Arni located in the district of Thiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil nadu is one of the most important Silk centers of Tamil Nadu. The town is situated at a distance of 132 kms to the West of Chennai. Arni the city of silk fabrics is accessible from Vellore also. The main occupation of the people of Arni is agriculture, weaving, keeping honey-bees and poultry farming. Arni is popular for its silk-weaving community. The town is also well known for its paddy and rice business. A bulk of India’s silk apparel are produced by the people of Arni.
In olden days Arni was called Aranyam means forest. The word Aranyam is now called as Arni. The word Aar means Athi tree (Ficus glomerata) which has various applications in Ayurveda medicine. Previously this region was full of Athi trees. In the north of Arni, there is a river by the name of Kamandala Naga River.
In this place a number of sages performed penance and attained salvation. The existence of Banalingam and Nanakarshna Chakra consecrated by Adi Sankaracharya is the pride of this place. This is the place where Saint Jamathagni did penance and attained Mukthi (salvation). As blessed by Lord Siva, Mother Renugambal kept her Sirasu (head) for performing puja by devotees and to offer them her blessings. Arni is also sacred as it is said that King Dasaradha installed a Siva Lingam in this place and performed Puthrakameshti yagam under the guidance of Rishyasringa Muni. Hence Lord Siva is known as Puthrakameshti Eswarar. King Dasaradha was blessed with four sons. The Puthrakameshti temple has a lot of reverence for parents who do not have children.
Weaving done by both men and women, Arni is well known for its traditional Arni Handlooms silk sarees. Made on frame looms, the process of creating designs on Arni sarees includes making the design on the computer which is then punched into thick cards that are in turn loaded into the Jacard. Arni silk sarees are known for their softness and durability and they make a suitable wear for all climates.
First the yarn is washed and then dipped in the required colour which is in a boiler and the worker goes on turning the yarn so that the colour is evenly mixed in the yarn. The most important aspect in this process is the mixing of colours which will give unique and durable colour to the fabric. Then it is again washed and dried. These yarns are then starched due to which the colour in the yarn gets more permanent and gives the yarn a polished look. The starched yarn is brought from the merchants by master weavers and is distributed to weavers. The yarn is then turned in a charka. Which is where the yarn will become thread that is in turn used for weft?
The next step is to load the yarn in warp which is then loaded into the looms. The length of yarn which is loaded as warp is known as Pavvu. A weaver can make four sarees from one pavvu. It will take a week to weave one pavvu of four sarees.
The weavers are into this profession traditionally with no formal training but as a skill hereditarily passed on from ancestors by way of vision and practice. But unfortunately due to the low wages the new generation is opting out of this profession.
The speciality of Arni sarees is that they are made with two different bodies on each side and two different pallus which can be used as two different sarees! Sarees are designed so shrewdly that on one side of the body half will be in one colour and the other half in another colour and at the two ends of the sari, different pallus are attached while on the other side, the entire body will be of one colour with one pallu. Thus, this saree can be used as three sarees too! Another complicated design is that on one side of the saree there will be two different colours in half portion each and at the two ends, two different pallus. Likewise, on the other side also such that this saree can now be used as four different sarees!
This way, Arni sarees with this unique feature and with its exemplary and artistically done pallus are world acclaimed. Shatika is proud to present for the first time, this lesser known Marvel of Tamil Nadu which is as opulent in looks and feel as its neighbouring renowned Kanchipuram silk sarees if not better!
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