A long time ago around the 15th century, from South India emerged one of the most prestigious art, the weaving of Kanjivaram Sarees. We all treasure and cherish our near and dear Kanjivaram silk saree. And while getting astounded at its softness and perfection, have you ever wondered, for how many myriad years we are witnessing our life surrounded by this magical beauty?
How Kanjivaram has become an inseparable part of our culture. In our family and neighbourhood, we all know some people whom we have seen owning a Kanjivaram that has been passed down from generations. A Kanjivaram saree is a significant part of the household heritage in the state of Tamil Nadu. Switching the shoulders of Kanjivaram from grandmothers to mothers and from them to either daughter or newlywed daughter-in-law is an unwritten rule which has been followed for decades.
This Kanjivaram ritual doesn't start today or yesterday. Kanjivaram has its own rich history and traces in mythology and ancient books.
History & Mythology of Kanjivaram
The origin of Kanjivaram sarees can be traced back to Hindu mythology. It is said that the Kanjivaram Weavers are the descendants of Sage Markandeya, who, aeons ago, worshipped lord Shiva and wove cloths from lotus fibre for the deities themselves. Throughout yore, this grandeur weaving practice blossomed in view of the fact that royal patronage, from the seventh century the town grew in prominence under the rule of the Pallava dynasty. Kanchipuram was their capital from the 6th century CE onwards. It had well laid out roads, high fortifications and prominent buildings, which attracted visitors from around the world and boosted the weaving industry,
The evolution of Kanjivaram silk from local craftwork to an enormous prosperous endeavour occurred in the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, the ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire. During his reign, the weaving clusters of Andhra Pradesh, the Devangas and Saligars, migrated to the south and settled in various regions of the empire. This wave of migration of weavers signified the old silk tradition of Kanjivaram was infused with new skills, new patterns, and techniques, taking the industry to new extremes.
Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu has been one of the oldest and most eminent weaving centres of India for more than 1.5 Centenaries. This famous silk sarees craft of Kanchipuram are treasured for their rich and varied motifs. Kanchipuram is mentioned in the books of the Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali who lived in the 3rd – 2nd century BC. Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram during the reign of Pallava King Narasimhavarman I in the 7th century CE. He mentions an enormous number of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples as well as a flourishing weaving industry.
In the sangam era, the cotton cloth woven in Kanchipuram was exported to the Roman Empire and was significantly valued. Therefore, Kanchipuram has been renowned for its dual silhouettes, first as the city for its divinity known as a city of thousand temples as well as an important weaving cluster of India for more than 1500 years.
A Peek Into Weaver’s life.
The deity land of Kanchipuram is famous for silk and is eminent as the city of thousand temples. Depicting the ambiance of divinity and simplicity, Kanchipuram has intertwined the religion and weaving in its hues. The land of Kanchipuram is now known as the Silk City. It carries the idyllic lifestyle, the piousness of the quaint town filled with temples, and the clicky clacky of the looms in background while sipping a hot filter coffee and smelling wafting fragrances of delicious and traditional food on the street, gives Kanchipuram a modern day heavenly feeling.
A classic daytime at any weaving cluster in Kanjivaram will show you the blend and involvement of the whole weaving community in the craft. Weaving a Kanjivaram saree is not just a family matter, it becomes a community affair. As a part of cluster household artisans and their families start helping each other out from the early stages of pre-weaving processes.
Weaving takes place early in the morning in their cottages, and it feels like the arrival of a new guest. From their youthful sons or daughters to their wise grandparents, all the family put their heart and soul into making the saree feel soft and comfortable. They treat the saree in a very respectful manner and worship it. Some weavers have the habit of making one saree for the local goddess before starting a new line. The melodious sound of the handloom gives a rhythm of life to them, the loom occupies the centre of the stage, and the esoteric musical play of the Kanjivaram saga begins.
Inspirations and Patterns.
As all trades and crafts are interdisciplinary by nature, it stands to reason that master weavers and artisans of Kanchipuram were inspired by the beautiful motifs they saw on temples and walls around them and recreated these exquisite motifs in their clothes. We all have seen some classic motifs like Mayil (peacock), Poo chakram, Yaali, Ganda Perunda, and many more, which are inspired by the land of Kanchipuram.
The Kanjivaram craft has established its immortality and is evolving with time adapting to the new changes while keeping its authenticity and exquisiteness alive. Its eternal beauty is a true character of purity, by being connected to its roots and Kanjivaram sarees have broken the fences of time and have seized all over the world millions of hearts.