Monday, November 23, 2009

Paithani Weave Of Maharashtra

56 kms south of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, on the banks of river Godavari, there is a small town called Paithan.

The town was the capital of the Satavahana empire that ruled the Southern and Central India more than 2000 years ago. And here, during that time, some weavers started creating poetry on silk which came to be known as Paithani.

The artisans would draw threads from pure gold and silver and intricately weave them with gossamer silk threads. The fabric thus created would be so dazzling that it inspired awe in everyone. The Greeks mentioned the silk of Paithan in their records. This precious fabric used to be imported to many countries in exchange of gold and other precious metals and stones by Ancient Indian rulers. Originally meant for the women of the royal household, the Paithani silk sari was the most coveted garment of those times.

2000 years later, sheer dedication of the weavers has kept the Paithani weave still alive in India. Though not drawn from real gold anymore, expensive zari (gold or silver yarn wrapped over polyester yarn) threads, procured from Gujarat and the best quality silk from South India are intricately woven together to create the magical Paithani saris that continue to mesmerize Indian women.

The weavers use the traditional wooden looms. Multiple spindles are used to produce a linear design. The weavers count the threads of the wrap for each part of the pattern and using tiny pins, interlock the silk or gold threads on the weft. The borders have creeper or floral designs. The pallav (the end of the sari) is woven in gold and the patterns are created in silk. Distinctive motifs such as stars, peacocks, mangoes, flowers, petals and coconuts are woven on the pallav.

Weaving Paithani is time consuming. The simplest of the saris take at least a month to complete. The more ornate ones take around three months. The skill has been passed on from father to son for generations. The weaving involves minute detailing and is stressful to the eyes. But the weavers are extremely dedicated to their craft and they toil for months to create exquisite patterns and designs.

A Paithani is expensive and why not...a Paithani is almost like an heirloom. It gets passed on to the daughter from the mother in most Marathi families. The sari is precious not only for the intricate weave of pure silk and gold but also for it's significant role in the culture of Maharashtra. Wearing the Paithani, is almost like wearing a 2000 year old heritage of this glorious country.

Pictures Courtesy: Mangalam Sarees
                             Palavi Handcrafts
                             Google Images



  1. 'Paithani' is something totally new to me. Thanks for sharing .

  2. loved this. I have a turquoise paithani and the softness of the silk and the rich motifs and colour of the gold threads just makes it a different saree from the rest of my wardrobe. The paithani with a pearl nath completes the marathi look. BTW will the anonymous guy/girl from your blog mind that we are praising Paithani?

  3. Aparna,my dad's last gift to me was a beautiful royal blue and golden green Paithani.I have not read the post as yet.Will be back.

  4. Very informative post ,i liked that you included that weaver's picture .The last picture showing pallow is gorgeous,the color so bright and the pattern is very all time fav.peacocks.You very rightly said here that wearing a Paithani is almost like wearing 2000 year of glorious heritage of this country.

  5. Very interesting...I didn't know about Paithani silk. The zari work is beautiful. Looks very rich too. Will look for it sometime at Nalli or Kumaran silks, here!

    Thank you for the information, Aparna.

  6. fascinating, 2000 years and our country is so new less than 300 years. I'm enjoying learning of your culture and arts...

  7. Eye opener as always. Is anyone reading that new book on saris?

  8. Wow, what incredible weaving and a labor of love, really! Obviously, this is the type of sari that is worn on special occasions, right? I can't imagine wearing something so precious on a daily basis.

  9. Absolutely stunning. I can see why they are so precious - not just because of how long it takes to make one, but because they are so totally glorious. I can only imagine what it would be like to wear one!

  10. Wow.. Gold and silver threads along with the silk... can't imagine the price!!!

    Very informative with all the intrinsic details including the artisans as well as the culture for gifting it to daughter in laws from MILs.. Thanks for sharing :)

  11. Aparna, u've just given me ideas for my next birthday gift! And the peacock pallu is so beautiful, I have a similar design on a pallu on a traditional Kerala sari (the off-white, with golden zari border)


  12. Thanks for another informative post, I'm learning so much from you. The next time we go out window shopping I'll be able to tell Jordyn (my daughter) the names of some of those lovely garments.

