From Banarasi to Kalamkari: Sarees from India that you ought to have!
If there is one Indian outfit that is timeless and boasts of cultural roots like no other, it has to be a sari. It is as quintessential as the Indian woman! It is heavy, ornate and conventional. It is light as a breeze and easy- when you want to be. Versatile and traditional, it is a scene-stealer and feminine in each fold and with every twirl. It is open to the new ideas that take the unconventional aspects of fashion into account. Most importantly, it doesn’t shy away from asserting what it is.
Traditional Different Types of Indian Sarees
This traditional outfit comes in a varying length of six to nine yards. There are more than 100 ways of wearing a saree with ‘Nivi’ or side pallu originated from Andhra Pradesh is the most popular. The saree type in India differs with each region. The weave of a handloom saree depicts the myths, temples and art of the particular region, giving it an unofficial ‘geographical identification’ of the state. There are more than 30 types of Indian sarees available and most of them are a prized heirloom for every woman. If you want to know about them, have missed any of them or want to take a closer look, scroll down!
Different Types of Sarees in India
Banarasi Saree Types
A favourite of Bollywood celebs, designers and commoners, Banarasi saree finds mention in Buddhist scriptures and Mahabharata. The metallic brocade, the zari work and Mogul inspired artwork of kalgi, bel and jhalar are prominent in this drape. The Banarasi saree type can be broadly divided into these segments:
Jamdani: Jamdani sarees are marked by the fine texture of muslin and silk brocade with cotton.
Jangla: The jangla type of sarees feature colourful threads.
Tanchoi: Known for their kaleidoscope effect due to dual colour warp, the background of the saree has a satin finish.
Tissue: The Banarasi tissue type of sarees are voluminous in appearance and have a golden look.
Cutwork sarees: Cutwork is a needlework technique used to remove the threads in a pattern.
Butidar sarees: These are dark blue silk sarees with threadwork of silver and gold zari. These contrast threads create stunning artwork. These sarees are also called ‘Ganga Jamuni’due to their similarity of threads and after the ‘Ganga Jamuni’ tehzeeb of Banaras.
Tant cotton sarees are traditional Bengali saree and available at a low price point. In the hot and humid Indian weather, these sarees keep you fresh and easy. Using the age-old crafting technique, the taant sarees are crafted in Hoogly, Murshidabad and Nadia of West Bengal. The taant sarees are known for their transparency and breathability. The border and pallu of a taant saree are often thicker and colourful to lend them a beautiful and dense appearance. Different motifs such as bhomra or a bee, rajmahal, half-moon, chand mala (garland of moons), fish scale, hathi, blue sky, gem-eyed, spiral, paisleys, star and flowers are carved on the border and pallu. The traditional art of weaving Jamdani taant is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The taant saree of Kolkata is liked by the commoners and prominent leaders such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Parliament Speaker of Bangladesh Shirin Sharmin Chaudhary.
Produced in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh, these sarees are crafted from three kinds of fabric, pure silk, cotton and silk-blend. These are known for their sheer texture, fine lustrous feel and lightweight. The fabric of Chanderi finds a mention in Vedic period and was founded by Shishupal, Lord Krishna’s cousin. The sarees find patrons in the renowned Scindia family. The sarees are characterized by their soft pastel shades of threads and different abstract geometric motifs such as jangla, chatai, mehendi haath, and dandidar along with butis, swans, fruits, coins and flowers.
This traditional handloom Sambhalpuri saree is a handwoven ikat pattern, where fabric is tied and died before weaving. The Sambhalpuri saree is produced in Sambalpur, Boudh, Balangir, Sonepur and Bargarh district of Odisha. The drape is characterized by motifs like flowers, wheel and shell – the symbol of Lord Jagannatha’s rath yatra. Besides, the dominating colours of the sarees are also red, black and white representing the face colour of Lord Jagannatha and Odia culture.
Apart from this, it is the traditional craftsmanship or Bandhakala the sarees are known for. The Bandhakala or Ikkat sarees become very popular after Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi started wearing them. There are five types of ikkat sarees from Orissa which are in high demand all over the world for their artsy vibes and chic feel, which are:
The tussar Sambhalpuri sarees often have Raghurajpur Patta Paintings depicting tales of Ayodhya Vijay, Raslila and Matura Vijay.
