Although native to the town called Maheshwar, Maheshwari Handloom Sarees are popular among the tradition-loving population of Kolkata. While we try to understand the beauty of the royal saree, let us hop on a time machine to go back in time as see its origin.
The Town of Maheshwar
The word ‘Maheshwar’ originates from Sanskrit. It is one of the many names of Lord Shiva, an all supreme being in Hindu mythology. Maheshwar is a town in Madhya Pradesh, in the very heart of this beautiful country. This town is located in the banks of the mighty river Narmada. One of the oldest towns in India, we can hear the name of this town in Ramayan and Mahabharat. It is an old hub of textile weaving since the 5th century producing one of India’s finest silk and muslin.
A Heritage is Formed
According to legends, Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar was the founder of this saree. Back in the 18th century, Maharani employed various craftsmen and artisans from Malwa and Surat to design a special 9 yards saree. They made it in a fashion which suits the town in the most fashionable manner. Thus, the first Maheshwari Saree. The carving on the Fort of Maheshwar served as its inspiration. Maharani then popularised the saree by making it a royal gift. She would gift it to all her guests and relative, a gift unique to this town. Even today, these gorgeous Maheshwari sarees can be found proudly displayed in many Kolkata Handicraft mela
The Colours Used in Maheshwari Saree
You can distinguish Maheshwari sarees by its vibrant colors, their unusual combinations and also their distinctive designs.
In the beginning, the weavers use to weave Maheshwari sarees in various earthy shades like maroon, red, purple, green, etc. Weavers would use natural dyes extracted from flowers, roots and leaves while coloring the yarn. Today, Maheshwari fabrics have various jewel tones to make them appealing to our generation. The weavers derive these synthetic colours from chemicals rather than from flowers, roots and leaves. Popular colors adored by our generation are various shades of blue, mauve, pink, yellow and orange blended with gold or silver threads or zari. Gold thread or zari is used in Maheshwari sarees to weave elegant motifs onto the body, border and the ‘pallu of the saree.
The Famous Designs and Motifs of a Maheshwari Saree
When it comes to designs, Maheshwari Saree is distinguishable by their stripes, checks and floral borders. Authentic Maheshwari sarees have designs that take inspirations from the various temples, palaces and forts of Madhya Pradesh. Popular designs include the ‘mat’ pattern, commonly known as ‘chattai’ pattern. Another famous pattern is ‘Chameli ka phool’. We can trace all of of these back to the detailing on the engraving in the walls of the great Maheshwar Fort. Since its evolution, the brick pattern and the diamond patterns have survived the test of time. you will still find them used prominently in these sarees.
Maheshwari Saree is famous for five kinds of weaves. They are Chandrakala, Baingani Chandrakala, Chandratara, Beli and Parbi. While the Chandrakala and Baingani Chandrakala are for plain sarees, one can characterize Chandratara, Beli and Parbi by stripes or checks.
Maheshwari Sarees have passed the test of time. It is favorite among our generation just as much it was favorite of the people of Maheshwari back in the 18th Century. Pair it with different fashionable items like artificial jewelleries in Kolkata and you are good to go.