Weaving a unique tradition

"WHEN SOMETHING is beautiful, it is beautiful for all time," said Rukmini Devi, often. She was talking about Indian textiles, and South Indian saris, in particular. At a time when British India was flooded with garish mill-made saris from England, Rukmini felt the immense need to protect our weaving traditions, and thus started Kalakshetra in 1936. Hand woven till today, the vegetable dyes, motifs, designs and the complex `korvai' technique are unique to the Kalakshetra sari.

Checks and stripes, hamsams and yaalis, rudrakshams and oosivaanams were all woven with pure twisted silk yarn, and pure silver and gold zari. This was the hallmark of this unique tradition, and today, when these saris are only made to order, it is no surprise that eager clients wait for anything up to a year for the beautiful productions.

Both the cottons and the silks have a look of the timeless, and are today available as saris, dupattas and half-saris. As the production could never meet the steady demand due to lack of weavers, the Tamil Nadu Government has stepped in and all its units today produce handwoven saris, based on Kalakshetra designs, under a mutual agreement.

At the craft outlet, for the dance season, a collection of old Kalakshetra silk saris has been displayed for the purpose of taking orders. Along with these are kept fresh stock of kalamkari dress materials, saris from Kalakshetra and the State's weaving units etc.

Weaving a unique tradition

A book by Shakuntala Ramani, chairperson of the textiles division, `Sari: the Kalakshetra tradition' was also released on December 23, to coincide with the sales. It contains beautiful pictures and valuable information on the style.

Rukmini Devi was often heard saying, "I feel like a signpost, pointing in the right direction. We are alone in this field, people must follow". Perhaps, with increased production, more people will indeed realise the beauty of these precious designs. The sale is on outside the auditorium till Janaury 1. Later it will shift to the regular outlet.


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