The Glory of the Paithani

My neighbour who hails from Maharashtra had displayed a wonderful saree as a backdrop to the display of artifacts in her showcase. I couldn’t withhold my curiosity and asked her why it was displayed. "That saree" she explained "is my grandmother's wedding saree. It was handed down from my grandmother to my mother and now to me. Since it’s an heirloom I have decided to display its pallu with the artistic work on it".

"What kind of saree is it?" I asked still curious. "It’s a Paithani" she replied. "Did you know that the Paithani sarees were woven in a city called Supratishtapuram?" I had never heard of this place. "It is none other than Paithan and that's where the saree got its modern name – Paithani" she explained. "Made from very fine silk, it is considered as one of the richest saris in Maharashtra."

"Did you know she continued, these sarees are considered a poetic work of art? Due to the stunning effect created by these sarees, references to the paithani can be found in Marathi folksongs and Marathi literature."

"These are typically bridal sarees for Maharashtrian brides. Even I have a couple of them presented for my wedding." She added showing me her collection.

They were originally hand woven in cotton but eventually evolved from a cotton base to a silk base. The painstaking process of creating a Paithani can take anything between a couple months or go on upto a year, depending upon the design.

The borders and the pallu are woven in zari. Intricate designs on pallu and border is a specialty of Paithani Sarees and the zari used in the preparation of the sari is specially procured from Surat in Gujarat.

"How was the kaleidoscopic effect achieved?" I asked wondering at the effect of colours. "This is created by the technique of using one color for weaving lengthwise and another for weaving widthwise" she clarified.

The motifs on the sarees were equisitely crafted. Paithan being close to the Ajanta caves, some of the designs are influenced by the art sculpted in the cave.

Such exquisite creation! No wonder it is coveted in India as a precious heirloom passing on from one generation to the other.

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