Venkatagiri Sarees are handwoven zari cotton sarees popular for their Jamdani style weaving pattern. Coming from the historic town of Venkatagiri in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Venkatagiri Sarees are one of the softest and most durable south sarees in India. They are usually of six yards and are suitable for all climates. The distinctive feature of a Venkatagiri saree is a big Jamdani motif of a peacock, parrot, swan, mango or leaf in the pallu. The fine weaving and unique zari designs of the sarees made them the preferred choice of royalty in Andhra Pradesh.
History & Origin
The Venkatagiri Sarees, known for their fine weaving, date back to early 1700 when these sarees were produced at an artisan cluster close to Nellore called Venkatagiri. The place was then known as ‘Kali Mili’ and its famous product was patronized by the Velugoti Dynasty of Nellore. The weavers back then used to weave these sarees only for the royal families. In return, they used to get paid such handsome amounts that it would last them a year or so till the next order was placed. More recently, Venkatagiri Sarees got widespread publicity by importing the Jamdani design from Bangladesh.
Sources of Inspiration
The unique and highly exclusive designs are what inspired the creation of these sarees. Exclusivity is what Venkatagiri’s weavers excel in. So if you have a design in mind and want it on your saree, then all you need to do is get in touch with the specialized weavers and they would gladly design a saree just for you. In fact, the town of Venkatagiri has 40,000 inhabitants and 20,000 of them are weavers!
Faces behind Venkatgiri Sarees
In the times of kings and queens in the early part of 1700, Venkatagiri Sarees used to be made only on order and that too just for royalty. The weavers used to make exclusive designs for the royal families and get paid hefty sums of money. However, in more recent times, it is the Jamdani design technique from Bangladesh that has made these sarees household names. The weavers who brought this unique technique to India have also been awarded by the President of India.
Weaving of Venkatagiri Sarees
The weavers in Venkatagiri mainly produce sarees of Cotton, Cotton and Silk mix and pure Silk. The counts in the fabric give the softness to the fabric. More the counts softer will be fabric and lesser counts produce harder fabrics. The counts used in cotton are usually 100 (length) – 100 (breadth) and in silk it is 3 ply.
First the yarn is washed and then dipped in the required colour which is in a boiler and the [Charka] worker goes on turning the yarn so that the colour is evenly mixed in the yarn. The most important aspect in this process is the mixing of colours which will give unique and durable colour to the fabric. Then it is again washed and dried. These yarns are then starched. Starching of the yarn is where the colour in the yarn will get more permanent nature and gives the yarn a polished look. The starched yarn is brought from the merchants by master weavers and is distributed to weavers. (Master weavers are also weavers but they will be having a group of weavers under them). Then it is turned in a charka. The turning in charka is where the yarn will become thread, which is used for wept.
The loading of yarn in warp is the next process. Then yarn is loaded into the looms. The length of yarn which is loaded as warp is known as Pacham. A weaver can make four sarees from one pacham. It will take a week to weave one Pacham of four sarees.
The looms used in Venkatagiri are mostly pit looms. Pit looms are looms [Venkatagiri Pit Loom] which are fixed in the ground level and there will be a pit in which looms peddle will be placed and the weaver will sit on the floor and use his hands and legs to weave.
The weavers are into this profession traditionally. None of the weavers are trained but they have acquired this unique skill hereditarily from their ancestors. The art of weaving is passed on by way of vision and practice. There are no theoretical explanations or training for weaving. But unfortunately due to the low wages the traditional weavers are opting out of this industry. New generation is not interested in this profession due to the low wages prevailing in the industry. Since Venkatagiri looms are pit looms, during rainy season the looms are closed due to the rain water getting clogged in the ground.
Present Day Scenario
Venkatagiri sarees have earned global acclaim for being fine, soft, light, and regal looking. The majority of the residents of the small town of Venkatagiri, today, earn their livelihood by weaving this unique fabric. The weavers are passionate about providing exclusivity and utmost satisfaction to their clients. Dyeing and weaving methods are being constantly updated. With the recent set-up dyeing unit in the small town, the weavers of Venkatagiri no longer need to go to the nearby cities or towns to get their produce dyed, thereby saving them a lot of time and money.
The Venkatagiri Sarees earlier used to be more popularly known as Venkatagiri Zari Cotton Handloom Sarees, as they would be woven using cotton threads. However, over time, silk threads made their way into these unique sarees. And eventually, with the import of the Jamdani technique from Bangladesh, the Venkatagiri Silk Sarees not only found acceptance amongst the masses but also became quite popular.
You can wear a Venkatagiri Saree to any occasion at any time of the year as these sarees are extremely soft, light-weight, durable, and most importantly, consist of the most exclusive designs found in any kind of sarees across India. Extremely suitable for the summer, they, however, have an all-climate appeal.
The lightness and softness of these sarees along with their high durability make them one of the most sought after sarees as they can be worn irrespective of the time of the year and/or geographical location of the individual.
The Venkatagiri Sarees are one of the most finely woven sarees in India which are very soft, smooth and light. So it is advisable to wash them gently with soft hands and not to use hard water while washing them. One can go for dry cleaning as well.
Interesting Facts and Comparisons
- Venkatagiri Sarees are one of the softest and most durable sarees made in India.
- Known for their fine weaving, these sarees mostly use pit looms in their weaving i.e. the looms are fixed at the ground level and its pedals are placed in a pit.
- The Venkatagiri Sarees dates back to early 1700 when they were being famously patronized by the Velugoti Dynasty of Nellore.
- The uniqueness of these sarees is their exclusive designs which can be made for even a single person on order.
- In ancient times, these sarees were used to be weaved only for the royal families on special demands.
- Recently, the introduction of the Jamdani technique from Bangladesh added to the variety and popularity of the Venkatagiri Sarees. The weavers who introduced it to India were also awarded by the President of India.