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
POSTED BY APARNA