Chanderi : The Textile With Historic Luminosity

With its abode cradled in the hills of Vindhyachal in North Madhya Pradesh (MP), Chanderi rooted in its Vedic era origins, has birthed an ever evolving array of chanderi based textiles that saw shifts in weaving techniques and styles, use of gold thread based motifs on cotton, introduction of silk yarn, dobby, jacquard amidst an endlessly zealous spirit to innovate with this textile’s versatile qualities. Another exciting experiment happens to be the use of a silk warp with a cotton weft that promises both the lustrous appeal with the comfort of cotton, The weavers also employed the Japanese silk variety in the warps in cotton sarees, suits and later developed a silk-by-silk variety which also deemed as considerably profitable for them. Yet the most widely prevalent version of Chanderi based textiles are that of pure silk, Chanderi cotton and silk cotton.

Chanderi, a textile that is synonymous with the garments of royalty, is also known to have used the handspun cotton warps and wefts. We learn that it was spun to the finesse of over 280 counts. The Industrial Revolution with its loudness of commercial viability spelled doom for this heritage craft that is enriched with human rigour as the British imported the cheaper variety of 130 to 200 count cotton from Manchester.

The skill and the motifs:

Called as buttis, the motifs found on different kinds of Chanderi fabric are hand woven.  Craftsmen employ separate needles for designing different motifs on the handloom like ‘Chatai’, ‘Dandidar’, ‘Jangla’, ‘Ashrafi’, ‘Bundi’, ‘Churi’ and ‘Keri’, ‘mehendi wale hath’.

The commonly spotted borders on Chanderi clothing are the nakshi, adda, zari patela and piping border which feature highly intricate designs. In the creation of the piping border, one chosen colour is alternated with fine strips of another colour. The number of needles  employed is based upon the number of motifs and their size. For each motif, a separate needle is used.

The handmade buttis are a true testimony to this craft’s heritage as they continue to retain their original shape and structure even after long use over the years. But the motifs  created by power loom are not permanent and lose their shape and structure after a period of use,

The quintessential translucent effect and shine in the Chanderi fabric is attributed to the non-removal of the raw yarn’s glue from the yarn called as non-degumming. What is noteworthy in the weaving of this hand loom is that using silk threads lends strength to the yarn and is less cumbersome to weave with, also rendering a resplendent appeal to the fabric.

Denoted by the term denier, the fineness of the silk yarn used in this craft is of 20/21s, 16/18 denier. The cotton used in Chanderi Fabric is of 2/120’s, 2/100’s (plain yarn) and 2/120 and 2/100 denier  mercerized yarn.

The easy accessibility and cheaper prices of Chanderi lookalike textiles threatens to push the legacy of this historic craft into oblivion. We, at Gulabchand Prints are proud to have endeavoured towards the pursuit of promoting the Indian heritage crafts and textiles, replete in their authenticity and responsible trade practices through our Chanderi based ethnic dress material amidst a larger range of Indian textile forms.

(Authored by – Vandana Bhatia )

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