We must have heard and seen way too many versions of Chanderi silk. Chanderi Handicrafts are unique & incomparable in world. Its distinctiveness lies in the thread, which never loses its shape and appearance. This material has a unique transparency and texture which can be recognized by the naked eye. Lightweight and gorgeous in itself!
But do we know what its history is? Where did it borrow its name? And how is it made as of today?
Chanderi silk got its name from Chanderi, in Madhya Pradesh. This town was popular for its hand woven cotton warps. The handspun yarns were the finest in the era, which were as fine as 300 counts, counted amongst the muslins of Dhaka. However, history speaks about Chanderi fabric since Vedic Period, founded by Lord Krishna’s cousin, Shishupal. There are three varieties of Chanderi, Pure Silk, Chanderi Cotton and Silk cotton.
The handspun fabrics have motifs that have come a long way and recite songs of royal tastes. The craft of Chanderi was rampaged by the Britishers and the craft took a nosedive in the ’20s. The rulers started importing cheap textiles from Manchester, which not only prevented our workers to produce and sell, but also started winning hearts of the rich and elite in India. To further increase the despair, the Japanese silk was introduced in the ‘30s, which was cheap and beautiful, making Chanderi a distant competitor in the textile industry. The royal Scindia family later took this art under their patronage and protected weavers to create products and sell them at regulated prices, bringing their sheen back in the market. Over the years, this fabric was picked up by multiple traders, making it one of the fastest growing textile fabrics in the country. To meet demands a large variety of materials were mixed with the cotton and silk in the 70’s.
Want to know more about how Chanderi Sarees are made?
Procurement of raw material: The fabric thread is procured from various sources in India, for example the master weaver gets the silk thread from dealers in Karnataka. The silk yarn used is largely imported Chinese or Korean silk. The cotton yarn is procured from places like Coimbatore in southern India, and Jaipur and is usually pre-dyed.
The dyeing in Chanderi is undertaken mainly for the silk yarn and by dyers many of whom have been in this skill since long. The silk yarn dying process takes about 45 to 60 minutes depending on the color.
For the weft the yarn is wound on prins with the help of a charkha and this activity is usually performed by the members of weavers’ family. Warping is a specialized process, which is performed by the warpers.
Before the actual weaving begins the weaver sets the design of the border and the palla. The respective ends of the design are tied to the vertical harness called jala and the process is called jala tying. This process takes anywhere between 3-4 days depending on the complexity of the design.
The Chanderi fabric does not require any post loom process and is cut off the loom to be packed and sold. It is packed as per the requirement of the buyer.