Maheshwari Sarees – A Majestic Marvel

Deep in the heart of our country, amidst the lush landscapes of Madhya Pradesh, on the banks of Narmada river, fondly called Maa Rewa lies the town of Maheshwar. Time stands still in this historic town with riverside forts, royal gardens, ancient temples and holy hymns preserving its cultural legacy forever. The town’s crowning glory remains it handwoven Maheshwari sarees, an epitome of elegance and exuberance from this prime handloom weaving centre dating back to the 5th century.

For centuries, weaving has been a way of life for the people in this town. It reached its prominence under the Maratha Holkar reign, where it received great royal patronage, encouragement and support. But it was when Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar ascended the throne in the 18th century, that they shone the brightest. Deemed as the Golden Age, the Maharani invited skilled weavers from far off lands to come share their wisdom with the craftsmen in her land. Legend has it, that when she wanted a special gift for her guests and relatives, she instructed them to weave a special 9-yard saree which she designed herself. These regal attires woven in pure cotton became a favourite amongst the royal and aristocratic crowds. What made it special was that it had pallus on both ends, which allowed it to be draped on the reverse side as well. Versatile and durable, over a course time came to be known as the famous Maheshwari sarees across the country.

The traditional weaving involved the used of the heavier and sturdier pit looms that were fixed to the ground. The complex process is broken down into simpler steps and includes dyeing and untangling the yarn, reeling it by hand to convert them into small rolls, nimble weaving patterns and enhancement with zari, kinari, gold and gemstones. The lightweight and airy fabric gets a glossy finish at the end, making it perfect for our tropical weather. A very interesting part about this weave is the use of wool in place of silk and cotton and is believed to be a rare yet prized possession. A trick to identify a genuine Maheshwari saree is to check if it has the trademark reversible border, locally known as ‘Bugdi’.

These handloom drapes are further categorised into 5 types. The Chandrakala and Baingani Chandrakala which are the plain weaves and the Chandratara, Beli and Parbi which can be identified by its distinct stripes and checks.

From patterns to palettes, the town and its ecosystem are a major source of inspiration whose essence is reflected in these yards of wonder. Traditionally it makes uses of vegetative dyes with local names for the shades such as Angoori (grape green), Gul Bakshi (magenta), Aamrak (golden yellow), Jaamla (purple) and Tapkeer (deep brown). The designs and patterns incorporated in it range from Eent (brick-like design found in forts) to Heera (diamonds), Lehar (a combination of the waves and ghats) to so much more. As a heritage handloom, the Maheshwari sarees are a part of our collections here at Sundari Silks, where we aim to ensure that the legacy of these priceless crafts lives on for eternity.

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