Known as "woven air" because of the finesse of its fabric, the Chanderi saree has been a royal favourite over several centuries
This lovely sheer saree draws its name from the town where it’s made – Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh, situated on the periphery of Malwa and Bundelkhand.
Folklore has it that a length of fine Chanderi, big enough to cover an elephant, was presented to Mughal Emperor Akbar inside a hollow of a bamboo! Such was the rare finesse of this fabric…. Some legends attribute its origins to King Aurangzeb, when he ordered a ceremonial robe called khilat to be made out of a cloth that embroidered with gold and silver. Down the years, beautifully embellished with zari, the fabric was patronised by all royalty.
Initially, the cloth used was fine handspun cotton yarn which was light yet strong and gave the fabric a glossy finish. Interestingly, this thread did not go through the degumming process (which helps prevent breakage during weaving), which is the reason why it has a unique shine and refinement. Since the 1890s, some weavers have begun using mill yarn. Pure silk and silk cotton are also being used to weave Chanderis. And while earlier the yarn was coloured using natural dyes; today chemical dyes and modern looms are used.Traditionally, Chanderis were white cotton with heavy gold work – in stripes, checks and other simple designs. Today, shades and motifs too are varied and include coins, flowers, peacocks and geometric patterns. What has not changed however is beauty of the fine weave and the delightful little trademark ‘butis’, or small motifs that are sprinkled all over.