Paithani is a varient of Traditional Sari, named after the Paithan village in Aurangabad, Maharashtra state of India where these sari's where hand woven. The art of weaving Paithani goes the way till 7th century B.C. during the Yadav period (Sri Krishna's period), however flourished in 200B.C., during Satvahana era. Since then Paithani is coveted in India as a precious heirloom passing on from generation to generation. Exquisite silk from Paithani was exported to many countries and was traded in return for gold and precious stones. Sheer dedication and the faith of the weavers has kept alive Paithani silk work for more than 2000 years.
Intricate designs on pallu and border is a specialty of Paithani Sarees. Motifs on pallu are generally peacock, lotus, mango and other designs inspired from the world famous Ajanta Caves, which are in the same district. Paithani saris were produced only for sophisticated buyers. It evolved from a cotton base to a silk base. Silk was used in weft designs and in the borders, whereas cotton was used in the body of the fabric. Present day Paithani has no trace of cotton.
Paithani Sarees can take between 2 months to 1 year to manufacture, depending on border, pallu design and the material used. A paithani would cost any where from Rs. 6000/- which would have normal and less complex designs but can go upto Rs. 500000/- which would not only have very rare and intricate designs but would also be woven with real gold and silver threads. The fabric woven in traditional ways even after many centuries is renowned as the “MAHAVASTRA” meaning "the great, royal fabric, fit to be worn for ones own wedding. No wonder then, It has long been an essential piece in any girls wedding trousseau.
The motifs are traditional vines and flowers, shapes of fruit and stylized forms of birds and the saree is often known by the motif that dominates its border or pallav. There are various types of exquisite motifs.
- The Kamal or lotus flower on which Buddha sits or stands
- The Hans motif
- The Ashraffi motif
- The Asawalli (flowering vines), became very popular during the Peshwa's period
- The Bangadi Mor, peacock in bangle
- The Tota-Maina
- The Humarparinda, peasant bird
- The Amar Vell
- The Narali motif, very common
Pada or Pallu
In the days of Peshwas, the borders and the pallu were made of pure gold mixed with copper to give it strength. The proportion was 1 kg of gold to 1 tola of copper. The combination was spun into a fine wire called the zari. In recent times, zari is made of silver, coated with gold plating. The borders are created with interlocked weft technique either with coloured silk or zari. In the border woven with a zari, ground coloured silk patterns are added as supplementary weft inlay against the zari usually in the form of flower or a creeping vine.
Sari pallu is about 90 cm in length, speciality of Paithani pallu is that the end of pallu is woven with heavy design with zari material, the length of pallu design can varry from 26 cm to 60 cm. there are various types of pallu designs in Paithani.
- Muniya, a kind of parrot used in borders and always found in green colour with an occasional red touch at the mouth
- Panja, a geometrical flower-like motif, most often outlined in red
- Barwa, 12 strands of a ladder; 3 strands on each side
- Laher, design is done in the centre to strengthen the zari
- Muthada, a geometrical design
- Asawali, a flower pot with a flowering plant
- Morr, a peacock traditional colours.
The modern technology has brought in a lot of progress in dyeing technology and variations in colors, however the Traditional Paithani colors were produced from vegetable dyes.
- Pophali - yellow
- Neeligunji - sky blue
- Motiya - peach pink
- Brinjal - purple
- Pearl pink
- Peacock - blue/green
- Yellowish green
- Kusumbi - violet red
- Pasila - red and green
- Gujri - black and white
- Mirani - black and red
It took approximately 1 day to set the silk threads on the loom. "Tansal" is used to put the "wagi". The "pavda" works like the paddle to speed up the weaving. The "jhatka" is used to push the "kandi" from one side to the other. "Pushthe" is used in designing the border of Paithani in which it is punched according to design application. "Pagey" are tied to the loom. The threads are then passed through "fani".
There are two types of motion:
- Primary motions:
- Shedding - dividing the warp sheet or shed into two layers, one above the other for the passage of shuttle with the weft threads.
- Picking - passing a pick of weft from one selvedge of a cloth through the warp threads.
- Beating - dividing the last pick through the fell of cloth with the help of slay fixed on the reel.
- Secondary motions:
- Take up motion - taking up the cloth when being woven and winding it on the roller.
- Let off motion - letting the warp wound on a warp beam, when the cloth is taken up on the cloth roller beam. Taking up and letting off the warp are done simultaneously.
Paithani saris are silks in which there is no extra weft forming figures. The figuring weave was obtained by a plain tapestry technique. There are three techniques of weaving;
- Split tapestry weave - the simplest weave where two weft threads are woven up to adjacent warp threads and then reversed. The warp threads are then cut and retied to a different colour.
- Interlocking method - two wefts are interlocked with each other where the colour change is required. The figuring weft is made of a number of coloured threads, weaving plain with warp threads and interlocked on either side with the grounds weft threads are invariably gold threads which interlock with the figure weft threads, thus forming the figure. This system of interlocking weaves, known as kadiyal, is done so that there are no extra floats on the back of the motif thus making the design nearly reversible.
- Dobe-tailing method - two threads go around the same warp, one above the other, creating a dobe-tailing or tooth-comb effect.
Weaving could take between 18 to 24 months, depending upon the complexity of the design. Today there are many weavers who are working for the revival of this treasured weave.
Types of Paithani
Paithani can be classified by three criteria: motifs, weaving, and colours.
- Classification by motif:
- Bangadi Mor - the word bangadi means bangle and mor means peacock. So bangadi mor means a peacock in a bangle or in a bangle shape. The motif is woven onto the pallu, the design sometimes having a single dancing peacock. The saris using this motif are very expensive because of the design.
- Munia brocade - The word munia means parrot. Parrots are woven on the pallu as well as in border. Parrots are always in leaf green colour. The parrots in silk are also called tota-maina.
- Lotus brocade - lotus motifs are used in pallu and sometimes on the border. The lotus motif consists of 7-8 colours.
- Classification by weaving:
- Kadiyal border sari - the word kadiyal means interlocking. The warp and the weft of the border are of the same colour while the body has different colours for warp and weft.
- Kad/Ekdhoti - a single shuttle is used for weaving of weft. The colours of the warp yarn is different from that of the weft yarn. It has a narali border and simple buttis like paisa, watana, etc. Kad is also a form of lungi and is used by male Maharashtrians.
- Classification by colour:
- Kalichandrakala - pure black sari with red border.
- Raghu - parrot green coloured sari.
- Shirodak - pure white sari.