Dastkar offers an alluring range of cotton saris and salwar sets, that are ideal for the season.

Handlooms are a major draw in many craft fairs that dot the city. Catering to contemporary tastes that have inspired meaningful innovations within the format of traditional weaving, the Dastkar Mela, organised by the Pushpanjali Khadi Gramudyog Sansthan, at Valluvar Kottam from March 1-10 (timings 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.) presents an alluring range of Maheshwari and Chanderi weaves as well as Bandhani textiles.

“We use only natural dyes derived from leaves, flowers and tree bark. They are sun-dried, ground to powder and boiled over a wood fire. For instance we get the pink colour from extracts of neem bark, pomegranate skin, tishu flower and alum,” explains Meherban Khan, who is a traditional weaver from Indore, Madhya Pradesh engaged in the creation of Chanderi and Maheswari saris.

The Chanderi spectrum spans saris, salwar sets and dupattas in two varieties – pure cotton (Rs. 500 – 1,000) and silk cotton (Rs.1,300 – 1,800). Chanderi cotton employs mulmul yarn in warp and weft. After weaving, the creamy base fabric, edged with a narrow zari border, is dyed in rich shades. The dyed fabric is embellished with hand-block Dabu prints predominantly characterised by small floral motifs. The silk cotton variety (60% silk 40% cotton) features earthy red, black and beige motifs that make elegant statements in bold relief against the natural off white fabric base.

Luminous, sheer and ethereal, the jewel-bright tones of Maheswari saris (Rs.1,400 onwards) reflect a unique aesthetics. Comprised of 70% silk and 30% cotton, the Maheswari silk cotton weave is gauzier than the Chanderi. Mercerised cotton yarn is used to impart shine and achieve lightness. Bagh and Utkar motifs in elegant progression draw attention to the skill of the hand block printer.

Variegated patterns

An enticing array of unstitched soft cotton salwar sets (Rs. 700 - 1500) with Bandhani or Bandhej, the traditional tie-and-dye craft of Gujarat, provides an ideal summer wear option. Clustered, speckled and sprinkled, the characteristic little white dots kaleidoscope into variegated patterns against a brightly coloured base. In this resist technique, the artist draws the design on the fabric, while the bandnari (knotter) pinches the fabric and ties it into small knots along the pattern. When the fabric is dyed, the knotted areas resist the dye and emerge as white dots.

Ali Mohamed Khatri, 67-year-old fourth generation paramparik artisan says, “Ours is a family enterprise that involves my siblings and extended family in Bhuj, Kutch and Gujarat. The knotting process is intricate and time consuming and takes between two-four days for each piece. When two or more colours are used, the dyeing progresses from the lightest colour to the darker shades. The dots may be round, square or tear shaped and traditional designs include Ambadal, Chandrakukdi, Shikari and Baar Baath”. The Khatris use twelve colour combinations and twenty designs. Some vibrant contrasts are green and purple, fuchsia and turquoise, burnt sienna and ochre. “The USP of these ensembles lies in the material used – satin cotton which has the softness and sheen of silk – retain them even after repeated washing. Also we offer products dyed in unusual combinations that carry a colour-fast guarantee.”

The exhibition also features exclusive Sambalpuri and Ikat saris and dress material, soft cotton block-printed bed linen and quilts from Jaipur, marble artefacts, Kashmiri floral embroidery, dhurries and carpets, Thanjavur and Pattachitra paintings, Dhokra art, silk and parchment paintings, Raja Ravi Varma reproductions, inlaid sheesham wood furniture, silver, semiprecious stone and bead jewellery, one gram gold-plated ornaments and a dazzling range of lac bangles.