salem and Madurai, to convince the weavers to replicate them.

The motifs of the Kancheepuram pattu saree, the pride of South India, had lyrical names such as tuthiripoo, bavanchu, kuyilkann, muthuchir, paalum pazhamum, oosivanam, vaizhapoo and simhasana. As Simrat Chadha puts it, “Ironically, the Kancheepuram saree itself is a misnomer. It came to be so called only because of the aggregation of sarees and weavers in the city of Kancheepuram. Kancheepuram was actually a great veshti weaving centre! The Pattu saree, or the Kancheepuram saree as it is commonly known, also owes its design soul less to Kancheepuram and more to the aggressive, spontaneous grace of Andhra’s design language and Karnataka’s staid yet graceful weaving patterns with Tamil Nadu’s structured textile philosophy. Every art form in Tamil Nadu follows strict structural formats. Even checks or lines whatever intricacy they wished to express followed structure. The exquisite Benarasi too came under Kancheepuram pattu saree’s structured patterning when the northern ‘hans’ became the ‘hamsam.’

For the revival and survival of ancient craft traditions, it is imperative to have such like-minded people supporting each other. Says Mala, “We are truly proud that Bodhi was able to contribute in its own little way to the revival of the original Kancheepuram Pattu!”


Designer : Simrat Chadha & Nalini
Photography :courtesy the designers

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