The rich culture and diversity of India also holds a meaningful story behind its exquisite woven textiles. From fabrics, designs to techniques and processes, all are widely influenced by geographical, social and cultural traditions. And so is the magnificent Chanderi Fabric, which was introduced in the country by migratory groups from different parts of the world. Let's read here about its origin and the interesting tale behind this royal weave.
It's in the name
The origin of this fabric can be traced back to a small town of Chanderi, situated in Ashoknagar district at the heart of the country - Madhya Pradesh. Lying in the lap of Vindhyachal range close to the Betwa river, the town was at the centre of flourishing economic activity for its handlooms. The Chanderi fabric, woven in multi weft technique, is a mixture of silk (as warps) and cotton (as weft). Much loved and worn for its elegant lookingChanderi Sarees, it is widely celebrated amongst connoisseurs of fine handloom - for its finesse and lightweight.
As old as the Vedic scriptures
Interestingly, an old saga traces the history of the Chanderi fabric to the Vedic period where it is said to be founded by Lord Krishna’s cousin - Shishupal. The mention of the fabric was also found in the classic - Mahabharata around 13th - 14th century with the mention of ‘pearl embroidered saree’.
The migration of weaving techniques
A number of disciples migrated to Chanderi from Bengal following the Sufi Saint - Hazrat Wajihuddin in 1305. These were the days when Bengal was highly renowned for weaving of the fine muslin fabric, specifically in the Dhaka region. Gradually a community of Muslim Chanderi weavers was established, weaving and producing fine fabric. Soon Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated and settled, introducing an illustrious touch to the weave. A beautiful mix of weaving cultures and traditions!
From the Mughal Era
India was cherished by the Mughals for several things, and Chanderi was one of them. The Chanderi fabric was one of the most admired ones during the reign of the Mughals in India, widely fancied by the queens and the emperors for its sheer beauty, transparency and softness. Legends say the emperors - Akbar and Jehangir were truly left in awe of this fabric and preferred it for royal gifting!
In 1910, the Scindiya’s patronized the weaving industry for Chanderi Sarees protecting the weaver community from leaving the town. While in 1922, his highness Madhavrao Scindhyas largely helped the weavers, in 1939 the world war kings played an essential role in restoring the art. It was during this period when golden thread was used on the cotton muslin saree giving it an unparalleled beauty and sheen.
The Chanderi fabric was originally woven using hand-spun cotton weaved by the crafters in warp and weft technique with intricate designs and patterns. But with the dominating British rule and the advent of industrial revolution, cheap and low quality fabric was imported, knocking down the market of the original Chanderi fabric. The Japanese silk that was introduced in the warp gave birth to the Chanderi silk further deteriorating the quality of the fabric. But the weavers gradually found a way out in 1970, a blend of Cotton and silk to restore the sheen of the fabric.
At present, there are 3600 active looms at Chanderi with women actively taking part in weaving beautiful designs. A famous saying in Chanderi goes -
“Shahar Chanderi Mominwara ,Tiria Raj, Khasam Panihara”
In Chanderi town in the weaver’s quarter. The wives rule, and the husbands draw water.
This springs from the belief that weavers ought to keep their hands soft and hence, women (who naturally possess) soft hands should refrain from household work.
From years beyond our imagination and till now, Chanderi has not lost its charm! Famously, it is one of the most preferred fabrics amongst women with a mark across the world. The varieties have ventured out from sarees to the finest dress materials, dupattas, suit sets and beyond. With the advancements in technology, the print patterns have evolved to the modern taste and styles.
While there came a time when people had forgotten about the Chanderi, over the years the alluring fabric has been regressively restored by various brands and designers - a rebirth to the sheerness of the fabric and the traditional craft of Chanderi! One can find mesmerizing designs woven in shirts, kurtas and even curtains and pillow covers.
The Government has also taken several measures from their end to revive the traditional art form through co-operative societies and supplying the raw materials to the weavers at an economical rate. So much so that the Madhya Pradesh Government has set up a loom park to help the weavers with electric looms. Another interesting initiative is "The Mission Chanderiyaan" established in the state with the support of the Ministry of communication and IT, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) in collaboration with Media Labs Asia aiming to enhance the lives of these weavers with digital inclusions!
The stunning Chanderi fabric is here to stay and it’s always a good time to adorn this timeless piece and give it a special place in your Indian wardrobe! Check out our exquisite handwoven Chanderi Saree collection, here are our top 5 picks inspired by historical times : -
Chanderi Saree with Farheen Boota
Elegant in style and design, the classic red Chanderi Saree in Pure Silk with handwoven motif designs.
Chanderi Saree with Double Tree Motif
In shades of warming pista green, the enchanting Chanderi Saree in Pure Silk with handwoven designs inspired by nature.
Chanderi Silk Saree with Zari Jaal
Embellished with Zari jaal work all over, this one is a stunning piece in colours of mustard yellow, for the bold and beautiful you.
Chanderi Silk Saree with Nakshi Border
The traditional red and golden combination is always a winner of hearts! The zari stripes on the pallu completes the look of the Chanderi Handwoven Pure Silk saree for the one who carries herself with sheer elegance.
Chanderi Saree with Gold Stripes
Finesse work of zari stripes all over makes this piece a dazzling one in colours of royal gold. The pink selvedge on this Pure Silk Chanderi Saree is a unique highlight making it a timeless piece to own.
Author - Aarushi Sharma