The Kandanghi (Kan-daan-ghee) is both the name of a handwoven variety of saree in silk or cotton as well as the drape style that is common to the Chettiar community and those living in the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu. The resilient cotton fabric and the traditional draping style - traditionally worn without a blouse or an inner petticoat, with the pleats tucked at the back - ensured greater comfort and mobility for women working in the fields in the hot climate of Chettinad. The body of the saree was usually solid, checked or striped, in earthy colours like yellow, red, brown, orange and black. The common use of colours today, like magenta, blue and green, are perhaps the result of chemical dyes introduced by the British in pre-Independent India. The ‘temple’ border of considerable width resembles the gopuram (peaking entrance towers) of South Indian temples. Lighter versions of the Kandanghi are now available, that lend themselves well to the contemporary saree-wearing style. There is even a Kandanghi saree variety with a cotton body and a rich silk border, making it a comfortable alternative to wearing all-silk sarees on festive occasions.
An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's November 2012 Issue.