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Classic Chanderi

The Chanderi Textile Mela at Mrignayanee gives Chennai-ites an opportunity to acquire yards of elegance



Weaving magic: Chanderis in pastel hues at the Mrignayanee mela -- Pic. by K. V. Srinivasan

EVEN THE erstwhile royals of Bhopal, Nagpur, Gwalior and Baroda were loyal patrons of Chanderi. The craft, appreciated for its delicate designs that seem to float on sheer material, continues to be enjoyed by textile connoisseurs: both in the north and the west of India. Now, Chennai gets to join the charmed circle, thanks to the `Chanderi Textile Mela', organised by Mrignayanee, the Madhya Pradesh Government Emporium.

The textile comes from a small town called Chanderi, which is close to Gwalior. And its classic status is due to the efforts of generations of the Gwalior royalty, starting from Jiwaji Rao Scindia.

Traditionally, the sari is woven in fine threads of locally found cotton. However, silks and cotton-silk combination weaves make for equally great buys. Unlike other heavier silks, the Chanderi silk is much lighter and has a particular sheen, which comes from untreated yarn. It generally has plain borders in contrasting colours or matted gold zari work. However, the collection on display has borrowed border motifs from traditional textiles of other states. And if you are not too particular about the authenticity of the design, you can choose from stunning contemporary designs. Bamboo shoots in silver and gold on a rani pink silk, and geometrical patterns that depict clouds on a grey-blue base, are unorthodox yet extremely tasteful. The Maheshwari saris at Mrignayanee have evidently won over many sari-buffs. Usha Raman, for one, says anybody who appreciates "class cotton" will love Chanderi, although she does add that there are few deep colours available. However, this collection does cover the entire spectrum: from a striking black and red combination with gold butis to an elegant non-dyed white silk sari trimmed with gold zari flowers. Cotton saris, plain as well as with block prints and batik, cost between Rs. 360 and Rs. 2,000. There are also salwar suits that are priced at Rs. 1,200 upward. They are particularly impressive for their subtle and unusual colour combinations.

According to Mukthar Khan, a weaver, dress materials are woven in cotton and silk to make them less sheer. However, he adds that there is no point in weaving saris similarly. "Ninety per cent of those who value Chanderi, value it for its classic beauty," he says with considerable pride for his craft. Mrignayanee also believes the lightness of the material, both silk and cotton, is perfect for summer. To encourage Chennai-ites to add Chanderis to their wardrobes, Mrignayanee is offering a 30 per cent discount. The weeklong exhibition is on till January 13, at Mrignayanee, 180, Luz Church Road, Mylapore.

MEERA MOHANTY

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