“Oh! for the feel of a handloom saree,” Natasha was cajoling her uncle to take her to Chanderi to buy sarees. Natasha had just returned from the US. She was a young graduate from SRM who had been absorbed by McKenzie and wanted to take back chanderi sarees as gifts for her colleagues. Her uncle took her and his wife to Chanderi, in the hope that it would be an unique experience.
On the way, Natasha’s friends kept calling her telling her which colours to buy, as some wanted the fabric, others the block printed saree. Natasha’s uncle was amused how a saree nearly five centuries old had caught the imagination of the friends across the globe! Well it is not surprising that the chanderi evokes such feelings. The saree has been a friend of the beautiful in the past and will continue to fascinate the Indian palette, reflections aside –an agitated Natasha’s voice could be heard, “You got to be joking, there are no fakes in Chanderi sarees.” Hearing this uncle gestured to her to stop talking and listen to her.
He told her that saree making was exclusive to this region and it came here as a product of love –something they were proud of as part of their culture and today it is our heritage, as Indians any doubt in their integrity is doubting ourheritage. He told her that when she meets the weavers, she should not express this concern. He told her to be a smart buyer. Handloom always has a rough texture. So that’s the first sign of it being an original.The surface will be uneven, he told her to eye it a position where the finish can be seen and if it is shining and smooth then we will without discussion move out without hurting anyone. He explained this to her that if it happening, though wrong but it is done in order to make this elusive saree –a saree of the masses- such things are done.
For every successful product you have a thriving fake market. If a Chanderi is being sold at Rs 600, then its integrity is questionable. So the problem was solved. Uncle made mental points, he remembered reading somewhere that in a real chanderi saree a weaver will leave pinticks at the edge of the saree, of the pins that held the saree in place! Such a lot ofinformation. We were now only a half an hour away. He remembered something about bootis. At this a very quiet and sedate aunt answered. She told them about how the bootis are woven is the giveaway if it is handwoven then the snipping of the threads will show and ofcourse she said, “Block printed sarees are the best today”.
After the chanderi saree has been woven, it is sent to Jaipur for block printing. The intricate weaving of the chanderi comes out vividly with this printing art. Making the diaphanous material a replica of numerous sarees which chanderi is so fondly churns out and we cherish. Our bus had arrived at Chanderi.
One prominent sound of the looms clackall over. At an average 500 Chanderi sarees are made in Chanderieveryday. The small town along the river Betwain Madhya Pradesh, has nearly 12,000 odd weavers who work relentlessly to keep this ancient saree alive-resplendent.This glorious work of art is nothing less than poetry. The gossamer feel of the saree and the grand use of gold and silver only adds to the cost of a saree but you don’t worry about that when we deal with matters of the heart!