A land with a diverse and distinct cultural background, India's art forms are differentiated through its reflection of local traditions, landscapes and customs. Historians who have traced and mapped this creative evolution of our community, have come across multiple findings which show that our country was much ahead of its times when it came to the art of weaving. Craftsmen embed fabrics with motifs and patterns, which aside from being a measure of artistic prowess, was a symbol which represented the beliefs and core values of the people. Aside from the cultural and historical symbolism, the flora and fauna of the region also had a major influence on these motifs. Motifs are a defining element of #TheGreatIndianFabric and in this week's blog, we unfold the story behind the highly revered motif - the Rudraksham.
Fables on fabric
Sacred and ceremonious, Rudraksham is a rare prayer bead resembling a dried blueberry and is obtained from the Rudraksha trees that grow only at specific altitudes in the foothills of the Himalayas. From time immemorial, they are recognised for its medicinal and spiritual properties, that helps one attain a sense of physical and mental well-being.
These sacred seeds have made an appearance in many mythological tales and scriptures. The word Rudra translates "to cry" in Sanskrit and is also the name by which Lord Shiva is referred to in the Rig Veda, and Aksha means "eye". When combined it stands for the "the tears of Lord Shiva" and that is precisely what the Rudraksham beads are said to be.
There are many variations to the story that connects Rudraksham with Lord Shiva. Legend says that after ridding the three worlds of Tripurasura and his terrors, Lord Shiva went into a meditative state for a 1,000 years to cleanse the world of all evil. While he was engrossed in this meditation, tears fell from his eyes on to Earth, which later sprouted into Rudraksha trees. Another mythological tale has it that when Goddess Parvati wanted jewels to adorn herself, Lord Shiva reached up to heaven and rudraksha beads fell into his hands, which she then made into ornaments. These tales spouted a common belief amongst the population on the powers of the Rudraksham bead to protect one against the evil eye and avert misfortunes. People across religious beliefs use it for meditation in the form of 'japamalas' or rosaries.
Rudraksham beads are categorised based on the number of faces (mukhee) or edge it has, which can range from 1 to 21. These edges give it an uneven texture, and when used as prayer beads, lends the user a feeling similar to that of acupressure. It is widely renowned for its ability to calm the mind and body. Alongside its use as prayer beads, people also wear it around their necks or hands, as it said to cleanse and purify the aura around them.
Weaves with sacred symbolism
Between the folds of the ethereal Kanchipuram drape lies a multitude of mystical and mythical meanings. The connection between the Rudraksham motif and this holy land is undeniable. Lord Shiva's sacred beads have an aesthetic appeal and are adapted by weavers to create subtle yet intricate motifs, in a range of design possibilities. The shape outline ranges from oval to circular, with the choice of the number of faces depending upon the design. The intricacies and detailing is done in zari using either geometric patterns or curved lines and free-flowing designs.
In a majority of the weaves, this motif is woven on the border of the saree as a complementing pattern to the main design structure. But in certain special drapes, the rudraksha motif takes centre stage and is woven as big buttis on the body where every minute detail of the seed is brought to life. Being one of the oldest motifs of our civilisation, it is said to protect the wearer from all evils and lends a sense of spirituality.
When it comes to Indian textiles, motifs are the vehicle which help carry forth the belief system and values across generations. Multiple layers of deep meaning and cultural concepts give the weave a unique identity and symbolise the extent to which our society is deep-rooted in tradition. At Sundari Silks, we take immense pride in bringing forth weaves interspersed with motifs such as the Rudraksham, which speaks volumes about our country's rich legacy.