The Paithani saree is named after the place of its origin, Paithan, situated about 40 kilometres from Aurangabad, Maharashtra. It is one of the saree types in a traditional categorisation called 'shalu' or drapes in muslin with gold thread-work, made exclusively for royalty and aristocracy. It was called 'maha-vastra' (grand attire), part of trousseaus and worn on special occasions like religious ceremonies and weddings. Some families possess 100-year old heirloom Paithanis, lovingly preserved and passed down over the generations, to the daughter or the daughter-in-law. A signature Paithani carries a criss-crossing border design along with colourful motifs on the 'padhar' (end-piece). The motifs are borrowed from nature - 'munia' (parrots), 'bangdi mor' (peacock inside a ring), 'asavali' (creepers), 'kamal' (lotus) and 'narali' (coconut). The nature motifs and buttis (small gold motifs) are worked in gold thread when placed in the body of the saree, and in colour when on the shimmery end-piece. The saree background is usually in 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. It takes a month to hand-weave one simple Paithani and several more, for a more intricate one.
An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's December 2012 Issue.