  13. This is indeed a world treasure!

    Aloha, Friends

    Comfort Spiral

  14. Wow! Interesting! I have to get this one now :) Thanks for sharing :)

  15. getting a good funda about saree here ....
    Do they wear it the same way like other sarees (like our dhoti)to be fully marathi? I do not see that in the image but the top image some how leaves a hint that it has been worn that way....
    trivial issues!!!

  16. बहुत खूबसूरत पोस्ट है, कुछ लोग तो वाकई अद्भुत होते हैं अपर्णा जी की तरह... संवेदनशील और चिन्तक

  17. that was really informative, this is multi faceted Aparna. I have not even heard of Paithani. Proof that i have a loong way to go. ZB commmon.

  18. Some very beautiful fabrics and weaves.

  19. Bhavya, Paithani saris are exquisite, you can go to any sari shop and see will not be disappointed.

    Sujata, how come I have not seen you in that? And anonymous is not really interested in any thing else.

    Kavita, one day, your daughter will be wearing that Paithani,think of the sentimental value.

    Sandhya, I am sure Nalli will have it. Nalli Delhi has a beautiful stock, so no reason why Chennai will not have.

    Lin, thanks. I love sharing a little bit of our culture with all the readers.

    Holy lama, we had wanted to do a series on various handlooms of India, Paithani was one that we selected.

    Gigihawaii, you are right, this is generally a sari worn by Maharashtrian women on their wedding day. It is a very heavy sari and has to be kept for a special occasion.

    Clytie, it feels like a queen to wear this one!

    Thanks Mohan, I am glad you liked the post.

    PNA, I hope you have it for your next birthday! Happy wearing!

    Dellgirl, thank you.

    Cloudia, thank you very much.

    Swaram, go buy it, you will not regret your decision.

    Sumandebray, you are right, it is worn the Maharashtrian way. The length in that case is of 9 metres. They are called navaris then. But 6 metre Paithani is also very commonly available all across India.

    Thank you Kishore for your lovely words.

    ZB, gift your wife a Paithani, she will love it.

    Patty, thanks.

  20. Thanks for the explanation about Paithani. The sari`s photos are simple wonderful. I wish I could have one, someday.
    Hey, Kavita, there are lots of presents for you on my blog. You may chose as much as you can.
    Have a nice day.
    God bless you, my dearest friend.

  21. That glorious material is gorgeous! I am in awe of the craftsmanship.

  22. We once had fun watching women's reactions when we asked them what they thought of Paithani saris :) Everybody loves a Paithani, and like you say 'and why not'?

    Loved the pictures and the information, I wasn't aware that it takes a month to make even a simple Paithani!!

  23. @REGINA....Thanks,you are a wonderful friend.

  24. Heard of this saree but never knew about the history,thanx for sharing.

  25. I was in Chikaltahe in Aurangabad once and had a chance of going to Paithan.
    Very enterprising people around.

  26. Regina Goulart Santos, the saris look beautiful, but keeping in mind that not all women wear saris, the weavers these days also make jackets and dress materials.

    Kay, the weave is gorgeous indeed.

    Indian homemaker, yes all of us love the incredible Paithani.

    Varunavi,it has an incredible history.

    BK Chowla, I am sure the place as very interesting.

  27. Hey!! Kudos to you for doing such informative and interesting posts!! I mean, one picks up any post of yours and they are storehouse of information on a subject! Damn impressive, Kavita!!
    I have bought a paithani saree for a friend once from Pune.

  28. Very informative piece supported by good pictures.

  29. Hello ladies,

    Thank you for this delightful blog...i esp love reading about Assam ... region i hope to visit some day ....we were briefly in the NE region in Nov 08..Kalimpong/Pelling and realized there is so much to enjoy
    meanwhile thanks very much for a cultural foray into your regional riches.


  30. Beautiful.
    Talk about staying power.
    2000 years!
    Businesses in my neighborhood are lucky to stay in business a year.

  31. that is informative as well as fascinating

  32. Shilpa Garg,thanks. I appreciate your encouraging comment.

    Onkar, thank you.

    Chitra, thanks, we love bringing to our readers little tit-bits from our rich culture.

    #167 Dad, yes 2000 years of weaving magic! Thank you for your appreciation.

    Exposemaximum, thank you.

  33. I have a Paithani sari and knew the basics, but didn't know these details. Thanks a ton! :) I love mine because it looks so regal and un-boring, thanks to the double-shade!

  34. Now buy authentic paithanis from anywhere in the world :