Tag Archives: Sarees

Kalamkari Sarees

The following Post was composed by Sheetal Mishra.She is Fashion writer at IndicPortal


So Monday again !!! When the rest of the world searches for motivations to get back to its work place, I enjoy my weekly off.  Usually on Mondays I prefer to sleep, sleep and sleep…  But surprisingly this Monday is motivating me to write something. Something about my favorites, like the finest  handlooms of the Telugu states. Few of my favorites are Pochampalli, Mangalagiri, Uppada and Kalamkari of which Kalamkari holds a special place in my heart.

50% of my wardrobe is being taken by Kalamkari palazzos, jackets, sarees, short kurtas, long kurtas, skirts even kalamkari bags… I am fortunate enough to work in a place where I get to meet a lot of handloom weavers and vendors. So I take pleasure in sharing a few tidbits about this wonder weaving style…

How it originated …

In this busy life we often pick up things in rush. We don’t bother to look into the hardship and passion which go into its making. Each piece of fabric carries a rich history and has a story tell which goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Let’s dig the cultural history of India a bit to track the origins of the Kalamkari Fabric.

Indian society has a rich tradition of folklores, folk arts and dances. In ancient times, people traveled from one village to other narrating stories of Hindu mythology. Later people evolved various methodologies to make these story-telling sessions more effective. Representing stories through paintings, songs and dance was very commonly used. The Pattachitra, Cheriyala, Madhubani and other styles of art were widely used for this purpose. Even now you will find traditional craftsmen singing songs based on their paintings. In fact, Kalamkari is related to the traditional art of Pattachitra (still called by that name in neighboring Odisha). Though they have both become their own separate styles, they share a common origin in Temple painting as prescribed by the Sastras.

And no wonder this is how Kalamkari came into existence.

In ancient times, groups of singers, musicians and painters, called chitrakattis, moved village to village to tell the village dwellers, the great stories of Hindu Mythology”. They illustrated their accounts using large bolts of canvas painted on the spot with simple means and dyes extracted from plants

The Kalamkari tradition chiefly consists of scenes from Hindu mythology. Figures of deities with rich border embellishments were created for the temples. In Machilipatnam, the weavers were involved in the block printing art, while at Kalahasti, the Balijas (a caste involved in making bangles) took to this art and gave it a free hand dimension. Kalamkari is basically done on cotton fabrics with pens or blocks.

Kalamkari art or hand printing can be broadly categorized into two major forms – Machilipatnam Style and Srikalahasti Style. Machilipatnam style is dominated by block prints where Srikalahasti style is famous for its free hand drawings. As for the process, “there were 12 steps employed at Masulipatnam (this after the cloth has been woven) and 17 steps at Sri Kalahasti.” [4] Kalahasti is near the famous temple town of Tirupathi, and Machilipatnam is on the central coast.


The Kalahasti style developed around the temples with their patronage. As a result it has a distinct religious identity and thrives on mythological themes. The attractive blend of colors on the fabrics usually portrays characters from the Indian mythology. with the divinity figures of Brahma, Saraswati, Ganesh, Durga, Shiva, Parvati as the main source of inspiration [3]

While the traditional art was practiced in the ancient period of Andhra desa, there were changes during the medieval era. Owing to the Qutb Shahi period of Golkonda, the Machlipatnam Kalamkari was influenced by Persian motifs & designs, widely adapted to suit their taste. The outlines and main features are done using hand carved blocks. Srikalahasti, however, remains more traditional and in line with the ancient standard.

The term Kalamkari itself signifies artwork (Kari) done by a “Kalam” (Pen). Despite the recent name, the technique is very ancient and precedes the period of Turco-Persian influence, making it a native Andhra craft [4].  Kalam, which gives the characteristic look to this art, is traditionally made of bamboo.  Craftsmen pick fine bamboo sticks and rolls around few strings of thread for the grip. This helps in getting the fine strokes of this unique variety of handloom. Craftsmen prepare colors from vegetable and root extracts which are very good for skin too.

The beginnings of Kalamkari probably rest in South India and grew out of the need to illustrate some of the temple rituals. The temples commissioned large religious themed cloths.[4]

What I heard from weavers…

Sree Lakshmi Kalamkari Works

On a lazy Sunday evening I was just checking out some Kalamkari sarees from a vendor. As any girl would like to, I started bargaining on the Saree. The vendor who happened to be a craftsman also, narrated the process of making the Kalamkari Saree. I was taken aback!!!  The Saree they sell for only 1500 bucks actually takes a month’s time to get ready. It takes months to prepare the fabric and the natural colors. Then they draw designs and patterns and fill it properly with hands.The entire process requires 17 complex steps to complete. The process starts with the bleaching the cotton fabric in a solution mixed with cow /sheep dung. Later, the fabric is washed and rinsed number of times in clean water. The bleaching process takes a couple of days.

