The History of Traditional Handwoven Balaramapuram Sarees

by Shatika, August 1, 2016

Kerala is not only famous for its back waters but also for its eco friendly saree weaving. Balaramapuram is a small village situated in Thiruvanthapuram. The quaint little village is known for handloom weaving. The weaving goes back to the seventeenth century, it is said the then Travancore King promoted this weaving and brought weavers (shaliars) from Tamil Nadu to produce clothes for only the royal family. He settled them in Balaramapuram and in the twentieth century today the weavers live in a separate location.

balamapuram saree

The Craft Redefined

The Balamapuram saree weaving is unique as it has identical appearance on the front and the back, using the special laced weaving. The weavers use the old and trustworthy throw-shuttle pit looms. The weavers used a unique technique by which each thread was separately controlled by hand to interlace with weft, wound in small pins. Vegetable colours were used. The saree is known as “Pudava and Kavani. During Onam, the Keralite festival , women of all ages wear the mundum neryathum and take part in folk dance meant only for women called kaikottikalli. The Mundum Neryathum for festive occasion has golden coloured borders or a broad zari border known as Kasavu, lending the costume another name of “Kasavu Saree”. The colour for the blouse of the mundum neryathum for this occasion is determined by the age and marital status of the woman. Young unmarried girls wear green coloured blouse, while married middle aged mothers wear red blouses.

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weaving technique

The Kasavu

The kasavu or the golden border is either pure golden layer, copper coated or artificial. The fabric of mundu-sari is cotton and is always woven by hand. Kara or simple line designs adorn the bottom of these saris, while at times small peacock or temple designs embellish the pallu. The veshti is another version of the saree which consists of small upper clothing resembling a blouse-like garment worn without the pallu along with a mundu as lower garment.

Both the traditional and modern styles of the mundum neryathum are depicted in the paintings of the Indian painter. The mundum neriyathum was modified in several paintings Raja Ravi Varma, depicting Shakuntala from the Mahabharatha to a style of draping now popularly known as the ‘nivi saree’ or ‘national drape’. In one of his paintings was shown as a mother wearing a flowing nivi saree. The past connects the present.

Kasavu handloom sarees

The kasavu sarees have defined the making of the saree. The use of natural colours and a traditional weave which has endured time and generation. The Cotton Sarees with golden border are part of History and the sarees make us spellbound. The ancient technique is still novel and the sarees are considered eco – friendly and in today’s world, a rare commodity.

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