The Paithani saree is known over the world over for its uniqueness. It is one of the most beautiful sarees in the world. Beautifully crafted, with an exquisite Gold or Silver zari border, this saree is truly a poem in silk. The Paithani saree is chosen by brides to wear on their special day, especially in Gujarati and Maharashtrian families.
The Paithani sarees are mostly woven in Paithan in Maharashtra. Yeola, Pune, Nasik and Malegaon in Maharashtra are the other centres where weaving of Paithani sarees is undertaken. These sarees were initially woven specially for queens and other members of the royal family by weavers in the palaces. However, with the passage of time, these sarees are now easily available both in India and internationally. In an original Paithani saree, pure silk is used in the weaving of the body and pure gold and silver zari is used in the pallu and the border. The zari used in the preparation of the saree is specially procured from Surat in Gujarat. The process of preparation of a Paithani saree can take a time period ranging from a month to years depending on the design that is being made. It is because of these reasons that this saree is rather expensive. To bring down the price of these sarees, weavers are using silver instead of gold and silk in place of silver.
Traditionally, Paithanis used to have a plain body with a heavy golden border and a large pallu. However, with the passage of time, various motifs began to be used in these sarees. Though modern-day weavers are trying to develop newer and innovative motifs, usually traditional motifs are used in Paithani sarees. The most commonly used motifs in the body of these sarees are ‘kamal’ (lotus flower), ‘hans’ (swan), ‘asharfi’ (coin), ‘asawalli’ (flowering vine), ‘Bangadi mor’ (peacock in bangle), ‘rui phool’ (cotton flower), circles, stars and clusters of leaves. In the pallu of such sarees, certain motifs are very commonly found. Some of them are ‘Asawali’, ‘Panja’ (a flower in a geometrical shape), ‘Muthada’ (a geometrical shape), and ‘mor’ (peacock).
Paithani sarees are woven in a number of colors. These colors can be pure or be created using a blend of different colored yarns. The colors that are typically used in these sarees are ‘kaali chandrakala’ (black), ‘uddani’ (lighter black), ‘pophali’ (yellow), ‘neeligungi’ (blue), ‘pasila’ (a combination of green, red and pink), ‘pheroze’ (a blend of green, white and red), ‘samprus’ (a mixture of green and red) and ‘kusumbi’ (a purple and red combination). Artisans in Paithan have been practicing the art of weaving the Paithani saree for centuries, and this tradition has been passed on from one generation to another. MSSIDC i.e. Maharashtra Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation Limited was established in the year 1962. This organization undertakes the task of training for weavers of Paithani sarees. The government has also given awards such as the Kala Ratna and Kala Nidhi on occasion to those weavers who have contributed significantly to this area. Sadly enough, the Paithani saree has very few takers. Only those who are aware of its exquisiteness and its heritage prefer to go for one. The declining popularity of the Paithani saree can be attributed to its traditional look, the high price and the stiffness of the saree. The traditional motifs used in the saree give it a very orthodox look. Moreover, the fabric used in the saree gives it certain stiffness, due to which draping becomes a bit difficult for the wearer.
On account of the decreasing popularity of Paithani sarees, weavers have diversified and also started the production of Paithani dress materials, scarves and other household items. There are very few weavers who still practice this art. Weavers are finding it difficult to reach break even, let alone making a profit. Many have shifted to other professions that are more monetarily rewarding. To overcome these drawbacks, it is necessary that more innovative motifs be used in Paithani sarees. It has also become necessary to use a different fabric in these sarees so that a better drape can be achieved. Weavers are trying to make certain changes in the traditional Paithani saree so as to bring down the cost of production and hence, the price. Attempts are being made to make the process of production more capital intensive rather than labor intensive. According to the weavers of these sarees, it is necessary that the government take some steps for the survival of this dying art. There is the need for better training facilities for weavers. There is also the need for financial assistance to the weavers. To support the weavers, and to respect and protect the textile heritage of India, one should buy paithani sarees which are handwoven in Maharashtra and not produced through modern looms which have a capability to produce multiple sarees in an hour.
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