Chanderi Sarees: Six Yards of Woven Grace

May 05, 2020

Destinations :: Chanderi

With its pleasant colours and beautiful zari work, Chanderi saree never fail to win the hearts of women who are fond of wearing sarees. Every day a new story is weaved in the quaint town of Chanderi where every fourth house in the street is lined with a loom. There are around 5000 pit looms which are the maximum in any city in India. Most of the artisans work from their home whereas some work at the Chanderi Handloom Park which was launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Textile to facilitate weavers with 240 looms. 


History of Chanderi Sarees


The history of the Chanderi weave dates back to the 13th century. It achieved a fabled status in the Mughal period and by the 19th century, the fabric was compared with the fine muslin fabric from Dhaka (present-day in Bangladesh). The saree came rather late, earlier, dhoti, turban, safa, made of Chanderi were very famous in various parts of India. Understanding the importance of the craft, in 1910, the royal family of Gwalior established a training centre and promoted trade with the aim to preserve the soul of Chanderi in the textile industry. Subsequently, the craft began to use gold and silver zari sourced from Russia and France to make motifs and borders although the cloth remained pure cotton.


Before 1951, weavers used the throw shuttle (made of animal horn) method for weaving which involved two people at one loom. Later on, the equipment changed and weavers started working on fly shuttle pit loom which enabled one craftsman to weave the elegant chanderi saree and it also increased production efficiency. 


The glory of the weave hasn't faded to date. In the old times, women of the royal houses adorned the Chanderi sarees elegantly. Even today the royal families of Maharashtra and Baroda can be seen in attractive and customised Chanderi outfits. It is still the custom among royal houses to give Chanderi sarees as a wedding gift to the bride.


About the weave of Chanderi Sarees


The traditional Chanderi fabric is known for its sheer and lightweight texture. There are three types of fabrics weaved in the town of Chanderi: Pure silk, silk cotton and Chanderi cotton. The popular and elegant handwoven motifs include keri (raw mango), Ashrafi (coin), peacock, flowers to name a few. Raw silk in 20-22 deniers (a unit that measures the thickness of yarn) is used in almost all type of Chanderi sarees to provide the required strength to the yarn. It is a lot easier to weave and also gives a luxurious finish to the final product.


One can find sarees ranging from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 50000 in ready stock at the local outlets in Chanderi. Cost of the saree depends on the work done on it such as the size of motifs, the thickness of border and quality of the fabric. The business of Chanderi has grown massively with a yearly turnover of 250-300 crores. Therefore, weaving is the backbone of Chanderi's economy. 


Bollywood & Chanderi


There have been many remarkable times when Bollywood actresses were spotted flaunting the graceful Chanderi weave off screen and on screen. According to the weavers, the sales of Chanderi sarees picked up when Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor attended a press conference draped in a black and gold Chanderi saree along with four weavers to promote weavers' community of Chanderi. Since then, there has been a huge demand for Chanderi sarees with the name of 'Kareena Saree'. So far, weavers have already sold 10 lakh pieces of Kareena sarees. In 2018, when Anushka Sharma came to Chanderi for shooting of movie Sui Dhaaga, she shopped a beautiful emerald green saree with a heavy golden border and polka dots all over. Later, she graced an award ceremony wearing the same Chanderi saree. Remember the red Chanderi saree with beautiful coin motifs and woven border worn by Sridevi in the climax scene of English Vinglish? Needless to say that her character in the film pulled off the simple saree with utmost grace. That's the beauty of Chanderi, it looks elegant, feels lightweight yet can be easily worn at big events.


The fashion industry and Chanderi


For years, designers and clothing stores in India have been closely working with weavers in Chanderi. People who have closely worked with designer Sanjay Garg says that he stayed in Chanderi for three months and closely worked with weavers to launch an exclusive range of Chanderi under his brand 'Raw Mango'. The unique designs and bright colours like lime, fuchsia, royal blue, and red can be seen in his minimal yet classy collection. You can find the gorgeous embroidered pastel kurtas and sarees at Fab India stores and some fine & expensive collection of Chanderi sarees at the Tata group's new store 'Taneira'. All the brands mentioned, get their Chanderi range customised from Chanderi city in Madhya Pradesh.


With a rich history and beautiful weaving tradition, Chanderi offers a great fusion to its tourists. The experience of witnessing the live weaving in the noisy alleys of the town will make you buy attractive weave in stunning forms of Chanderi sarees, dupattas and suit sets from the weavers.