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The Chettinad Wardrobe – Motifs

by Sundari Silks 21 Oct 2019
The Chettinad Wardrobe – Motifs

The remarkable motifs inspired by the architecture of a thousand temples and the natural environment of Kanchipuram may be seen in the most recognised woven patterns of manga, gopuram, rudraksham and kamalam motifs. 

In the same way, in our Chettinad wardrobe Diwali collection, our weavers bring alive the majesty of Chettinad homes, for the first time, as decorative motifs.


Behind the screens – Design board


Here’s a glimpse of our creative journey from our design boards to looms!

The photographs of the house are hand drawn first in ink by the sketch artists. The attention to detail in capturing intricate elements portraying a façade of a house, the decorative patterns on a window, and the ornate capitals of teakwood pillars takes a lot of time. 

Motifs are the most basic unit with the help of which a design composition is made. While the sketching is easier, the challenge for the weavers is to portray a direct replica of natural motifs on the loom. They have to make sure that they bring in the exact three-dimensional image of the picture from a sketch or a photograph!


The sketches shed light on the importance of collaboration between designers and artisans to create textiles with singular beauty. Once it’s woven, these rare motifs present a dramatic spectacle on the weave showcasing a perfect amalgamation of classic and ethnic aesthetics!

Behind the screens – On the looms

The sketches have to be showcased in different kinds of layouts or arrangements on the saree. In a six yards sari, the motifs have to be developed into one standard unit adhering to size and repeatable arrangements within the design frame of a sari. Motifs can be shown as a border layout, a pallu layout or as all-over buttas in the body.


Buttas or buttis depict a ‘’floating design” element which is repetitive all over the body of the sari but should fit well into the overall design.

The motifs in the body are handcrafted as “buttas” in the saree which is highly human-intensive. Each motif is done by hand, and once woven these present a dramatic spectacle showcasing a perfect amalgamation of classic and ethnic aesthetics! 

About the special motifs woven for Chettinad wardrobe


South India visually captured some of the most identifiable and unique motifs into the weaves. One such weave called “paai-madi” replicating the basketry craft of Chettinad baskets called kottans.

The Chettinad wardrobe showcases the ornate homes of Chettiars, and grand Burma teak and granite pillars, the wooden main doors, the ornamental windows, curved arches and sunshades with “jaali” embellishments as woven motifs.


Chettinad Pillars


The gleaming black granite pillars and the Burma teakwood pillars are a dominant architecture feature of a Chettinadu mansion. The teakwood pillars adorn their thinnais, courtyards and bring out the best of regional craftsmanship. The prosperous community used to bring these long teak logs tied to their ships floating all the way from Rangoon to Thondi port.

We capture these signature Chettinad pillars in zari buttas. The tapered pillars have given us singular inspiration to showcase the motifs exhibiting a strong regional form and flavour!


Chettinad mansion homes


The towering cluster of homes in villages was called mansions, and their size justified their being called as “Nattukottai-s”, translating into country forts. The wonderful houses dwarfed everything around, impeccably finished with a white mirror finishing called “Madras plastering”

The saris carry the signature style of the opulent homes as motifs celebrating the glorious craft heritage of South India 

Chettinad arches and windows


The Chettinad homes showcased ornate embellishments in wood-carving, stone sculpting and stucco moulding. The later homes incorporated ornamental fittings, stained glass and decorative panels. The pointed arch, the horseshoe or keyhole arch with a semi-circle design was as an element from Gothic architecture.

We capture the open arches and a variety of windows which are a feature of Chettiar homes. The golden era of architectural landmarks is captured as motifs! 

Chettinad window jaalis


The elaborate geometrical design patterns called “jaalis” form an overall design. Drawing from the Mogul architecture, Jaalis were extensively used for windows, edges of the platforms and terraces.

The eye-catching jaali motif is frozen as a motif all over the body in this silken wonder!




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