Know your craft

Legendary Paithani

Introduction and etymology

The name Paithani is derived from its land of origin, the Paithan or Pratisthan. From the elaborate veins, florals, peacocks, parrots and even Buddha himself gazes from its pallav and the design continues on borders. The Paithan is also called the Kashi of Deccan, flourishing along the banks of Godavari. This visually stunning sari is an epitome of handcrafted luxury.

 

Ravi verma portrait of a royal woman wearing Paithani (1893). 
(Source – Wikimedia Commons)
Paithani bridal sari from 19th century.
(Source – Wikimedia Commons)

History

The ancient legacy of Paithani can be traced back to 2000 years when this craft flourished under the Satvahana Dynasty in 200 BC, it later grew as a popular craft across the Deccan region. The handwoven Paithani Tapestry which has different colors of silk threads with gold and silver zari was a sight to behold. The elegant Paithani in the rich past was also being exchanged for an equal measure of gold and used as currency along the trade routes with the Greek and Roman merchants.
The craft of Paithani flourished under different rulers and has seen the influence of the dynasty among its detailed weaves. The Nizam of Hyderabad also patronized this craft. After the decline of Mughal dynasty with Aurangzeb being overthrown, the successive Peshawars favored the Paithani and used it extensively as part of their royal clothing, they even settled weavers in the town Yeola, nearby Shirdi. This popularized the craft and made it viable to the length and breadth of the nation.

 

A Paithani weaver at work.
(Source: mssidc.maharashtra.gov.in)

 

Weaver in the process of weaving a Paithani sari.
(Source – flickr.com/kunal mehta)

Weaving

The laborious process of weaving a Paithani is traditional and is being followed for centuries. The raw Silk threads and zari used are of the best quality, this gives the golden sheen to Paithani. The Silk threads are carefully set on the loom, where each thread is dyed and this stage involves the meticulous job of aligning the threads according to the design and color of the sari. The tapestry weaving is still practiced where the warp and weft threads are woven together.

 

Peacock motif in a Handwoven Paithani sari.
(Source – Parisera)
Floral motif Paithani sari.
(Source – Parisera)

Varieties

Within Paithani, the saris are classified in respect to the motifs, colours, and region from where it is woven. Thus, the famous motifs are Bangadi-Mor (Bangle-Peacock), Tota or Muniya (Parrot), Kamal Pushpa (Lotus), Hans, Ahrafi, Asawalli (Flowering Veins), Amar Vell (Mughal inspired veins), Humarparinda (Peasant bird) and the famous Narali (Coconut). Each motif signifies the cultural belief inspired from the respective royal regimes of the Paithan.

 

Colors are also very significant; the brightly colored Paithanis are rarely missed by the trained eye of the connoisseur. Kalichandrakala (Black sari with Red border), Raghu (Parrot green colored sari), Shirodak (White sari), Neeligunji (Blue colored sari) are few of the famous colors of Paithani. The borders of the sari are heavily designed with unique and traditionally rich motifs.

 

They are again broadly classified under the weaving style. The first type is the Kadiyal sari, roughly translated to the interlock system, where the warp and weft of the border are of the same color whereas the body is a stark contrast to the border. The next type of weaving namely the Kat/Ekdhoti is where a single shuttle is used in the weaving of weft and the yarn used in the weft and warp are different, the borders and the body have simple buttis. The kad is also used as a lungi by the Maharashtrian men.

 

The Paithani faced a severe decline in the production in the recent past due to its traditional features, only the connoisseurs were willing to own this beauty. In the recent times, many NGOs and government backed weaving clusters are reviving this art. It only justifies that the sari fondly called as the poem written in silk, which once adorned the royals is once again gaining momentum, to be favoured by the handloom lovers.