Threads of Legacy: Sarees of Karnataka

Threads of Legacy: Sarees of Karnataka

Karnataka, known as the “land of sandalwood,” is also popular for silk and traditional weaving. Located in the silk belt and contributing about 65% to the country’s mulberry production, the state of Karnataka is the largest silk producer in India. The state also grows  cotton in abundance, producing around 20 lakh bales of cotton per year. Apart from silk and cotton farming, the state is also well known for its diverse textiles. Weaving in Karnataka dates back to the 8th century. Handlooms of Karnataka have a region-specific design, texture, fabric, and embroidery, making them unique &  exquisite. Many varieties of handloom sarees from Karnataka are popular globally as they have obtained Geographical Indication (GI) certification. This blog is an ode to the traditional handlooms of Karnataka that have captivated saree connoisseurs.

The drapes of northern karnataka: Ilkal sarees

Bestowed with a GI tag, the beautiful Illkal sarees are woven using cotton warp on the body and art silk warp for the border and pallu portion. Originating from the quaint little village of Ilkal in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka , these sarees are woven using pure silk yarn. Simple yet elegant, it has a vibrant-coloured body, which is usually plain or has checks, along with border and pallu in contrast colours. Two or three white stripes, several centimetres wide, alternate with colours of the border on the saree pallu for a distinctive aesthetic appeal.

The drapes of Tulunadu: Udupi sarees

Udupi sarees are crafted from finer counts of combed cotton yarns, on Malabar frame looms, which were introduced by the Basel Mission in the 1840s. A unique technique called loom sizing is used, where natural rice and maize starch solutions are directly added to the warps during the weaving process. Apart from strengthening the yarn and preventing it from breaking, this technique also gives a shinier look to the saree. These sarees rose to fame when the cooperative movement gained momentum due to the boycott of foreign goods. These elegant sarees are available in two types: ones with checks in the body design with a solid border, and others with plain body and butta designs.

 The drapes of hill forts: Molakalmuru sarees

Molakalmuru silk sarees are renowned for their texture, buttas, and gold zari. These long-lasting sarees have gained special appreciation from saree connoisseurs as they are crafted using twisted and double-lined silk yarn. Hailing from the Chitradurga district town of Molakalmuru, these sarees are woven using three shuttle looms. The saree border is woven with the same colour for both warp and weft, while the body is woven with a contrasting colour for a fine-shot appearance. The deft weavers of Molakalmuru interlock the saree’s border with its body to create abstract temple motifs.

The regal drapes :Mysore Silk Sarees

Mysore silk is the first GI-tagged product from Karnataka. Acclaimed for their quality, lustre, and elegance, Mysore silk sarees are only produced by Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation Ltd (KSIC). Easy to drape, similar to chiffon fabrics , Mysore silk sarees have gained a special place in the bridal trousseau. They are relatively simple in design, typically featuring zari borders and stripes in the pallu. Unlike other sarees, Mysore silk sarees do not have the borders woven separately but rather are dyed in such a way that the borders and pallu contrast with the body. 

Kasuti Embroidery

The textile legacy of Karnataka is incomplete without the mention of Kasuti embroidery. It is a type of hand embroidery that dates back to the Chalukya dynasty. Kasuti motifs are inspired by temple architecture, lotus flowers, raths, palanquins, and birds. The designs on the sarees are crafted using cotton threads in such a way that they will seem almost the same regardless of which side they are seen from, with no loose ends. These motifs adorn the saree body as well as the pallu of Illkal and Kanjivaram sarees.

There are other places in Karnataka with handloom traditions. Bangalore and Mangalore have a fairly significant silk and cotton handloom industry. The skillful weavers of Karnataka have contributed immensely to our country’s textile legacy. With their craft and unique weaving techniques, they have transformed natural fibres into alluring six-yard wonders.

ReshaMandi has joined hands with the weavers of our country. Through tech-enabled solutions on the ReshaMandi app and credit assistance via ReshaMudra, it is empowering the weavers of our nation. Also, through the D2C e-commerce platform, it caters to end consumers, bringing them exquisite sarees woven out of natural fibres from different parts of India – thus opening up horizons for our weavers.

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