Chanderi is a traditional ethnic fabric characterized by its lightweight, sheer texture and fine luxurious feel. Chanderi fabric is produced by weaving in silk and golden Zari in the traditional cotton yarn that results in the creation of the shimmering texture. The fabric borrowed its name from the small town Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh where traditional weavers practice the art of producing textured sarees in cotton and silk decorated with fine zari work.
Who introduced them:
The weaving culture of Chanderi emerged between the 2nd and 7th centuries. It is situated on the boundary of two cultural regions of the state, Malwa and Bundelkhand. The people of the Vindhyachal Ranges have a wide range of traditions. In the 11th century the trade locations Malwa, Medwa, central India and south Gujarat increased the region's importance.
The Chanderi sari tradition began in the 13th century. In the beginning, the weavers were Muslims. Around 1350, Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to Chanderi and settled there. During the Mughal period, the textile business of Chanderi reached its peak.
Originally, Chanderi fabric was woven with handspun cotton yarn which was as fine as 300 counts, making the fabric as famous as the Muslins of Dhaka. The fine count cotton for Chanderi was extracted from a special root called the Kolikanda. Light yet strong, it gave the fabric a glossy finish. Fine cotton from Chanderi had long been patronized by Mughals and Rajputs. The fabric is woven with warp (tana), stretched out set of threads, through which the weft (bana) is passed through in regular motion. Since the inception, till about 1920s, only white and off-white cloth was woven with its ends embellished with zari and golden thread. Only hand-spun cotton thread was used even in the warp though it was not strong enough to be held under tension. The thread count in the warp can vary from 4,000 to 17000, depending upon the quality required. In the weft, cotton, mercerized cotton, raw silk or kataan is used. In the borders and butis, mercerized cotton, silk and zari threads are used. The butis on Chanderi fabric were woven on the handloom with the use of needles. Separate needles were used to create different motifs. Weavers then coated these motifs with gold, silver or copper dust.
Today, raw silk, which is 20-22 deniers thick, is used in the warp in almost every saree. Silk not only impart a lustrous finish to the fabric, but is stronger, hence much easier to work with. Sometimes zari is used with silk in the warp to make a tissue saree. Earlier, the looms known as the throw-shuttle pit were in use. Weaving on this was a very tedious process and it required two weavers to sit side by side on the same loom. Nowadays, however, only fly-shuttle looms are in use and these are operated by a single weaver. The yarn for weaving was earlier coloured with only natural dyes, but today both natural and chemical dyes are in use. Many of the names of the colours used are derived from natural things like fruits, vegetables, flowers, birds, etc. Spinning a handwoven Chanderi saree takes over three days, sometimes more, depending on the complexity of the design.