Finally, we come to the sari that caught my attention.
Kodali Karuppur is a place near Trichy in Tamil Nadu. According to an article in the Craft Revival Quarterly, these saris flourished under the patronage of the Maratha rulers, who were so taken by the combination of techniques used that they gifted these textiles as part of their khillat, or dresses of honour. The techniques used are—get this— wax-resist hand painting, block printing and intricate weaving. First the weaver weaves the sari using brocade fabric, sometimes with silk thread mixed with the cotton thread. Then he uses block prints on the sari with the block-printed butas or motifs matching exactly with the brocade butas, to give what Reena Agarwal, the author of the article, calls a “tinsel-patterned” effect. Got that? I think what this means is that you have to painstakingly place the printing block exactly over the buta or motif of the brocade so there is no overlap. Now, on top of all this, you do this whole wax-resist thing. Basically, the craftsman paints a design like a floral motif, covers the rest with wax, dyes the fabric using natural dyes that give a rich red tone to the pallu of the sari, and then removes the wax to reveal the background design. At least, that’s what I think.
You know, at this point, I have to throw up my hands and admit defeat. All these techniques are above me and I don’t fully understand them. If you are a textile buff as I am, please visit the Craftrevival.org website and read about the process of production. Better yet, visit the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad where an antique Karuppur sari hangs in full splendour.
There are so many layers to this particular sari that you probably think the final product will be gaudy. It isn’t. Take my word for it.
Shoba Narayan is at Bangalore’s Dastkar Nature Bazaar this weekend, searching for Kodali Karuppur saris, Malkha, and other unusual fabrics. The Dastkar Nature Bazaar is on at the Bangalore Palace grounds till 15 August. Write to her at email@example.com
Updated: 05 Aug 2010, 10:35 PM IST