Sunday, June 07, 2009

Vibrant Threads - Paithani


In the western Indian state of Maharashtra, a traditional Paithani saree is regarded as a family heirloom, passed down to the daughter or the daughter-in-law. Some families have 100-year old Paithanis, lovingly preserved over the generations. It was called 'maha-vastra' (grand attire), part of trousseaus and worn on special occasions like religious ceremonies and weddings. 

The Paithani saree is named after the place it originated from – Paithan, situated about 40 kilometres from Aurangabad. However, these days, they are woven predominantly in a place called Yeola, near Nasik.

A combination of criss-crossing border design along with colourful motifs on the 'padhar' (end-piece) make a typical Paithani. While the border threadwork in traditional Paithani was woven in gold thread (zari), subsequently, silver thread with a gold finish began to be used. The end-piece of traditional Paithani sarees are woven with gold thread in its warp thereby making a shimmery base for the colourful motifs to be worked into the weft.


The motifs are borrowed from nature. There are 'munia' (parrots), 'bangdi mor' (peacock inside a ring), 'asavali' (creepers), 'kamal' (lotus) and 'narali' (coconut). These are worked in gold thread when placed in the body of the saree and in colour when on the end-piece.

The richness of a Paithani also comes from 'buttis' (small gold motifs) that dot the vibrant colours in the body of the saree. The silk saree body is usually in colours like magenta, peacock blue, turmeric yellow and crimson. Dual-shaded sarees, called 'dhup-chaav' (light and shadow) are also made with different colours in the warp and weft, for example, red and green.

However, authentic Paithani is not for the common man with prices ranging from a few thousand rupees to even half a million rupees!

It is one of the saree types that comprises a traditional categorisation called 'shalu' or sarees in muslin with gold threadwork, made exclusively for the royalty and aristocracy.  

One reason for the exclusivity (and the price) of a Paithani could be the use of gold thread. The other reason being the workmanship involved in weaving the coloured motifs on to the base of the end-piece. Even today, it takes a month to handweave one simple Paithani and several months, for more intricate work.

Paithanis are usually woven in pure silk but there are some synthetic blends in non-traditional colours using gold-copper threadwork also available. However, they all carry the signature Paithani motifs and border design.

(an edited version appeared in the June 2009 Issue of At A Glance. Pics by author)

5 comments:

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Did you say half a million??? Yeah I can imagine how good that saree would look like... Did enjoy reading this post and I liked the green color saree looks very simple and elegant!!! Nice write up paithani will be my next search when I land in India!!!

dorie van dijk said...

I have never been in India, but the richness of colours, patterns and beautifull fabrics makes me very eager to do it once in my life. I'am from the Netherlands and I love to work with textile and natural dyes. Just found your blog by googling on the word bandhani. It is very interesting what you have to tell, so I will follow you from now on. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Dorie

Pratibha said...

Hi Saritha, enjoyed your write-up about Paithini...I think every woman must own at least one of these!

Voltaire said...

Wonderful to know about this variety of Saree. Never knew a saree could sell at even a half a million !! My God ! Anji lachha rupayee !!!

Saritha, do a feature on Gadwal Sarees too.

It is quite a Romantic story as to how Gadwal Weavers started producing Cotton Sarees with Zari (Gold) Borders. It is said that the Queen of Gadwal, {you know Gadwal was a small Samasthanam (sort of a small Raja's principality,under the Hyderabad Nizams. It is about 120 Kms south of Hyderabad,on the Hyderabad---Bangalore National Highway No.7.its actually 9 Kms off the Highway)},wanted to wear only Cotton Sarees but loved Zari Borders. Now Zari Borders come only on Silk Sarees.The Queen expressed her desire to find a solution for this dilemma.The Cotton Weavers were perplexed,but one young enterprising Weaver tried an experiment on his own and wove a Zari Border on a Cotton Saree !!. He presented it to the Queen. Lo. she was very happy and richly rewarded not only this weaver but all those weavers who could do this with great incentives.
And the Gadwal Sarees became popular all over.
Parsa V R Rao.

Saritha said...

What a fascinating story of Gadhwal! Will work on it. Thank you.
Saritha