Once it is done, the next step is to soak the bleached fabric in a special solution called myrobalam prepared with milk and resins. Then the fabric is left for sun drying. Once it’s dry and crisp, it becomes the canvas for the craftsmen. Craftsmen paint patterns and designs in series and each time they have wash it again and again to get the desired look.


What different articles tell about Kalamkari –

An article written by Kishore Singh in Forbes India dated Apr 16, 2016 says “ In terms of story-telling, the Kalamkari painted cloth tries to provide a religious or historical narrative, often in the form of panels, with or without a dominant central figure.”

An article on Kalamkari says– “The Kalamkari tradition is more than three thousand years old. The earliest fabrics amples of this craft found in the Mohenjo-daro excavations date back to 3000 B.C. Some samples of Madder dyed cloth with traditional Indian motifs have also been discovered in Egyptian tombs during excavations at Al Fustat near Cairo. These bear testimony not only to the antiquity of the craft but also prove that it was well developed and formed part of a flourishing export in ancient times.

An article on Chitrolekha says– “The Kalahasti style developed around the temples with their patronage. As a result it has a distinct religious identity and thrives on mythological themes. The attractive blend of colors on the fabrics usually portrays characters from the Indian mythology. with the divinity figures of Brahma, Saraswati, Ganesh, Durga, Shiva, Parvati as the main source of inspiration. The Kalahasti artists generally depict on the cloth the deities, scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, Puranas and other mythological classics mainly producing scrolls, temple backcloths, wall hangings, chariot banners and the like. In ancient times, the common man learned of gods and goddesses, and of their mythical character from these paintings.”

And here goes my personal touch to the article –

As you might have sensed from this article, I am crazy about Kalamkari fabrics. I won’t do justice to my article if I won’t share few clicks from my beautiful Kalamkari collection…..


So as you see, Kalamkari, apart from being a weaving style, is the life and livelihood of many traditional artisans of The Telugu States. This generation should stand up to promote our ancient handloom weaving techniques which have a lot of stories and historical references connected with them. Our act of supporting handloom will pave way to pass on cultural values to posterity. When handloom is being promoted as a part of “Make in India” by our Government, it is our responsibility to add it to our wardrobe too.

Hope my article urges you to pick Kalamkari fabrics for your family. By doing this you will not just support the craftsmen involved in this, but also will adapt a healthier life style by wearing pure cotton or silk and chemical free clothes.



  1. Bhatnagar, Parul. Kalamkari. https://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/65619463?access_key=key-1i4e4emilphei76vaxgl
  2. http://www.forbesindia.com/printcontent/42983
  3. Kalamkari, the Art of Painting. http://chitrolekha.com/kalamkari/
  4. Shep, Robb. http://www.speakingwithhands.com/article_details.php?aid=44

Mangalagiri Sarees

mangalagiri2Hullo, hullo, everybody 😉 , I am back this week to continue our series on Andhra Sarees. Last time we covered the Madhavaram. This week is another one starting with ‘M’. That is the Mangalagiri Saree.



Meaning ‘Auspicious Hill’, Mangalagiri is a famous town in the newly setup State Capital Region.   Located in the greater Amaravati area, it is known for its beautiful and tall gali gopuram in the Lakshmi Narasimha Swami Temple.

This was constructed by the Vijayanagara Emperors and finished by Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu, Raja of Amaravati.  While they prospered under the Kakatiyas, weavers in the region later fled after having had to endure the oppressive taxes of the Qutb Shahis. They were liberated by Krishna Deva Raya. They later came under the rule of the Vasireddis, who are associated with the Narasimha Swami temple.

The presiding deity, this Avatara of Vishnu is worshiped with Jaggery water. Sweet like the language of Telugu, this Panakam dish gives the name Panakala to the first of the temples. With three temples dedicated to Narasimhaswami, Mangalagiri is more than just part of the administrative capital, it represents the lion and lioness spirit of the Andhras. Hence, like our legendary dynasty of queens and kings who were known by their mother’s name, Mangalagiri represents the strength and pride of place the women of Andhra have in their society, and now again, capital.

The ksheera vruksha (milk tree) there is particularly auspicious for women. There is also a main festival three in Phalguna masam (february-march month). The shape of the hill of Mangalagiri is in that of an elephant. Hence, like the famous charming hastini walk that ancient beauties were described as having, this saree too represents the allure of Andhra women.