Madhya Pradesh is the treasure trove of handloom arts. Maheshwari sarees’ origin can be traced back to 18th Century and were crafted by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar in silk. These silk and cotton sarees are weaved with brocade using varied patterns such as stripes, floral and checks. The famous design pattern of Maheshwari sarees is mat or chhattai, chameli ka phool, eent or brick and heera. These sarees either will have intricately carved border and solid body or have stripes and checks on the body.
Maheshwari sarees are available in five different design variations, which are
- Baingani Chandrakala
Beli, Parbi and Chandratara Maheshwari sarees are characterized by stripes and checked pattern. The baingani and chandrakala patterns are plain sarees.
Kashta or Nauvari sarees are a style of Maharashtrian drape that is worn without a petticoat. Nauvari also means nine yards and was worn by Rani Laxmi Bai.
The ‘kashta’ refers to the saree being tucked at the back. This is the only saree that is truly nine yards and is also called Sakachha or Akhanda Vastra- considering that it doesn’t need a supporting garment such as a petticoat. The drape was initially worn by Maratha women to fight alongside their brethren against Moguls. The saree gives immense freedom to the wearer and is worn like a dhoti. The saree is often worn by women during traditional and religious festivals like Gudi Padwa and Ganesh Chaturthi. It requires patience and perfection of the technique to wear a nine-yard saree. Once you have it, it gives you immense ease of movement as much as a pair of pants!
Kosa is a variety of tussar silk and is obtained from an Indian silkworm, Antheraea mylitta that feed on the leaves on Saja, Sal and Arjun. Produced in Chhattisgarh, the silk is known for its sturdiness and smooth texture. Like Chanderi, it is also a version of tussar silk. The kosa silk is available in a variety of shades such as fawn, orange, dark honey, pale golden and dull golden. The orange colour for Kosa saris is derived from palas, the red colour comes from red pollen of the rora flower and the deep red from lac and so on.
Kosa silk sarees are produced in Champa and Korba district in Chhatisgarh. The silk sarees crafted in Champa are in huge demand all over the world for their purity. It is difficult to obtain silk from the kosa worm and it takes more than two weeks to weave a saree. It is extremely important to pay attention when buying kosa silk sarees as often, polyester or cotton is mixed with kosa silk. The best bet to evaluate the purity of the kosa silk is to burn a few threads and check its odour. The authentic kosa silk will leave a residue and won’t have any ash-like odour.
Bandhani sarees or Bandhej sarees are mainly crafted in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is also produced in Tamil Nadu, where it is called Sungudi.In Tamil Nadu, it is known as Piliya and Chungidi too. The word, Bandhani comes from Sanskrit, which means ‘to bind,’ referring to the tie-dye process of the craft. The origin of bandhani fabric can be traced back to Indus Valley Civilisation. The dots found in 6th century Buddhist Ajanta caves are also an example of Bandhani pattern. The bandhej is a very intricate process. A variety of patterns and designs are created such as shikari, chandrakala and baavan baug by just tying and dying the fabric at strategic places. The prominent colours of Bandhej sarees are often yellow, red, blue and green. The entire process remains manual and natural.
In Gujarat, the Khatri community of Kutchh and Saurashtra carry out the work traditionally from many generations. It is believed that in many cities such as Bhuj, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Jetpur, Mandavi and Pethapur of Gujarat have earthen water conducive to the tie and die of the fabric and give brightness and beauty to the colours.
The Kerala Kasavu sarees are handwoven and are cream-coloured with a prominent gold border. The sarees are a traditional outfit of Malayalee women and is considered to the most auspicious outfit that needs to be worn on any festive occasion. This nine-yard saree finds its origin in Mundum Neryathum- the traditional clothing of Kerala women. Kasavu includes a dhoti or mundu, a pallu and a blouse. In the latest trend, the golden border is now accentuated with zari patterns and designs.
Patola Saree from Patan, Gujarat is a handwoven double ikat saree. Due to the labour-intensive and time-consuming process of the weaving, these sarees are quite expensive and are often sported byaristocratic and rich families. The Salvi family in Patan reserves the right to craft patola sarees for royalty.
The name patola is originated from the Sanskrit word, Pattakulla. The weave uses a warp and weft technique with the resist-dyeing process. It takes more than six months to weave a saree with three weavers toiling away for more than 10 hours a day. The sarees are hand-painted with natural elements and elements. The religious texts from Narsimha Puran are also carved on patola sarees.
