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Sarees from different regions of India

The core of any good saree wardrobe is to have at least one traditional saree from every region from India. In addition, there should be some plain, single coloured sarees, to show off accessories – be it elegant jewellery or a shawl to perfection.

A range of gorgeous sarees come from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Western Madhya Pradesh. The dominant characteristic of the saree of these regions is obtained by dyeing rather than weaving techniques. In fact, the three major forms of Indian resist-dyeing – block printing, tie & dye and ikat have evolved here.

Playing with colour, fabric, weave and embellishments can create an exquisite look to the trousseau wardrobe.

Sarees from West India:

1. Bandhani

- These are sarees created by dyeing the cloth in such a manner that many small resist-dyed ‘spots’ produce elaborate patterns over the fabric.

- The traditional bandhani market has shrunk however, because of the rise of low-cost silk-screened imitations and most modern bandhani sarees are made with larger designs and fewer ties than in the past. There are varieties available in two contrasting colours, with borders, end-pieces and one or more large central medallion called a pomcha or padma (lotus flower). Red and black is the most common colour combination but other pairs of colours are also found. For instance, the panetar saree is a Gujarati-Hindu saree of satin weave and Gajji silk with red borders, central medallions and a white body, which may contain regularly spaced red tie-dyed spots.

- Single colour sarees and odhnis with white spots are also common. The most famous of this type is the Gujarati saree called Garchola It is usually red, but occasionally green, and is divided into a network of squares created by rows of white tie-dyed spots or woven bands of zari. The Garchola is a traditional Hindu and Jain wedding saree, which used to be made of cotton, but is now usually in silk. The number of squares in the saree is ritually significant multiples of 9, 12 or 52.

2. Patola

- The most time consuming and elaborate saree created by the western region is the potole (plural patola) which has intricate five colour designs resist-dyed into both warp and weft threads before weaving.

- Double ikat patola saree is a rare and expensive investment. A cheaper alternative to double ikat patola is the silk ikat saree developed in Rajkot (Gujarat), that creates patola and other geometric designs in the weft threads only.

3. Gujarati Brocade

These are extremely expensive and virtually extinct. The main distinguishing characteristics of the Gujarati Brocade Saree:

- Butis (circular designs) woven into the field in the warp direction instead of the weft, resulting in their lying horizontally instead of vertically on the saree when draped.

- Floral designs woven in coloured silk, against a golden (woven zari) ground fabric. Although such ‘inlay’ work is a common feature in many western Deccan silks, the Gujarati work usually has leaves, flowers and stems outlined by a fine dark line.

4. Embroidered Tinsel Sarees

- The western region also has a rich embroidered tradition, made famous by ethnic groups such as rabaris and sodha Rajputs.

- The saree with zardozi, the gold gilt thread embroidery technique, at one time patronised by the Moghul emperors and the aristocracy, is today an inextricable part of a bridal trousseau.

- Balla tinsel and khari work are the cheaper variations available in metallic embroidery, which have also become quite popular.

5. Paithani

- This saree is named after a village near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Now also woven in the town of Yeola, these sarees use an enormous amount of labour, skill and sheer expanse of material in their creation.

- Distinctive motifs such as parrots, trees and plants are woven into the saree. The shades vary from vivid magenta, peacock greens and purples. In the pallav, the base is in gold and the pattern is done in silk, giving the whole saree an embossed look.

6. Chanderi and Maheshwari

- The Chanderi saree from Madhya Pradesh is light and meant for Indian summers. It is made in silk or fine cotton with patterns taken from the Chanderi temples.

- The Maheshwari sarees are also both in cotton and silk, usually green or purple with a zari border. The traditional block-printed tussar can also be found in contemporary designs nowadays.

- Balla tinsel and khari work are the cheaper variations available in metallic embroidery, which have also become quite popular.

7. Gadwal

- Gadwal saree is made in cotton in a style influenced by the Banarasi weaves. While the ground of the saree is cotton, there is a loosely attached silk border.

- Copper or gold-dipped zari is generally used in these sarees. The motifs of the murrugan (peacock) and the rudraksh are popular.

- Traditional colours for these sarees are earth shades of browns, greys and off-whites. However, brighter shades have been introduced for the North Indian buyer.

Sarees from North India:

1. Banaras Brocade

- This saree from Banaras is virtually mandatory in the bride’s trousseau. These sarees vary tremendously as weavers create different products to suit different regional markets and changing fashions.

