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The Handout For Indian Silk Sarees

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By Author: Ankur Modi
Total Articles: 2
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The queen of textiles, Silk with its inherent luster, oomph and glamour are indomitable in the world of textiles. With a rich history backdating to 4,500 years in the country, India is the second largest producer of silk contributing to world’s 18% production. While many a special occasion wear in India are made in silk like silk Kurtas, Dupattas, stoles, lehengas etc, the silk weaving tradition mainly revolves around making of silk sarees, the official traditional dress of the country. Special occasions in India like weddings, festivals and rituals see Indian women from all parts of the country dressed in silk sarees. Considered a sacred wear, it is an important drape on all auspicious occasions and hence it rightly finds an eminent place in every Indian woman’s wardrobe. It is interesting hence to know how silk sarees came into being.

History of silk sarees:

Though archeological discoveries suggest that sericulture existed during Indus valley civilization, the pure silk sarees and brocade weaving centers of India developed in and around holy cities and capital cities of kingdom due to the demand for opulent and lustrous fabrics by temples and royal families. Rich cloth traders also contributed towards the development of silk for besides trading in the finished products they lent money to weavers for buying raw materials like silk and costly zari threads. Some of the important weaving centres in the past were Gujarat, Malwa and many parts of South India. In the North, some of the main weaving centers were Delhi, Varanasi, Murshidabad, Lahore and Agra. The handloom silk sarees woven in the northern part of the country showcased great Mughal and Persian influence in their weave and exhibited exemplary brocade work in real zari. Sericulture and silk-weaving received special encouragement under the Mughal reign and silk sarees and other silk weaves produced at that time became world renowned and India became a major center for the production of silk.

Make of Silk Sarees

Silk, a protein fibre is one of the oldest known fibers produced from the silkworm by spinning around its cocoon. Making of silk goes through the entire cycle of silk worms laying eggs that are allowed to hatch and grow to make cocoons that are used in making of silk. At least half a mile of the continuous long thread is made from one cocoon. These silk threads are then dipped in color water used for preparing colorful silk sarees. Though there are numerous species of silk moths, there are only about 70 silk moths that are enumerated in making of silk. There are four commercially viable varieties of natural silk:

Mulberry silk : Mulberry silk comes from the silk worm “Bombyxmori” which feeds on the mulberry plant. The bulk of world silk supply comes from this silkworm which is domesticated. All the other varieties of silk are known as wild silk as they are grown in remote forest trees under natural conditions. In India, the major mulberry silk producing states are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir. Most pure silk sarees are made from Mulberry silk like Kanchipuram silk sarees, Balucharisarees, Gadwal sarees and Patola sarees.

Eri Silk : Also known as the Endi or Errandi silk, Eri silk is thick silk produced by Samiyacynthiaricini that feeds mainly on castor leaves. Some of the attributes of this silk are it is warm, soft and long lasting. India is a major producer of Eri Silk which is found in Assam and eastern parts of India apart from Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa. The popular handloom silk sarees made from eri silk are tissue silk sarees, eri silk sarees or Assam silk sarees.

Muga Silk: Obtained from the semi-domesticated multivoltine silkworm, Antheraeaassamensis that feed on the aromatic leaves of Som and Soalu plants, Muga silk is known for its natural shimmering golden yellow colour. Muga silk is used in making moongasilk sarees and`mehelka – sadar' which is akin to a saree in Assam and for making kurtas for men.

Tussar silk : Less lustrous than mulberry silk, Tussar silk is made from silkworm, Antheraeamylitta which mainly thrives on the food plants Saal and Arjuna. It is cultivated in the states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Orissa, besides Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This silk is known as Ahimsa silk and the Indian silk sarees made from this silk go by various names like Tussar silk, Tussah silk, Ahimsa silk or tussar silk sarees.

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