Weaving a story around saris of the south

Nesa Arumugam. Photo: M.Vedhan  

The craze for silk existed even before your great grandmother began meticulously treasuring all her intricately-woven saris. Legend has it that Tipu Sultan was so fascinated by the tradition of weaving and intricacy of motifs that he set up weaving centres in Madurai, Salem and Kancheepuram. In her book ‘Silk Sarees of Tamil Nadu', Nesa Arumugam throws details on the king's penchant for silk collection as she traces the genesis of silk weaving in Kancheepuram.

S. Aishwarya catches up with her…

What makes the weaving tradition of Tamil Nadu unique is that the designs and motifs have stood the test of time, she says. “North Indian silk saris have a lot of Persian influence in their motifs. But Tamil Nadu has retained the Dravidian flavour despite many attempts by kings to infuse a Persian style on saris,” says the Australia-based author.

With support from the Weavers' Service Centre, Ms. Arumugam studied the lives of silk weavers in Kancheepuram for six years and put together various weaving styles, silk looms and techniques in her book. “It is particularly interesting to note that there have only been half a dozen varieties of motifs that get woven on saris for over centuries. All these motifs are based on god and nature. Lotus, rudraskha, temple borders, peacock eye and mangoes symbolise our belief system.”

Calling weavers custodians of tradition, she said it was time they receive better recognition. “Many traditional weaving techniques such as interlocking and twisting yarns are fading as each sari needs at least four weavers to work at the same time. As the labour cost escalated, many weavers are not keen on making such saris,” she says.

For those who find the terminologies such as warp, weft, brocade and yarn, she has come up with a ‘Dictionary of silk in India,' a glossary of words that one frequently hears but remain incomprehensible.

Both the publications will be launched on Saturday.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 7:12:38 AM |

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