Mysore silk sarees in a hundred shades and 300 designs to choose from at the Karnataka State Arts and Crafts Emporium

A royal blue saree with a metallic zari dazzles under the dim lights of the Karnataka State Arts and Crafts Emporium at Jos Junction. The first prize winner in the vintage saree competition held in Karnataka by the Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation Limited (KSIC), the 57-year-old saree does not show any sign of wear and tear. With a diamond design border containing .65 per cent gold and 65 per cent silver, it can still pass off as brand new. The owner of the saree, B.K. Prasanna, along with the second and third prize winners, were given sarees worth Rs. 15,000 as gift.

“We conduct vintage saree competitions every year to create awareness about the quality of Mysore silks,” says S. Philomen Raj, manager of KSIC. The company has opened a permanent Mysore silk counter at the Karnataka State Arts and Crafts Emporium in Kochi where three prize winning vintage sarees have been displayed. The three were chosen from 108 sarees.

Unique design

No colour is over-the-top for a traditional Mysore silk saree. A fluorescent green with a shocking pink border, a flame coloured one with a gold border, a royal blue (read bright blue multiplied by 100) with silver zari… the combinations only get whackier as you sift through the soft bundles. They come in 100 shades and over 300 designs. Crepes and georgettes are the standard. A new range, by designer Latha Puttana, is on display. The double-bordered sarees are water-proof.

Each Mysore silk saree is unique in that it has a code embroidered in a corner, which gives you the entire history of the saree including details such as when it was manufactured, how many hours went into its making and the wages the weaver got for the saree. Despite prohibitive prices (They start at Rs. 8,000 and go up to Rs. 2, 22,000), the sale of Mysore silks is brisk throughout Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. “That is because at least one kg of silk goes into one saree,” says Raj. One can identify an original Mysore silk by its weight and the unique code, he adds. The Geographical Indication Registration given by the Government makes KSIC the sole proprietor for Mysore silks.

Historic weaves

The Maharaja of Mysore built a silk factory in 1912. When the KSIC took over the factory in 1980, it preserved the heritage of the royal silk. “Innovations have been made, but only in design. The silk remains the same-100 per cent pure,” says Raj. As part of the centenary celebrations of Mysore Silks in 2012, KSIC plans to dedicate a building in Mysore with a museum showcasing vintage sarees, an auditorium and a showroom.

Discounts up to 20 per cent are available at the Kochi outlet till December.