The Nine Varieties of North Indian Handloom Sarees

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Chikankari Sarees from Lucknow, Utter Pradesh:

The most elegant and graceful hand embroidered sari among the North Indian handloom sarees is Chikankari Sarees from Lucknow, UP. The art that came to India from Persia and patronized by the Nawabs for many years, the design motifs in Chikankari are predominantly influenced by Mughal art. The bel or creeper is the most commonly used design while individual motifs or butis like that of animals and flowers are also made including fish (mahi), hathi (elephant) and kairi (mango), dhaniya patti (coriander leaf), murri (grain motif ), jaal and many more.The designs are graded and used according to the stitches employed. There are about 40 different stitches in Chikankari. Each stitch has an individual name and it involves a specific number of threads and has a specific use. Finely detailed designs with floral patterns are characteristic of this work.

Banarasi Brocade sarees from Varanasi, Utter Pradesh:

Even today, one can see the glimpse of India’s golden era in the opulence of North Indian weaves especially the Banarasi brocade sarees that are woven in fine gold and silver threads in the city of Banaras, Utter Pradesh. Fine heavy gauge silk yarns are woven intricately as warp and weft along with gold and silver threads called zari to create elaborate brocade designs. Most Banarasi saris reflect ancient Mughal influence that can be seen in the motifs used like floral and foliate motifs (kalga and bel), a string of upright leaves (jhallar) as well as other motifs inspired by flora and fauna as well as figures with detailed scenes from villages or designs inspired from architecture of temple and mosque, etc. There are a variety of Banarasi saris namely zari brocades, tanchoi brocades, amni brocades, tissue brocades, jamavar, etc. Today Banarasi saris are available in four kinds of fabric: pure silk (katan), organza (kora), georgette and shattir.

Dupion Silk Sarees from Banaras, Utter Pradesh:

Also referred to as Dupioni, Dupion silk sarees are medium weight silk sarees that are woven in Northern India and are widely popular throughout the country. Dupion meaning two, dupion silks are woven from cocoons that are formed jointly by two silkworms. It is a crisp and textured silk that is produced by using fine threads in the warp and uneven threads reeled from two or more entangled cocoons in the weft, creating tightly-woven yardage attributing to their textured look with unparallel lustre. Often woven with different colored threads that are scattered through the warp and weft, these sarees exhibit an iridescent effect that combined with their stubby texture gives them a very rustic and natural look. Dupion silk sarees come in a variety of plain and striped patterns or floral and other intrinsic patterns which clubbed with their colourful weave bring out the beauty of the saree like none other.

Chanderi Sarees from Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh:

Chanderi silk sarees from North India are one of the traditional methods of hand-weaving that have been developed over the centuries and passed down through generations. These saris are very light with unique glossy transparency. Made in either cotton or silk or silk-cotton, the patterns seen in these sarees are inspired from the temples of Chanderi. These sarees are mainly distinguished by their borders. These saris are known for their contrasting colors and their distinct nature as well as temple inspired patterns.

Bafta Sarees  from Madhya Pradesh:

Bafta sarees from Madhya Pradesh are popular for their beautiful subdued prints on natural earthen colors. Made in silk-cotton fabric, these sarees are a fine mix of lustrous silk in the warp and mercerized cotton in the weft. Combining the best of both worlds, these illustrious sarees have a natural glow that gleam with sophistication. These sarees feature fringed pallus in grand traditional style that are rather suave and understated, giving the wearer elegant looks.

Maheshwari Sarees from Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh:

The simple and elegant Maheshwari sari from Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh is another ancient celebrated weaving cluster from North India. The typical Maheshwari sari is either checkered, plain or with stripes, combined with complementary colours. Mostly woven in cotton and silk, these saris have a trademark border and pallu that set them apart from the likes of Paithani, Patola, Kanchipuram and Gadwal. Trademark of Maheshwari sarees, the pallu is particularly distinctive with 5 strips, 3 coloured and two white alternating, running along its width. The border of the sari known as bugdiis reversible making the saree rather unique.

Kosa Silk Sarees from Chhattisgarh:

One of the most popular sarees in North India that are much loved for their beauty, comfort and sturdiness are Kosa silk sarees from Chhattisgarh. Woven by the Dewangan tribe which resides in the Gondwana forest belt, these sarees are greatly influenced by nature and tribal designs that are seen on these sarees, setting them apart from the modern day designed sarees.As Kosa silk is obtained from a special type of silk worm called Kosa that is rather rare, the texture of these sarees is coarse. This unique feature makes them stand out in the crowd of smooth silk sarees of North. Kosa sarees come in natural shades like pale gold, fawn, cream, honey, orange and so on. Natural dyes are used to create interesting designs along with dyeing the entire saree. Popular designs that adorn these sarees are patterns like the Jaala (net) and Fera that are inspired by nature along with other interesting designs like tribal tales and mythological stories adorning them. Kosa sarees are considered pure and pious and they make a great wear for important occasions like weddings and religious ceremonies.

Bagh Print Sarees from Bagh, Madhya Pradesh:

From a near forgotten tribal art in a small village in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, today Bagh printed sarees are amongst the most admired north Indian sarees in the world. Made using block printing based on traditional motifs inspired by the 1,500-year-old paintings found in caves in the region, the motifs seen on Bagh print sarees include chameli or jasmine, maithir or mushroom, leheriya and jurvaria or small dots on the field. Apart from the various moods and landscapes that these motifs emote, the prints have a distinctive feel that no machine print can ever evoke. Also these sarees are known to be extremely soft due to their repeated washes in river Bhagini. The block printing process is rather long and tedious and involves first in soaking overnight of the fabric such as cotton, tussar, silk and crepe which is then dried only to be soaked again in a special paste that is once again washed, bleached and dried thus making it ready for printing. Block printing also is very laborious and needs human perfection to create a uniform design and in turn a perfect drape.

Batik Print Sarees:

An art of decorating sarees using wax and dye, Batik printing is a creative medium to adorn sarees that is prevalent in North India. In India, it originated in Gujarat in the 1st century AD by the Khatri community. Considered till date as the most expressive and subtle of the resist dye methods, the process of making Batik involves selecting areas of the cloth that are blocked with hot wax and then dyeing the cloth. This way the parts covered in wax resist the dye and remain the original colour. This process of waxing and dyeing is repeated multiple times to create more elaborate and colourful designs. After the final dyeing, once the wax is removed, Batik print saree is ready for wearing. These days, Batik printing is done on a variety of sarees like cottons, silks and georgette.

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