The interweaving history of Andhra Pradesh speaks of the design vocabulary and repertoire of a wide range of sarees from Dharmavaram to Venkatagiri and Gadwal Sarees. In the handloom fabrics of Andhra Pradesh, the emphasis has always been on texture, ornament and linear forms of rare sophistication and complexity. This is usually contrasted with coarse textures and the strong geometric symbols of rustic weavers, giving these sarees their own distinct personality. The looms of Venkatagiri are well known for their silk and cotton sarees, all over the world.
Venkatagiri is a small town in the district of Nellore, Andhra Pradesh that was once ruled by the Venkatagiri dynasty. Around 20,000 craftspeople live in the town and weave these traditional sarees. They are famous for their fine muslins and are traditionally woven in an unbleached cotton count of 120 and above, with simply gold borders and butis worked in jamdani manner.
A distinct feature of this saree is their sheen cotton bodies, which are ornamented with motifs in gold. The weavers enjoyed royal patronage and worked primarily for the royal household.
An interesting fact about the venkatagiri weaves is that traditionally only undyed cotton was used for weaving these sarees. This was due to the lack of a water source near the village. As the demand for coloured venkatagiri sarees increased, the weavers began to get the yarns dyed from tamil Nadu until the 1950s after which dyeing units were set up in Venkatagiri itself.
The weavers predominantly used traditional motifs to convey multivalent significance and symbolism. Some traditional motifs seen in the field of the saree are dots, coins, leaves, mangoes, lotuses, peacocks, parrots and simple geometrical patterns. These motifs are repeated in the pallu between the gold bands. The gold bands are known as variakanchu. These sarees are known for their one-to-two inch wide solid gold borders with elaborate patterns. The design on the borders is called pettu.
This beautiful traditional textile is woven by native weavers with locally made indigenous tools and simple pit rooms. The looms used in Venkatagiri are mostly pit looms. The motifs are woven in the field and the pallu is done using extra-weft technique. These sarees are expensive because of the high quality cotton and a lot of intricate gold work. However, they have been made affordable over the years by using less zari in the butas and borders, and by lowering the cotton count by using a coarser cotton yarn.
Until recently, the venkatagiri looms manufactured only sarees, but with the increase in demand for dress materials, home furnishing materials, they have explored these areas too. Similar cotton sarees are also woven in Madhavaram and Pullampet in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. Uppada, in east Godavari district, also produces lightweight cotton and silk sarees in jamdani style with ornamentation strictly restricted to the pallu.
Every inch of this six yard is deeply lovely and deserves the utmost attention to maintain it. When it comes to saree care, knowing the nature of the fabric, the kind of dyes used, and the numerous embellishments utilised in design is crucial. To keep your Venkatagiri sarees at their best, wash them with a gentle detergent and avoid squeezing or brushing them to remove dirt.
Every handloom creates an heirloom piece that reflects the culture and traditions of our country. Sundari Silks offers a wide choice of handcrafted Venkatagiri weaves, in keeping with our mission to uphold and carry on the weaving legacy of India.