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History and the making of A Kanjivaram Silk Saree

A Kanjivaram saree is a timeless piece passed down from one generation to the next and  manages to take a special place in a woman's heart and wardrobe. In this article, we take you through the weaving process of the most desirable saree in the South of India, Kanjivaram Silk Sarees, renowned for its timeless richness and history dating back to ancient Indian mythology.

 

 Origin and History

Here’s an interesting story behind this royal saree. The history of Kanjivaram Silk Sarees can be traced back to Hindu mythology. As per legends, Kanjivaram silk weavers are the descendants of Sage Markanda, the master weaver of God. Many centuries later, his descendants settled in the small town of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, and continued to weave silk with bold, vibrant colors like their ancestors. Due to its otherworldly craftsmanship, Kanjivaram silk sarees have stood the test of time and are family heirlooms that last for generations. A Kanjivaram saree in everyday parlance is originally called as Kanchipuram saree, as it originated in a small town of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu.

 

Weaving Process 

Kanjivaram silk saree weaving, a highly skilled craft, is valued as one of the finest examples of hand-crafted textiles all over the world. These sarees are hand-woven with mulberry silk. The silk yarn, after careful extraction, is dyed in the richest of colors and weaved with the zari threads. While the silk is from South India, the pure gold and the silver zari are from Gujarat. The zari threads that give life to this beautiful artwork are said to contain a government-mandated amount of pure silver and gold, ensuring you a timeless investment for your ethnic wardrobe collection. Weaving a kanjivaram saree from start to finish takes 3-4 weeks. It is a labor-intensive process and the final product is astounding.

Before weaving the saree, silk threads are dipped in rice water and sun-dried to increase both its thickness and stiffness. After these off-white threads are dried, they are colored separately as per requirement. The border and pallu of the silk saree are dyed by hand in one color whereas the body is dyed in a contrast color. 

Colored threads and zari are carefully separated manually before being sent to the weaving room. This is done to avoid any tangles that leave uneven surfaces in the finished product. The separate threads are attached to the weaving loom from one end to the other. Here the painstaking process of drawing the warp ends and attaching them to the previous warp on the loom is done manually. There are continuous pages of cardboard stencils that move with the design above the weaving loom. These designs are first hand-drawn, as required, and then designed on a computer. Using a cutting machine, the design is cut into a cardboard sheet that acts as a stencil on the weaving loom. The threads are hand-woven as per the shape of the design. This manual weaving process of a Kanjivaram saree is an art that has passed from one generation to another in South India.

The ornate pallus and borders of the saree are woven separately and are attached to the main saree body using an age-old, unique knot and an interlocking technique called Korvai.

If you notice it closely, the part where the body meets the border has a slightly zigzag line. But the precision of this technique is such that even if the saree tears, the border wouldn't detach. This traditional weaving technique is deeply rooted in the Kanchipuram culture that any saree made in Kanchipuram will always have this birthmark. 

 

Motifs and Varieties 

Several patterns have become characteristic of Kanjivaram saree designs over the years. These patterns and motifs are not merely decorative, but have strong symbolic connotations, both in mythology and folklore. The motifs play a twin role – an aesthetic appeal and a reflection of symbolic meaning.

These motifs show a rich history of patterns, drawing from sources beyond textiles. Many of these symbols recur across art forms—from painting and temple architecture to sculpture, Tamil literature, and dance.

Chariots, peacocks, swans, lions, coins, mangoes, leaves, sun, moon, and other motifs are also integrated into Kanjivaram sarees. Additionally, some important events of epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana have also been incorporated in these sarees. The focus of design with changing times has shifted from traditional to more contemporary patterns. However, the appeal of the saree has remained the same. At times, Kanjivaram sarees are devoid of any patterns or motifs, deriving an elegant look from the use of fine quality silk.

Apart from using motifs on sarees, weavers also use several geometric patterns to break the monotony of a single color. Diagonal lines (vari), circular shapes (buttis), checks (kattam) are used in the background of the embellishment of the motif.

Types of Kanjivaram saree 

While many of us choose the Kanchipuram silk we like, there are different types of sarees that you can choose depending on the type of occasion you're planning to attend.

  • Plain Kanjivaram with gold border: 
  • This saree has a woven contrast border or a golden zari border with a single base color. This saree will surely give you a rich look and could be perfect for your friend's upcoming engagement ceremony.

  • Modern Kanjivaram silk: 
  • The design and patterns blended in newer colors and motifs form a modern kanjivaram saree that is perfect for new-age brides.

  • Traditional kanjivaram: 
  • Beautiful checks, coins, chakras, temple borders symbolize the traditional saree of Kanjivaram, making it the richest weave among others. This evergreen drape is perfect for every age and occasion.

  • Temple border Kanjivaram: 
  • As the name suggests, these sarees have a zigzag temple border - a cheron styled peaks’ design known as a temple, which makes it stand out from the rest. Perfect for an anniversary party, or even your wedding!

  • Borderless Kanjivaram 
  • If you aren’t a fan of the grand and glorious saree borders, you can opt for a borderless Kanjivaram silk saree. This borderless saree with majestic motifs and weaving patterns can be worn for festivities of any and every nature.

     

    Kanjivaram Sarees speaks a volume of South Indian art history. Beautiful designs and vibrant colors evoke reverence in every saree connoisseur, exuding a beautiful aura of elegance and heritage.

    So whether you are getting married or planning to attend someone else’s wedding, a Kanjivaram saree should be your go-to option. 

    Thamboori's Kanjivaram Silk Sarees are sourced directly from handloom weavers across south of India and come with a Silk mark. We ship across the US, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, and other countries.