A stone’s throw away from Amaravati, Mangalagiri is the saree of the AP’s administrative capital. Women of the region are both traditional and trendy. Like the rajdhani represents all the shades of Andhra, the Mangalagiri Saree showcases a variety of different colors from around the state. It is an evening wear saree with a fresh look, perfect for summer evenings at the temple or official events. Like Andhra, it is bright but classy. It catches the eye in a refined way rather than a gaudy one.



Mangalagiri is recogizable by its border. These are emphasized more than the body of the saree itself. Most obvious is the double border, which is rarely found in other sarees. ‘Getti anchu’ means solid border, which like this saree, means the lady wearing it immediately becomes the center of attention. They frequently have parallel lines that adorn it like the famous gopuram of the town. While it is refined in its silk look, it has a handwoven cotton base. This gives it a widely-prized softness and durability.


Because of the cotton mix, it keeps the body cool in the hot summer of Krishna District. This style also represents Krishnamma, who is the personification of the Krishnaveni River. She too is elegant while retaining the traditional look and feel of the region. Kanakadurga in nearby Vijayawada also has this auspicious beauty.

Mangalam antey Mangalagiri


A traditional saree that is increasingly getting a modern look, the Mangalagiri saree is found in different styles. You can get the traditional patterns. You can get sico-cotton look, which is more everyday, and the pattu look which is the rich silk feature we see at the very top. This second style makes it a very rich saree.

Thread count varies from 40 (coarse) to 120 (superfine). It frequently has a gossamer or translucent weave that is ideal for export.  Traditional motifs include “leaf, mango, parrot, gold coin, rekhu “. They come in:

  • Plain Color-For a bold look.
  • Striped-These range from bright to earthen hues
  • Checks-Identifiable & traditional with organic dyes & kalamkari block print
  • Mixed-Combination of different patterns and silk cotton



Korni Solid, Striped Mangalagiri Polycotton Sari




Considered one of the finest examples of the handloom cotton industry, Mangalagiri, like the capital of the Andhras, has stood the test of time. This carefully woven weave is prized throughout India.


It is has a very structured process of manufacture as well. The yarn is colored and dyed, and then starched and bleached. The warping makes sure the color doesn’t fade.   After that, it is spun by traditional Charkha. Now made into thread, it is woven in various forms on warp and weft using pit looms. This process usually takes a week. Here is a great walkthrough of the process.


This industry is driven by 5000 traditional weavers who inherited a traditional craft, representing the spirit of Andhra. While sarees today are increasingly showing the machine look, Mangalagiris are handcrafted to perfection, and it shows. Finely woven, they are a must have for all true Telugus.

 Andhra Rajdhani Saree


Andhra’s Capital Saree


  1. http://www.mangalagiri.net/temple/temple.html
  2. http://www.templenet.com/Andhra/mangalagiri.html
  3. http://www.utsavpedia.com/textiles/mangalgiri-sari-from-the-fine-edges-of-andhra-pradesh/
  4. http://www.dsource.in/resource/cotton-sari-mangalagiri/warping/index.html
  5. http://mangalgiri.com/index.php/mangalgiri-weavers-world
  6. http://mangalagiricotton.com/sarees/
  7. http://swadesh.unnatisilks.com/finely-crafted-cotton-weaves-mangalagiri/

Madhavaram Sarees

In our newest installment of our Series on Andhra Sarees, this week we will be covering  Rayalaseema’s Madhavaram Sarees.



Madhavaram is a village in Kadapa District that is etched in the popular imagination. While the Jilla in general is known for its temples, forts, poets, and artisans, the Saree of one of its most famous villages is no less significant.

The picturesque grama of Madhavaram is nestled in between the Penna River and majestic hills; its fashion is also simple and soothing. The weaving was historically concentrated in Sidhout and Kamalapuram taluks of Kadapa district.  It is generally associated with the weavers of the Togata community.  These cheeras have become staples in regional weddings.


Madavaram pattu cheera is the all-purpose saree.

It is called this because it is easy to maintain. The colors are usually in the range of red and black. The patterns are usually alternating squares, but floral designs were later introduced as seen below. Pink and pale blue are also used.

The fabrics and weaving process behind the Madhavaram has become so popular that they feature now in Sarees and Dhotis for weddings. These are known collectively as the Madhavaram Madhuparkam. Madhuparkams are used for both bride and bridegroom, and thus, used for the fabric for both sets of Wedding Attire.

It is also featured for Turbans (Thala Paaga ) . Vegetable based dyes are used, making it an exceedingly eco-friendly. Regular and Petu (border) Sarees are manufactured, with Cotton Jari types being very common as well. One of the USPs of this saree is the trademark Modugu Puvvu that is used to give a reddish color to the border.