Also known as Kanjivaram saris, the sarees are traditionally handwoven in Kanchipuram village of Tamil Nadu. A prized heirloom, these sarees are a must-have for every woman out there. The art of weaving Kanjivaram sarees flourished during the reign of Krishna-Deva Raya, who patronized the weavers of Devangas and Sailgars community. The weavers are believed to be the descendants of Sage Markanda, the weaver of God and the silk is termed to be Lord Vishnu’s favourite. Pure mulberry silk is used to craft sarees, which comes from South India. The zari for Kanchipuram sarees is obtained from Gujarat. In an authentic Kanjivaram, each part of the saree is weaved separately. The border colour and design are different. If the pallu of the saree is in a different shade than the saree, it is weaved differently and interlocked later in a zig-zag pattern. However, the interlocking of the saree is so strong that the fabric may tear but the border and the pallu won’t come off. The wide contrast border of the sarees is one of the signature characteristics of a Kanjivaram that has motifs of natural elements such as leaves, bel and paisleys. The pallu designs often have paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and the folklores inspired from Hindu Mythology such as Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Kalam means ‘pen’ and Kari denotes ‘craft.’ Kalamkari is an extensive, time-consuming process comprising 23 steps of bleaching, dyeing, starching, hand painting, starch and so on. The prominent colours of kalamkari sarees are earthy such as indigo, rust, black, green and mustard. The process of crafting these sarees is completely eco-friendly and natural. Only natural dyes, obtained from flowers, herbs and iron fillings are used to dye the product. The yellow or mustard colour comes from turmeric, the red shade is derived from pomegranate seeds and peels and darker shades of red are obtained from jaggery. To outline the sketch, the black ink is obtained by mixing water with iron fillings and jaggery.
In India, two types of kalamkari art are prevalent namelythe Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The former comprise drawings inspired from Hindu mythology. The latter, Machilipatnam style involves kalamkari with traditional block printing. Of late, two more distinctive styles are also emerging from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Andhra Pradesh kalamkari features design inspirations from temples, forts and palaces in India whereas Gujarat kalamkari is more focussed on Mahabharata characters, Lord Krishna, Lord Budha and Lord Ganesha. Besides, the motifs drawn on kalamkari fabrics are peacock, paisleys and flowers.
The paithani sarees are the richest and finest silk sarees of Maharashtra. Named after Paithan town in Aurangabad, the sari is woven by hand and is characterized by a pallu with peacock design and the borders with square designs. The kaleidoscope effect is very popular in the latest trends of the saree. In regional language, it is called pattan, or a gold and silk saree. Initially, the Paithani sarees were crafted in cotton but later on, the silk sarees started to catch on. The roots of this weaving can be traced back to 200 BC and since then, it is the much-coveted heirloom that is passed on from one generation to another. Even today, the real Paithani sarees are weaved with real silver or gold zari on pure silk fabric.
Muga silk is considered to be one of the rarest silk varieties because it is available only in Assam. The muga silk originally is dull yellow-goldish in colour but are compatible with dyeing. The muga silk sarees can be hand-washed and with every wash, the lustre and smoothness of the silk increases. The silkworms are cultivated in West Garo and West Khasi Hills of Assam and rearing them up is an expensive affair.
As per an estimate, one acre of land is required to generate only 400 grams of silk. To weave a muga silk saree, 1,000 grams of silk is needed whereas more than 1,000 cocoons can only generate 125 grams of silk. When you buy a Muga silk saree, you get to experience the efforts and perseverance of farmer, who has invested more than two months to cultivate and nurture silkworms. And the weavers, who have crafted a brilliant masterpiece continuously for two weeks for more than 10 hours a day!
Marketed as Pochampally sarees, the puttapaka sarees are crafted by the weaver community known as Puttapaka Padamshalis. The design of these sarees is essentially tying and dying that closely resembles Sambhalpuri sarees. The ikat on the sarees is a double weave. Originated from Nalgonda, Andhra Pradesh, the saree’s ikat weave primarily involves abstract geometrical patterns and designs. The silk Pochampally sarees of the district has left an impression all over the world to an extent that Nalgonda is known as the silk town of India.
Gadwal type of Indian saree is a handwoven saree from Jogulamba Gadwal district of Telangana. The sarees have cotton bodies with an interlocked silk pallu and this is why it is also called sico (silk cotton) sarees. However, pure silk and pure cotton Gadwal sarees are also offered. The sarees feature-rich work of natural elements such as paisleys and peacocks as well as religious artwork. More often the sarees would feature tassels at the end of pallu made of fabric.