- Most brocades usually have strong Moghul influences in the design, such as intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel. A characteristic found along the inner, and sometimes outer, edge of borders is a narrow fringe like pattern that often looks like a string of upright leaves called jhallr. This is almost a signature of Benarasi brocade.

2. Kota Doria

- Kota in Rajasthan, India is the home of the famous Kota Doria saris made in small villages around the Kota city. "Kota Doria" is a super transparent yet stable cotton or cotton/silk weave consisting of varied guages of yarn, creating an almost graph like pattern called khats (squares formed between the different thicknesses of fibers). The intermittent heavier guage yarns give the fabric enough weight and lateral stability to fall very gracefully, yet it is incredibly airy and transparent. Generally, these pieces are worn in the heat of summer.

- The chequered weave of a Kota sari is a prized possession of many women. The gossamer-fine fabric Kota dorias are the finest weaves in India - so fine that they are almost weightless. The spinning, dyeing and weaving are done by skilled artisans and it takes many men hours to do so. The Kota region's craft is exquisite in its perfection. The Kota Doria weave is very special; the warp and the weft use a combination of threads creating a fine chequered pattern where the cotton provides firmness while the silk lends the gossamer finish to the fabric.

- Besides the chequered pattern, there are other weaves in complicated designs in a combination of silk and cotton. The standard Kota doria yardage, in sari width, is always woven in white and later dyed in different colours. Some of the weaves also have a narrow border edged with Zari. In the case of saris with designs, the threads are dyed prior to weaving. Ideal for hot summer, this is a muslin fabric woven with alternating threads of silk and cotton in both warp and weft in an open weave.

3. Other Sarees from this region

- The region is also famous for producing ornate sarees such tanchois, amru brocades, shikargarh brocades and tissues. Abrawans (literally meaning flowing water)- Tissue sarees, usually woven with the finest silk thread are also quite popular. A classy design in Abrawans is tarbana (woven water) with a fine silk warp with a zari weft giving an almost metallic sheen. Kincab or Kinkhwab sarees are the most popular of the brocades and are so covered with the zari patterning that the underlying silk cloth is barely visible.

- Jamawars also come from Uttar Pradesh. These silk sarees are embellished with zari threadwork. The popular theme is a jacquard weave in ‘meena’ colours like orange and green.

- Tanchois (in zari) are another item from of Uttar Pradesh and have different designs, not just Moghul motifs.

Another type is the kora silk saree which is starched as brittle as organza.

Sarees from South India:

1. Kanjeevaram Saree

- No Indian bridal trousseau is complete without the ‘Kanjeewaram’ saree, characterised by gold-dipped silver thread that is woven onto brilliant silk. Kanchipuram is a town in Tamil Nadu with more than 150 years of weaving tradition – completely untouched by fashion fads.

- Kanjeewarams are favoured for their durability. Kanjee silk is thicker than almost all other silks, and is therefore more expensive. The heavier the silk, the better the quality. Peacock and parrot are the most common motifs. Though lightweight kanjee sarees are popular as they are easy to wear and cost very little, the traditional weavers do not like to compromise. While Korean and Chinese silk is suitable for light-weight sarees (machine woven), only mulberry silk produced in Karnataka and few parts of Tamil Nadu, is right for the classic Kanjeewaram.

2. Konrad Saree

- The konrad or the temple saree is also a speciality item from Tamil Nadu. These sarees were original woven for temple deities.

- They are wide bordered sarees and are characterised by wedding related motifs such as elephants and peacocks, symbolising water, fertility and fecundity.

- Traditional colours for these sarees are earth shades of browns, greys and off-whites. However, brighter shades have been introduced for the North Indian buyer.

3. Others

- Pashmina silk, kota silk, Mysore crepes, pochampallis and puttapakshi sarees are also popular South Indian sarees.

- Typical wedding sarees from Kerala are the nayayanpets and bavanjipets which usually have a gold border on a cream base.

- Traditional colours for these sarees are earth shades of browns, greys and off-whites. However, brighter shades have been introduced for the North Indian buyer.

Sarees from East India:

1. Baluchari Sarees

- This saree from Bengal is usually five yards in length and 42” wide in flame red, purple and occasionally in deep blue. The field of the saree is covered with small butis and a beautiful floral design runs across the edges. The anchal has the main decoration depicting narrative motifs. Taingals and kanthas are other speciality items from Bengal.