Traditional Motifs of Kanjivaram Sarees and the Connection with History

The pride of south India, the ‘queen of silks,’ a  Kanjivaram Saree refers to fascinating tales of culture from the literary legends crafted in six-yard folds of pure silk yarn. The word ‘Kanjivaram’ itself provides the reminiscence of bright sunshine brilliantly handcrafted on a color-contrasting surface of vibrant-hued silk threads. The precious Kanjivaram serves as insurance against the ordinaries as an eternal wardrobe staple that keeps you hooked on its regal aesthetic appeal. In essence, Kanjivaram Silk Saree are an exquisite display of heavenly silken threads, iridescent pure zari, and a peculiar amalgamation of colors and contrasts interlaced together into a magnum opus of the finest craftsmen and expert weavers. Infused with love, care, passion, hard work, and brilliance in creating hand-crafted masterworks, each Kanjivaram silhouette portrays sheer elegance and luxury at its finest.

Kanjivaram Saree are often must-haves from a mother’s heirloom archives; however, there is no going wrong with investing in several Kanjivaram artworks, as each work of art is a distinguished show stopper destined to steal hearts and leave lasting impressions like no other weave could! When it comes to actually weaving a Kanchi Pattu saree (just another name for Kanjivaram sarees), what may come as a surprise to you is the fact that each saree is made using only pure mulberry silk threads. The silk yarn used in its making is a double warp, meaning each thread is basically three single threads twisted together to make one. This elevates the saree’s durability and perhaps even makes it heavier in comparison to other silk sarees.

What’s more surprising is the way each Kanjivaram Saree is woven. The ancient ‘Korvai’ weaving technique is employed to handcraft Kanjivaram sarees. Using this age-old weaving technique, the body, border, and pallu of the saree are woven separately and then woven together using the petni method to make them into one. Generally speaking, each Kanjivaram saree requires a minimum of two workers working on three shuttles for interlocking the wefts. To create a simple Kanjivaram saree, the labor-intensive process may take the weavers up to 10 to 12 days, whereas to create a designer masterpiece such as WeaverStory’s Pink Kanjivaram saree, it may take up to 20 days or more.


Traditional Motifs of the Alluring Kanjivaram Sarees

The mystical tale behind the alluring traditional motifs of Kanjivaram sarees traces its roots back to the time when two major weaving communities—the Devangas and the Saligars—came to Andhra Pradesh and settled in the small village of Kanchipuram. The beautiful village is known for thousands of temples scattered all across its land, which gave inspiration to these weaving communities to use their weaving expertise for crafting the figures seen on these majestic temples over a silk-based six-yard masterpiece. Let’s explore the traditional motifs that add to the elegance of a Kanjivaram Saree and make it stand apart from the rest.

Mayil Motif


The Mayil motif exquisitely represents the national bird, the peacock. This motif is considered among the oldest motifs ever crafted on Kanjivaram and has been a favorite companion for ages. The Mayil motif is recognized as a scene-stealer that serves as the secular symbol of life, love, romance, and beauty. Inspired by the beauty of nature, ingenious artisans put painstaking efforts into handcrafting this motif on a Kanjivaram masterpiece as a tribute to the mythological scriptures of the Almighty. The bird is frequently associated with the worship of Murugan, who is portrayed on a peacock vehicle. The Varadharajaswamy temple located in Athiyur is referred to as the head of the peacock, while the Shaiva Konchi temple is recognized as the peacock’s body. No wonder this traditional motif, with its deep-rooted symbolism, made its way to the surface of exquisite Kanjivaram sarees.

Mayilkan Motif

The Mayilkan motif represents the peacock’s eye and is among the most intricately crafted ancient Kanjivaram motifs. The Mayilkan motif is based on the classic mythological story of Lord Indra and Ravana fighting, wherein a peacock raised its rail and dispersed its feathers in splendor to defend Lord Indra and offer him temporary refuge. Lord Indra, feeling overjoyed, expressed gratitude by bestowing a thousand eyes on the peacock. This story inspired the spectacular display of Mayilkan motifs on Kanjivaram Silk Saree.

Kodi Visiri Motif


In Tamil, Kodi Visiri refers to a graceful floral creeper border design that replicates tendrils clinging to and winding themselves around trees. These motifs will look like a chain of captivating floral patterns and bootas oozing along the borders or are richly adorned as a pattern on the pallu.

Rudraksh Motif

The Rudraksh is thought to be the 'tears of Lord Shiva', which possess the ability to end pain and misery as well as heal disease. When adorned along the border, Rudraksh motifs can seamlessly elevate the elegance of the Kanjivaram Saree; however, when richly decorated all through the saree’s body as beautiful bootis, these motifs can create a statement piece you would love to drape your curves in for several special occasions.

Iruthalai Pakshi Motif

Iruthalai Pakshi is thought to be a powerful celestial bird with two heads that supervise all directions. It is known as Gandabherunda and has profound mythological value. Iruthalai Pakshi is an emblem of victory as well as glory, which has been employed in Kanjivaram motifs ever since the beginning of time. This motif tends to take on a majestic radiance in the Kanjivaram, which is intertwined in rich gold zari or coloured silken yarn.

Thazhampoo Motif


The Thazhampoo, or screw pine in English, is an aromatic bloom with pointed petals often found along the banks of the rivers in Tamil Nadu. This design, recognised to be among the most sanctified motifs used by Kanchipuram weavers, exudes divinity and unparalleled elegance. This temple motif is comprised of several large triangles handcrafted along the entire border of the Kanjivaram Saree to resemble the gopurams, the ceremonial gateways to the temple.

Annam Motif

The Annam motif richly depicts a beautiful swan that is frequently crafted on Kanjivaram Saree and can also be found on the walls of different Kanchipuram temples. This design is an indispensable element of the Annapakshi motif that previously appeared in the Gandharan and Kushan sculptures, which were later employed in creating breathtaking temple structures. You will often find this motif featured on an exquisite expanse of vibrant Kanjivaram Silk Saree crafted using pure gold zari threads.


While these were some of the most popularly found traditional motifs crafted on a Kanjivaram Silk Saree, you might even discover motifs like Yaali (divine defender), Yanai (elephant), Kuthirai (winged horse), Maanga (paisley), Kili (parrot), and many more. We hope this article gives you a glimpse of what sets Kanjivaram Silk Saree apart from the rest. For more information about these motifs and their traditional links to culture and mythological tales, stay tuned to WeaverStory .

Author: Simran Shaikh