Mysore, the land of sandalwood, is also the producer of a fabric that is as rich as its history. The glimmering silk crepe sarees of Mysore are a gem in the crown of the Maharajas and Sultans that reigned over this land. Coming from a state that is one of the largest mulberry silk producers in the country, Mysore silk sarees are renowned for their extraordinary sheen, exquisite zari work and lightweight fabric. In this week's blog, we will be discovering the intricate details of the weave that never ceases to amaze.
An era of eminence
Tales of its origin can be traced back to the 1790s when the then ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was entranced by the silk cloth gifted to him by the ambassador of the Qing Dynasty's royal court in China. This fueled his decision to send a delegation each to Bengal and China, with the purpose of sourcing silkworms for cultivation. Subsequently, he set up silkworm breeding stations as well as mulberry farms, in order to feed and rear silkworms. And within a century the Kingdom of Mysore became the country's top silk producer.
With the onset of the 19th century, the silk industry witnessed a steady decline due to various economical reasons. But Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of the Mysore Royal Family wasn't going to give up without a fight. After witnessing Queen Victoria's celebration festivities in Britain, he ordered 32 power looms from Switzerland and set up a silk manufacturing unit in Mysore. Sericulture blossomed under his reign as the unit's capacity kept increasing and the Maharaja ended up buying 138 more looms during his time.
Post-independence, this 17-acre silk factory went under the control of the Government's Sericulture Department, which is operational even today., as one of India's oldest silk manufacturing unit run by the Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation (KSIC).
Carrying forth the legacy of his forefathers, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, scion of the Royal family of Mysore, contributes extensively towards the promotion of this craft form, through his brand - Royal Silk of Mysore. Additionally, he designs these sarees himself, which are showcased and available for purchase within the Mysore Palace complex.
From cocoon to loom
Karnataka produces 9,000 metric tons of silks today which accounts for 45% of India’s entire mulberry silk production. A lengthy and laborious process is undertaken to bring this wonderful weave to life, all the way from the cocoon to the loom. The yarns to weave this fabric are procured from local sericulture farmers and then sorted for quality. The yarns then go through semi-automatic machines which reel fine threads out of them. It is crucial that these silk threads must be of 27 "deniers" (a measurement of the yarn's thickness, density, and weight). Each of these silk yarns is then twisted several thousand times to give the final woven fabric its sought after crepe texture. The next step of the process is the weaving, where the craftsmen employ either Dobby looms or Jacquard looms.
The differentiating feature of a Mysore silk saree is a solid colour base fabric made with 100% pure silk. The base silk fabric is dyed in a single colour and is kept plain without any patterns to highlight the intricate zari work done on the borders, which uses real 24-carat gold zari from Surat.
With a rich cultural foundation paired with the latest technological advancements and trends, Mysore silk sarees have gained a special place in the hearts of women across the globe. This heirloom weave is one amongst the many indigenous art forms of our country, which have stood the test of time, and deserves to be protected for generations to come. Explore our handcrafted collection of Mysore silk sarees that are available in a stunning spectrum of shades and strokes.