Kattam Sarees - Boxes of Tradition: Part 1

Motifs and patterns have significant connotations in mythology and folklore. They play two roles: they intrigue and entice our eyes, they ratiocinate the symbolic significance. Saree patterns are a quintessence representation of the ethos of our country and people.

Many dramatic changes have transpired in the making and weaving of sarees, but the traditional patterns and motifs have barely changed. The next thing that grabs our attention after the hue and shade of a saree is the pattern or motifs used.

There are few designs that never go out of style and checks are definitely one of them. The checkered sarees are also known as kattam sarees in Tamil, are an important design of many textiles like Kanchipuram, Madurai, Chettinad and Thanjavur. They are a fantastic choice which can be worn for all occasions throughout the year. Every traditional weave from Southern India implements the kattam design in their sarees. Madras has a strong bond with plaid because it was this city that pioneered and popularized the pattern.


The weavers of Tamil Nadu boast proficient expertise over the weaving of checks or kattams. They infuse striking and vibrant colours into the bold geometry of the drape, transforming the basic idea of checks into majestic and mesmerizing masterpieces. In Kanchipuram sarees, the conformation of the layout and the mathematical accuracy in arranging the colours is the distinguishing factor. Checks are presumed to be the convergence of sacred points that depict the temple mandapam, the inner sanctum where the deity resides.

Palum Pazhamum

The infamous Paalum Pazhamum saree is one of the most sought after kattam saree. Palum Pazhamum literally means “milk and fruit” and celebrates the symmetry of life.  The multi-coloured checks on the saree have a beautiful combination of contrasting hues, mostly red, green and mustard. The interplay of warp and weft in these check patterns represents the artisans' brilliance. The checks are traditionally big with floral buttas or paisley on the body and one of the colours defining the border and pallu of the saree. Shivani Ganesan and Saroja Devi starred in the 1961 film Paalum Pazhamum, opening the doors to a line of checked sarees. Ironically, neither of the two leading female characters in the film wore this saree in the film.

Koorai Kattam

Perfect contrast kattams with wide borders in the "Koorai Pudavai'' are a timeless classic in the kanjivaram tradition. These sarees are a visual treat and radiate love and joy. A small village in Tanjore district's Koorainadu gained a reputation for its vivid, colourful checks woven in fine cotton making way for regal and exquisite masterpieces. The koorai pattu podavai worn by women during the wedding ceremony usually comes in shades of yellow and green which is considered auspicious. The colour green represents nature and yellow reflects the Mangal Sutra. These sarees are usually made of cotton, silk or silk cotton with large checks or stripes. The creation of these checks by the interlacing of warp and weft during the weaving process is a unique feature of this saree.


Muthu Kattam

The name "Muthu Kattam" means "pearl checks" because the saree is made up of tiny squares that look like pearls. The checks are made of white or off-white silk thread, which blends in well with the saree's deep tones and adds to its allure. These sarees combine radiance, beauty, and comfort, making the saree a priceless heirloom.

Regardless of whether you choose a vibrant paalum pazhamum saree, timeless classic koorai kattam, or alluring muthu kattam saree, it will undoubtedly be the statement drape of your wardrobe. To cast an everlasting charm for any special occasion, choose a stunning ensemble from Sundari Silk's exclusive kattam saree range.

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