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The four-day harvest festival of Pongal is celebrated all over the state of Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh. During the festivities, women deck up to the nines in traditional textiles and sarees that reflect a rich display of the culture of India. If you are looking to be a part of the Pongal celebration, don't forget to stock up on premium sarees that are renowned for their quality as well as designs.
Kanjeevaram Sarees Where: Kanchipuram
Synonymous with style, sophistication and grace, Kanjeevaram sarees have been an integral part of the wardrobe of South Indian women for centuries. Mostly worn during the festival of Pongal, they not only look rich and beautiful but also hold traditional importance. The distinct feature of these sarees is the excessive use of real gold zari threads. Its lustre and luxurious drape make it a premium choice among shoppers. The sarees are crafted with superior-quality silk, and most of them are woven with heavy-plied Mulberry silk yarn, to increase their weight and ensure durability. This also adds to the saree’s shine and life, making it a family heirloom in most South Indian homes. The use of heavy silk ensures that the saree drapes better, making the wearer look graceful. To increase the fabric’s thickness, sometimes the yarn is dipped in rice starch and sun-dried.
Kanjeevaram sarees had a humble beginning during the Pallava reign (275 CE to 897 CE). Born in the temple town of Kanchipuram, the idea of Kanjeevaram was conceived to dress the town’s resident god, Lord Shiva, during festivals. A cotton veshti (a traditional men’s garment worn in South India), woven by expert weavers from the finest cotton grown in the region, became a sacred offering to the god. As thrones changed hands over time, so did the gods in the temples of the town. Under the rule of the Chola kings, more and more temples were built in Kanchipuram and were dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The cotton veshti was enhanced with the attachment of a brightly-coloured silk border that was embellished with gold threads. This addition was done by expert Saurashtrian weavers, who are believed to have migrated to Tamil Nadu from Saurashtra (present-day Gujarat). They created the famous korvai technique of weaving to interlace the border to the body of the fabric. Gradually, cotton was replaced with silk, which was purer and more luxurious, and ideal for the worship of Lord Vishnu.
Kanchipuram rose to fame in the 13th century when the Vijayangar kings, considered to be great patrons of art and culture, succeeded the Cholas. King Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529), of the Vijayanagar empire, promoted weaving and had special sarees made for royal women during festivals and weddings. A local legend says that the silk weavers of Kanchipuram are descendants of sage Markanda, who was considered to be the master weaver for the gods. This story may also have been inspired by the patterns on the sarees woven here, which were drawn from scriptures and figures of gods and goddess from nearby temples.
While the silk sarees of Kanchipuram, in Tamil Nadu, hold the limelight for being the royal garb of India, their cotton counterpart, the Kanchi cotton saree is no less gorgeous. It is soft, airy and features attractive patterns that come in an array of colours and combinations. Preferably, a summer saree, women wear this during the Pongal celebrations as well. The characteristics that make it stand out are silk or zari borders, embroidered bootis, etc.
Chettinad Kandhangi Sarees
The beautiful Kandhangi saree was born in the Chettinad area of Tamil Nadu. It was crafted by the Chettiar community, which is supposed to be from the Chola kingdom (9th to 13th century). The saree comes in a variety of hues with colourful checks all over, along with a vibrant border. The saree is woven to a width of 120 cm and does not require ironing. Some of the more popular colours to look out for are green, black, madder, golden yellow, etc.
Madurai Chungidi and Sungudi Sarees
Madurai is best known for its chungidi and sungudi sarees. The chungidi saree is a two coloured piece with patterns inspired by geometrical prints called kolam or rangoli. They are made using the common technique of tie and dye. Chungidi sarees are mostly available in red, black, blue and purple colours, and are draped in fisherwomen style. The colour of the border of a chungidi saree is in contrast to the main colour of the saree, which adds to its appeal.
The sungudi, a typically longer saree, has been around for more than a century. These sarees are eco-friendly as they are made using dyes that have been extracted from leaves.Sungudi sarees are made out of cotton threads embellished with tiny dots all over the main drape and have an intricate embroidery over their borders. These sarees also have a contrasting body and border but what sets them apart from the chungidi sarees is their thin and light fabric, which makes them a perfect choice for summers. The sungudi sarees can be hand washed and are easy to maintain.
Where: Andhra Pradesh
A premium beauty, the Gadwal saree finds its origin in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where it is commonly worn during the festivities of Pongal. This saree is woven in cotton weft with a silk border and boasts striking golden brocade patterns and other embellishments. Generally, the saree and its border come in contrasting colours. Interestingly, the saree is so lightweight and soft that it can be folded to fit into a matchbox even! Though a variety of vibrant colours are picked for the sarees, traditionally, women prefer to wear a white cotton saree with a coloured border that features motifs of mangoes, peacocks, etc.
Mangalgiri Cotton and Silk Sarees
Where: Andhra Pradesh
A symbol of the rich culture and textiles of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Mangalgiri Cotton and Silk Sarees originated in a namesake town of the state. The cotton variety of these sarees comes in monotone hues, with gold zari embellished borders. The quality of the cotton used in weaving makes the saree very soft. Traditionally, the sarees feature Nizam borders, reminiscent of the rule of the Nawabs in the area.
The Mangalgiri silk sarees are also a popular choice during Pongal. They are also known as Mangalagiri pattu sarees and come in colours like red, pink, mustard and green. The pallu of the sarees is richly embellished with zari and motifs such as vines, flowers and paisleys. Nowadays, Managaligiri sarees also use the technique of Kalamkari, which is noted for its luxurious designs.
Where: Andhra Pradesh
Exclusive and elegant, Kuppadam sarees are prominent in the state of Andhra Pradesh and are commonly worn during the time of Pongal in parts of the state. They are noted for their bright colours and jewel tones.