Paithani Saris



Among the most gorgeous of Indian saris is the Paithani, woven in the western state of Maharashtra. Exemplifying the merger of the aesthetic with the symbolic, the saris today are a prized possession.

From The Pages Of History

The art of fine weaving, of hand and loom embroidery and the complex processes of bleaching and dyeing were perfected by the people of India long before textile industry was modernized. References in ancient history indicate that an amazing variety of costumes made of silk and cotton fabrics were used in India. The Rig Veda mentions a golden woven fabric and the Greek records talk of gorgeous paithani fabrics from the great ancient trading and industrial center, Pratishan or Paithan in Maharashtra.

During the medieval period, the Marathas extended their patronage to textile activities. Some centers became renowned for their textiles and the fabric frequently derived its name from the place of origin. For example, paithani came from Paithan, and shahagadi from Shagad.

The Peshwas in the 18th century had a special love for paithani textiles and it is believed that Madhavrao Peshwa even asked for the supply of asavali dupattas in red, green, saffron, and pomegranate and pink colors.

Even today Maharashtra is the home of this celebrated textile.

The Nizam of Hyderabad was also attracted to the paithanis and made several trips to the small town of Paithan. His daughter-in-law, Niloufer, is believed to have introduced new motifs to the border and pallav (outer end of the sari) designs.

Motifs Give Name To Sari

The Traditional Paithani Used To Be A Plain Sari With a heavy zari border and ornamental pallav. However, today paithanis with motifs are in vogue: stars, circles, peacocks, flowers and paisleys. The paithani borders and pallavs are heavily adorned with these motifs and the sari is given the name after the design on it. Tota-maina (parrot), bangdi-mor (peacock with round design), asavali (flower and vine), narli (coconut), are all descriptive of paithanis. In the olden days, the zari used in making paithanis was drawn from pure gold. But today silver is substituted for gold thus making the paithanis more affordable to many people.

A Cultural Fabric

Although the paithani sari is costly, it has become a popular item in the marriage ceremonies of the rich and the not so rich. Besides Paithan, the saris are woven in Yeola, known for the mango motif pallavs and in Pune, Nasik, and Malegaon in Maharashtra. The paithani sari has played a significant role in weaving together the cultural fabric of Maharashtra.