Cherished by women for centuries, the beauty of Kanchipuram silk sarees has truly withstood the test of time.
This weave finds its roots in the little town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu – where the art of weaving silk could be found in the temples of the Pallava dynasty.
The Kanchipuram silk sarees of yore have since come a long way from being woven by artisans in the temples of the town. With time, and as more rulers came and went, the craft of silk weaving in Kanchipuram evolved too, and the sarees produced have become increasingly more intricate and exquisite, steadily gaining popularity among royalty and common folk alike.
Once exclusively adorned by the royalty of the South, and now worn by women across the world, this garment has never stopped exuding the class that it always has. Kanchipuram silks, or kanjivarams, as they are also known, carry a timeless elegance.
With the number of pretenders masquerading as pure Kanchipuram sarees, it becomes most pertinent to sift through the chaff to get to the Queen of silks. As we move forward, we bring you simple ways to identify genuine Kanchipuram silk.
How to Identify a Pure Kanchipuram Silk
Original Kanchipuram sarees take genuine craftsmanship as they are handwoven by master weavers, and use natural mulberry silk for their intricate weaving techniques. Keep an eye out for a Silk Mark certification from the Central Silk Board of India, and you can be sure that the saree you buy is of genuine quality.
An authentic Kanchipuram saree is made from pure mulberry silk, which is different in texture from imitations. Our experts tell us that if you rub your palm against a pure Kanchipuram saree, you will feel its softness almost instantly accompanied by a certain warmth. Imitations, in contrast to the original Kanchipuram saree, are likely to be cold and maybe even a little rigid.
Make sure to observe the sarees shine from different angles, before passing them off as real or fake. The shimmer of an original shimmer and shine will reflect light depending on the angle and generally appears to have two colour tones.
The authentic Kanchipuram sari is handwoven and thus more than likely to have a slight unevenness when compared to a power loom weave. Keep an eye out for this little-known sign of originality and flip the saree to see the masterpiece on the reverse side.
The weave of these sarees is brought to life by korvai, a knotting and interlocking technique that blends the body and the pallu, which are woven separately. This blending creates many interesting designs and patterns. You might in fact spot a blurred zig-zag pattern — there’s your true Kanchipuram weave.
The ‘zari’ of a saree refers to its intricate embroidered portion, made up of threads of fine gold or silver. The zari work is the decorative weaving of gold or silver threads into the saree, and it is an integral part of the Kanchipuram saree. The zari used in a pure Kanchipuram saree is made of real gold or silver, and it is woven into the saree using a traditional technique known as the korvai method mentioned above.
To test an authentic Kanchipuram silk’s zari, simply scratch your saree’s zari. If red threads appear, it’s an authentic Kanchipuram silk, while the counterfeit sarees might have white threads.
What’s Special About Kanchipuram Silk Sarees?
A few of the defining characteristics of Kanchipuram silks are…
One of the main features of Kanchipuram silk sarees is their distinctive weave. These sarees, having been fashioned from, pure mulberry silk, are hand-woven using a special technique that involves interlacing three different kinds of silk threads. The border threads are usually woven separately and then attached to the saree, creating a distinct contrast with the rest of the fabric.
This weaving process requires a high level of skill and years of training and experience! This could explain why Kanchipuram silk sarees are known for their exceptional quality and durability.
Another defining feature of Kanchipuram silk sarees is their intricate designs. These sarees are known for their bold and vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and rich textures. The designs are usually inspired by nature, temples, and other traditional motifs, and are often embellished with gold and silver zari work. The result? Art.
Kanchipuram silk sarees are steeped in cultural significance and are considered to be an important part of the traditional attire of South Indian women. They are often worn for special occasions like weddings, religious ceremonies, and festivals, and are considered to be a symbol of wealth, status, and good fortune. The sarees are also believed to have auspicious properties and are often given as gifts.
Kanchipuram silk sarees have been recognized as a Geographical Indication (GI) product, which means that only sarees produced in the town of Kanchipuram and its surrounding areas can be called Kanchipuram silk sarees. This recognition ensures that the sarees are of a certain quality and that their unique features are preserved. Having been bestowed the GI tag, traditional weavers and artisans who make these sarees, are assured that they can earn a fair income and continue their craft.Conclusion
Kanchipuram sarees are not just beautiful pieces of clothing but also serve as an integral part of India's cultural heritage. These sarees and the craftsmanship in every weave of fabric represent the rich history and traditions of the region and serve as a reminder of the skilled artisans who have, and continue to dedicate their lives to preserving this art form. By looking for the features discussed above, you can ensure that you are purchasing a genuine Kanchipuram saree that will be a valuable addition to your wardrobe.