When it comes to choosing the right fabric, the right motif and the right design; almost every woman has her own preference and perspective but what if the designs, the fabrics and the motifs you know are originally different from what you think they’re? Won’t it be an eye-opener? Or maybe a heartbreaking moment? Every true Chanderi lover can completely understand and relate to it.
In recent times, we have all seen the so-called “Mul” and the famous “Ajrakh Chanderi sarees”. While many people attribute and refer to them as “Chanderis”, the fact is that they are not Chanderis at all. As a matter of fact, the true and the most authentic Chanderis are only woven in the town of Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh, from where the name of the sarees have been extracted.
These sarees which are generally called and attributed as “Chanderis” are basically machine-made silk cotton sarees which are made in Surat, procured at the block print clusters in Jaipur, Sanganer, Ajrakhpur and all over India. The reason they are popularized as Chanderi is because these are way cheaper than the handloom made Chanderis but somewhat similar in looks.
Apart from these, in recent times, Chanderis are also preferred in Pattu silk, which is solid, soft and smooth. These Pattu silk sarees are even very similar to Kanjeevaram soft silks. The fact is that they somehow resonate with Chanderis and are even woven in the town of Chanderi itself but the “Weightlessness” of a true Chanderi is what distinguishes these Pattu silk sarees from a true and an authentic Chanderi. Apart from the weightlessness, the traditional motifs of Chanderis, ‘Dandidar, ‘Chatai’, ‘Jangla’, Mehndi wale haath’ etc. are also distinguishing factors and the USP of a true Chanderi. Though, in today’s time, these traditional motifs are rarely seen and practised by only a few. Of these Nalferma are not woven anymore, there are a handful of weavers who are skilled at weaving nalferma motifs and since the demand is none, these weavers don’t practice this anymore. Ages ago, pure gold and silver threads were used to weave chanderi sarees made from the fabric. However, with the gradual extinction of the royal age, the use of pure gold and silver thread gave way to copper finishes polished with golden colour.
If we go on tracing the history of Chanderis, we get to see that the name Chanderi itself has been derived from the town in which these sarees are woven. The town of Chanderi is located close to the Betwa river, forming a distinctive and historical part of the Ashoknagar District of Madhya Pradesh. The town of Chanderi was first settled and fortified in the 11th century by the Pratihara King Kirtipal.
While analysing the phonetics, it can also be inferred that the word “Chanderi” somewhat resonates with “Chandela”. The major reason behind this is the fact that the foundation of this very town was laid down by the Chandella King, Kirtivarma, Prince of Mahoba in the years 1060-1100 AD.
Traditionally, Chanderis were only woven for the royal families and the aristocratic section of the society. This fact straight away takes us to the conclusion that only Katan silk Chanderis are the real and traditional Chanderi sarees. The GI tag given to the Chanderi saree is based on transparency which included both Katan silk and Silk cotton variety.
The fabric manufactured here is of unusual fineness while the coloured silk and gold borders are of great beauty. A common saying refers to this Industry:-
“Shahr Chanderi mominwara
Tiria raj, khasam panihara”
( In the town of Chanderi, a city of weavers
The wives rule while husbands carry water.)
Speaking of today, The town in the 21st century is well known for its opulent sarees, dupattas, pagdees etc. but at the same time, with so many similar products and fabrics being sold in the market, the weavers of Chanderi fear that their USP and their age-old speciality will soon come to an end. The weavers of Chanderi town therefore only prefer to weave true Chanderis in order to preserve its legacy and pass it on to the next generations. They personally feel that a Chanderi is less of a saree and more of an emotion and an untold story of their town because of which they still try to preserve and strengthen its identity.