Handloom Sarees and the Influence of Temple Architectures on the Weaves

by Shatika, July 1, 2017

Motifs gracing Indian textiles are infused with meaning and beauty as they draw inspiration from the intricate work on the pillars and gopurams of temples, tombs, stone carved caves and many other such architectural marvels in different parts of the country. These architectural marvels manifest mythology in myriad expressions and showcase symbols that give them a deeper meaning beyond sensory beauty. Drawing from this philosophy, a range of motifs also appears on handloom sarees that thus hold in their folds a tribute to this marvelous work of art.

An Array of Motifs

From motifs depicting the epics to architecture, animals, birds, fish, flowers, fruits, stars and more there is an array of motifs seen in Indian architecture that also inspire weavers of handloom sarees.

From nature motifs like the tree of life, Kalpataru to sacred seeds like the rudraksha, leaves such as of peepal tree under which Lord Buddha got enlightenment and fruits, such as the mango and pomegranate symbolizing fertility to lotus, they have deep traditional meaning.

Among animals, the elephant, regarded as a symbol of strength, intelligence, compassion, is often featured; other popular animal motifs are the tiger and deer. Of birds, the peacock and parrot are most popular with the former a symbol of beauty, love, courtship, and royalty being rendered in eye-catching colours.

From the waters, the conch shell- an auspicious symbol considered to create sound like that at the time of creation from its whorls and its being blown at auspicious occasions – and the fish linked toMatsya, the fish-avatar of  Vishnu are popular.

Forms of the celestial bodies – the sun, moon, and stars – worked with metal thread bring home a bit of their shine.

Geometric motifs such as rows of triangles with serrated sides on South Indian silk sarees referred to as ‘temple borders’ echo the lines of the superstructure of temples have been inspired by temple architecture.

There is no end to creativity as weavers look around for designs and there is no dearth of designs in heritage architectural marvels.

Weavesandtheir Inspirations:

  • Kanchipuram Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees draw inspiration from Dravidian temple architecture which is the most preserved architecture in our country, with fascinating imagery. On kanchi pattu saris, one can find traditional designs like elephants, moonstones, and rudraksha, besides mythical animals like the Yali (part lion, part elephant and part horse)

  • Sambalpuri Sarees: The motifs on Sambalpuri sarees from Odisha are inspired by the ancient architecture of Konark suntemple including rudraksha, counches and Konark chakra.

  • Banarasi Sarees: Most Banarasi sarees depict the fine jaala work seen in Mughal architectures.
  • Paithani Sarees: The Paithani saree motifs are inspired by the paintings seen on ancient Ajanta and Elora caves.

  • KalamkariSarees: The bold and beautiful hand paintings depicted on kalamkari sarees in pen and ink depict deities from sri Kalahasti temple in Andhra Pradesh.

Image courtesy:

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