I love Sarees. And that is an understatement. I love the art of weaving, the feel of threads, the colors, designs, motifs, the way each saree is a testament to the skill and artistry of Indian weavers. Every opportunity I get I go to the weavers villages and see them work their magic on looms. I have been to Sialkuchi in Assam for Munga and Mekhla. I have been to Patan in Gujrat for the famous Patolas. I have been to Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu for their Kanjivarams. I have been to Pochampalli for the sarees. And my latest trip was to the village of Yeola to meet some Paithani weavers. Every village i have been to, every weaver I have met has made me feel humble and thankful for the back breaking task they do to keep our culture and tradition alive.
Yeola is a village near Shirdi. Paithan and Yeola are the two villages near Aurangabad that are famous for the Paithani weaves. These silk sarees are considered one of the richest sarees in India. The Paithan weave is more than 2000 years old. Patronised by the Satvahana rulers this art form gained poplularity even with the Romans who used to get these weaves imported and they used to pay their equivalent in gold. Aurangzeb also was a patron of the Paithani and introduced new motifs and designs which were later known as Aurangzebi.
Heavy silk and rich embellished borders and pallavs are the distinguishing feature of these sarees. The common motifs are peacock, parrots, kalash, lotus, flowers and vines, paisleys etc. Woven in two shades the sarees reflect rich hues in a blend of peach-pink, blue-green, aubergine purple, yellow-mustard and many more.
Yeola is now a successful commercial centre for the Paithani sarees. As you drive from Shirdi towards Yeola you are greeted by huge billboards advertising the sarees. My excitement was building as we drove closer to the village.
Although with such commercial success one can no longer call Yeola a village. it is more of a thriving town. You can pick any seller you want. We chanced upon a showroom of Bhangde Handlooms. This family has been awarded a total of 5 National Awards. The master weaver Shri Shantilal Bhangde has won two National Awards, the latest being the Sant Kabir Award, the highest in its category.
Shri Shantilal took us around his workshop where the weavers were working on the looms. I realised that the loom is a very complex structure. From selecting the silk threads, dyeing them, setting each thread on the loom, deciding the design, working with the zari threads, all these take years of expertise.
You need both muscle power and artistic bend of mind to work the looms. I could only stand awestruck and admire the intricacies that go into creating each saree.
This ancient art of weaving requires patronage to ensure its survival. I hope that these weavers continue with this lovely art and secure it for our future generations.