Another brilliant handwoven delight for you from the Tamil Nadu, Konrad sarees have a close resemblance to the Kanchipuram sarees when it comes to the weaving technique except for the warp pallu or the end piece. The sarees are crafted in East Tamil Nadu, Salem, Ami Madras, Kumbakanom, Thanjavore and Kanchipuram. Since these sarees were originally crafted for temple deities, these are also called temple sarees in India. The sarees are characterized by a wide border with motifs of animals and flowers. The temple border with kewra flowers is hugely popular and liked.
The type of sarees are crafted in Ilkal town, Bagalkot and the sarees are named after the town. More than 20,000 weavers are engaged inthe weaving of these sarees. The embroidery on these sarees includes motifs like chariot, palanquins, lotus, gopura and elephants. The form of embroidery on ilkal saree is called Kasuti.The sarees are characterized by the ‘Tope Teni’ technique of joining the pallu warp with the body warp through loops. Red and maroon colours dominate in the border colour of the sarees. The warps of these sarees are prepared separately with art silk or pure silk as needed. The sarees are nine yards in length. The pallu of an ilkal saree is made of red silk and white patches. The pallu often has motifs and patterns of different shapes representing comb, fort, temple, mountain and jowar. The sarees are made of cotton, silk or sico. The traditional colours of ilkal saris are usually peacock green, parrot green or pomegranate red. These sarees have different border designs in trend, which are:
- Gomi or Ilkal dadi
Main body designs of the sarees usually consist of
Kantha is a form of embroidery that is quite prevalent in West Bengal and Odisha among rural women. It is basically a type of running stitch that is more than 600 years old. It is believed that the embroidery was first initiated by Lord Buddha and his disciples who wanted to practice and implement frugal living and use old rags. Kantha sarees are made of sico, cotton and silk. The embroidery motifs are taken from day-to-day life such as birds, folk scenes, fish, water, clouds and animals.
Phulkari is the traditional embroidery of Punjab and as the name suggests, is all about depicting different kinds of flowers on to fabric. The colours of Phulkari sarees are predominantly various hues of red. With the division of India and Punjab, the art of phulkari was lost and forgotten, however as the state rediscovered its virsa and become the symbol of Punjabi shaan. The embroidery is done on the backside of the saree with silk threads. The first face of the phulkari was Heer-Ranjha. The handwoven phulkari sarees are a prized possession of every woman and if you don’t have one, you should order one right now!
Kota Doria Saree
Kota Doria handloom sarees are made in Kota, Rajasthan. In Muhammadabad Gohna, Uttar Pradesh, these sarees are crafted on a power loom. The weavers were brought to Kota by Rao Kishore Singh from Mysore in 18th Century. The weavers were called Masurias and settled there in the city. There are 3,000 families of Ansari weavers around the city making Kota doria sarees on a traditional pit loom. The sarees are characterized by check patterns or ‘khats’ on the fabric. At Bharatsthali, you can check out three types of Kota Doria sarees including basic, printed and zari. These sarees are perfect for semi-casual occasions. You can also find block printed Kota Doria sarees too that are as stylish as the classy one.
Baluchari sarees are weaved in Baluchar, Murshidabad of West Bengal. The sarees’ pallu is a class apart due to the mythology tales depicted on it. These handwoven sarees feature intricate motifs crafted on the fabric of rich silk. The designs are often depicted from Ramayana and Mahabharata. It takes more than two weeks to weave a saree. The Baluchari sarees were originally weaved with pure silk but now you can find cotton and silk-blend too. The designs on sarees are first drawn on paper and then punched into the sarees.
The Mangalagiri sarees are produced in Mangalagiri town of Andhra Pradesh. The sarees are essentially cotton fabric with zari border. The town is home to Narsingh temple and the sarees are also presented to the deity.
Besides Sambhalpuri, Bomkai sarees are crafted in Odisha. The sarees are crafted by Bhulia community and is marked by its intricate threadwork, natural and tribal artwork. The contrasting colours of the main body and pallu make for an interesting interplay apart from the fact that the saree brings two interesting facets of handloom, ikat and embroidery together. The sarees are weaved on a traditional pitloom called bomkai or sonepuri.
Gota Patti Saree
The traditional Marwari sari of Rajasthan is the perfect example of the finest handiwork of gota-kinari or lappe ka kaam! This metal embroidery and applique technique are done on georgette, chiffon, silk, leheriya and bandhani sarees.
Each saree brings and rolls in unique art and craft of India. It also means an outstanding and a sheer head-turner appearance everywhere you go, any event or function you attend! Check out Bharatsthali’s exclusive India Heritage selection that brings India to you!