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Traditional Kanjivaram Sarees - An Elegant History

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

Kanjivaram saree - Traditional Vogue

Kanjeevaram or Kanchipuram Silk Sarees are popular around the world with a geographical indication to the location of the craft. The traditional kanjivaram sarees are an inevitable part of south Indian culture. A six-yard handloom kanjivaram silk saree is almost every Indian woman’s dream. Here we are exploring curious facts on kanjivarams and the rise of the craft to glory.

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Traditional kanjivaram saree - A south Indian bride

Image credit: Pinterest

The Kanchipuram and Kanjeevaram Sarees

Kanchipuram silks or Kanjivaram silk sarees are a rage among saree lovers as it offers an effortlessly flawless and classic look. Kanjeevaram sarees hail from the Kanchipuram district of the state of Tamilnadu. A handloom kanjivaram silk saree evokes the sense of grandiose in minds once draped. Kanchipuram sarees woven with heavy silk and gold cloth are considered to be special and are worn on occasions and festivities

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A handloom kanjeevaram silk saree

Is Kanjivaram (Kanjeevaram) or Kanchipuram the same?

Kanjivaram sarees are called both ‘Kanjeevaram silk sarees’ and ‘Kanchipuram silk sarees’ around the world. They are also spelled as Kanchivaram, Kanjivaram, Kanchiwaram, and Conjeevaram. The silk sarees woven in Kanchipuram town are called Kanchipuram Silk Sarees. During British rule in India, they translated the Kanchipuram Silk to Conjeevaram which later turned out to be Kanjeevaram and Kanchivaram. Ultimately, be it Kanchipuram silks, Kanjivaram silks, Conjeevaram, or Kanchivarams, all refer to the silk woven in the small town of Kanchipuram near Chennai in Tamilnadu.

History of Kanjivaram silk sarees

The cultural impact of Tamil on kanjivaram silk sarees has been huge. The northern part of ancient Tamilnadu was ruled by the Cholas and during this period (500 BCE to 300 CE) trade in this area shot up, between the Chinese and several other kingdoms. One of the major trade commodities was silk form the ancient city of Kanchipuram. Silk trade started during this Sangam period and reached its pinnacle during the reign of King Krishna Deva Raya.

It is believed that the city of Kanchipuram has been a part of mythical Dravida Kingdom of the epic Mahabharata and was described as "the best among cities" by the 4th-century Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa. This temple city was regarded as the Banaras of the South.

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City of temples and kanjivaram silk sarees

Image credit: Tamilnadu tourism

It is believed that the weavers of Kanchipuram settled there from Telugu Nadu around 400+ years back. The ‘Saligars’ and ‘Devangas’ were the two groups of weavers that hailed from present-day Andhra Pradesh to Kanchipuram. As per lore, these weavers are said to be the descendants of Lord Markanda - Master weaver of Gods, who wove tissues from lotus threads. They wove the aristocratic Kanchipuram Silk Sarees into reality. The first Kanjivaram sarees were 9 yards, which later became the currently popular 6 yards version.

What is Kanjivaram silk?

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Kanjivaram silk - a bliss

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Kanjivaram silk is a silk fabric made using sericulture of silkworms on mulberry leaves in the Temple Town of Kanchipuram. The silk is majorly hand-loomed into sarees and the Kanchipuram silk sarees or Kanjivaram silk sarees are famous around the globe. Kanjivaram silk sarees are made of iridescent weaves and imbued with the emotions of cultures. The pure mulberry silk when bordered with gold and silver borders sourced from Gujarat gives out a sheer beauty of Kanjivaram silk that brings out the princess in every woman.

Why a Kanjivaram saree

A traditional kanjivaram saree is the cultural embodiment of festivals, marriages, and celebrations. The kanjivaram pure silk saree is considered to be auspicious and is offered to deities and used on all auspicious occasions. This way importance of the Kanjivaram saree is considered to be prominent in the lives of south Indian women, making kanjivarams an inevitable cultural entity.

How Kanjivaram sarees are made - The weaving process

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Kanjivaram saree Weaving process

Image credit: Shrinidhi hande

Most of the popular Indian silk sarees are made using a single warp (longitudinal set of threads held tightly on the loom before the weft is introduced.), whereas a handloom traditional kanjivaram silk saree uses double or triple warps that are dyed in vibrant colours and woven together using the interlocking technique. Each kanjivaram silk saree is a work of art and the border joints are woven so strong that they won't get detached even if the saree tears.

The zari section is made using silk woven with gold and silver threads. The silk threads are starched and sun-dried before weaving to get the desired stiffness to the fabric. This adds lustre to the saree.

What are the types of kanjivaram sarees?

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Soft silk kanjivaram silk sarees

Kanjeevaram Saree has evolved through decades by varied cultural influences and textile technology.

  1. Traditional Kanjeevaram silk sarees

  2. Borderless Kanjivaram silk sarees

  3. Kanjivaram Soft Silk Sarees

  4. Samudrika Silk Sarees

  5. Korvai Silk Sarees

And many more. These are the types of sarees that are being used by Indian women according to the rise of occasions. A traditional kanjeevaram silk saree, samudrika silk saree, or korvai silk saree is used mainly for weddings and related auspicious functions. Whereas, borderless kanjivaram silk sarees and kanjivaram soft silk sarees take up the lighter ethnic occasions. Find the latest collection of traditional and modern kanjivaram silk sarees at Kolour.

How to style your Kanjeeravams in a traditional and modern way?

Style your traditional kanjeevaram saree with gold ornaments as the colour of gold accentuates the traditional look. Traditional gold ornaments would be ideal for classic attire. Modern kanjeevaram sarees are worn for ethnic functions and can be styled with minimal accessories like earrings alone. Check out some of the wonderful kanjivaram soft silk saree collections on Kolour

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