The word Korvai in Tamil applies to structured patterns used in music, dance and textiles. In music and dance, it’s about presenting lyrics in rhythmic syllables. In textiles, Korvai is a technique which connects the concepts of contrast and colour between the border and body of a sari.
The hallmark of a Kanchipuram sari, Korvai is a design which connects the heavier ply of zari borders to the body of the saree. The Zari border is interlocked in both the ends of the sari, and so it is also referred to as “three shuttle” weaving.
Normally two weavers sit at both weft ends in a loom to throw the shuttle while weaving a korvai saree. It is a labour- intensive process which requires nimble finger work, and so korvai saris cost more than the plain silks.
Korvai draws inspiration from the Gopurams, the monumental gates of temples of South India. The symbol is rooted in artistic tradition, and this temple motif takes the form of rows of large triangles woven into the body of the sari.
The interlocking of a korvai, with the zari border and body, gives way to many interesting designs:
Plain korvai – In a plain korvai sari, the border and body are joined in a single line. The pattern resembles an attached border and accentuates the contrast well.
Small temple border korvai– In this design, small triangular temple borders, called as muggu join the zari border and body, showing the fine detailing of a Kanchipuram silk sari.
Rekku korvai – The interlocking design takes a bigger and broader form to show off the spired temple motifs. The korvai resembles a kewra or a “Thazambu” flower, and so aptly called as a Thazambu rekku by the weavers. This rekku could be woven on a single side or both sides of the border.
One of the most prized gift to an Indian woman continues to be a richly brocaded Kanchipuram silk saree, and a korvai makes it complete!