There are currently 2500 weaving households in Madhavaram who are dependent on this industry, and another 5000 supporting workers. The annual revenue generated is estimated to be around 15 crore Rupees. There is great business potential for this item, and many skilled textile workers whose fortunes could be turned around if the state people invest in developing this.

Variety is the spice of life, and Madhavaram comes in just such variety for at home or at parties!

Rakka Rakkaalu Saree

The All Purpose Saree of the Andhra Lady



  1. http://www.fibre2fashion.com/indianhandsnlooms/madhavaram.asp
  2. C. F. Brackenbury. District Gazetteer, Cuddapah.
  3. http://www.traveladda.com/south_india/andhra_pradesh/people_and_culture/handlooms_of_andhra_pradesh.html
  4. http://www.indianetzone.com/24/handloom_weaving_andhra_pradesh.htm
  5. http://www.indiantravelportal.com/andhra-pradesh/arts-crafts/handlooms-of-andhra-pradesh.html
  6. http://www.kadapa.info/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=39

Pochampally Sarees

Continuing our multi-part Spotlight on Sarees series is this week’s Pochampally Sarees. In recognition of the Bathukamma festival of new Telangana state, we are highlighting one from this region.

Ladies of Nalgonda, TS on Bathukamma

A village & mandal in Telangana’s Nalgonda district, Pochampally is known for its very unique print. There is more handwork involved than other sarees. It is considered the most intricate. They are rather avante-garde in that they are bold but restrained, with some traditional themes but contemporary in execution (much like what we  do at ACP!). It is especially known for its adaptability in that it goes well with both bright AND light colors. Meaning, you don’t feel that it’s “Oh, gaudy”, you think it is stylish and fashionably eye-catching.

Rather than the commonly used flowers and similar nature motifs, it specializes in geometric print. Generally they are concentric rectangles or occasionally even round circles. It goes very well with elegantly simple jewelry, especially pearls.

Weaving and Dyeing Process

The most notable aspect of this saree is the Ikat weaving, which is the unique contribution of Telangana region. It is part of the common heritage of Telugus and originates specifically from Nalgonda district. While the weaving is done in a zig-zag style, the dyeing itself is random.

There are two types of Ikat: Warp and Weft

Warp weaving is where the bundles of yarn are dried on the loom strings after dyeing. This is supposed to enhance the beauty of the fabric.

Weft weaving is where resist dye is used.There is greater color variance in this type, and as a result, is more difficult.

Pochampally is manufactured in three stages

To manufacture this beautiful fabric ” a design is created using three or four colors so as to decide the number of picks and ends required for a decided motif and accordingly weft and warp groups of yarns are dyed and this is done by tying them using rubber bands”.

So rather than dyeing the whole finished fabric, it is the individual thread that is colored! This may be done multiple times depending on the colors and design. “Variation can also be brought about by using different thread pitch, counts, etc.” It can take up to 1 or 2 months of weaving just under 10 sarees. This comes to 50 metres of fabric, depending on the design, degree of work, colors and thread count used, etc.


Current state of Industry

Despite the stylishness of this saree, the weavers who create it are struggling. Due to low wages in the industry, these master artisans are having difficulty, and the industry is slowly dying. Our sister state has a great opportunity to turn around the fortunes of these great textile workers . It is truly a fashion artform and one hopes it too is revitalized like the common culture of the Telugus.


Pochampally comes in cotton, silk, and sico. It is truly a wonderful saree…and perfect for this last day of Bathukamma. Best wishes to our brothers and sisters in Telangana!

Pochampally Sarees

Saree of the Stylish lady


  1. http://www.discoveredindia.com/andhra-pradesh/culture-in-andhra-pradesh/handlooms-in-andhra-pradesh/ikat-weaving.htm
  2. http://www.discoveredindia.com/andhra-pradesh/culture-in-andhra-pradesh/handlooms-in-andhra-pradesh/pochampally-fabrics.htm
  3. http://www.handlooms.in/handloomindustryinpochampally.aspx
  4. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/andhra-pradesh-pochampallys-sari-weavers-struggle-to-survive/306215-62-127.html

Gadwal Sarees

Uh oh, quite a bit of controversy these days not only in undivided Andhra, but on ACP 😯 . I will lighten the mood with everyone’s, ok we girls’ favorite topic, fashion! 😎

To recognize the birth this month of India’s 29th state, this week, I will continue  our multi-part Spotlight on Sarees from old Andhra with the fourth installment: Gadwal Sarees.



Gadwal Sarees are from the town of same name in Palamooru district (Mahbubnagar),  Telangana state. If Venkatagiri is luxurious and dignified, then Gadwal is the most impressive saree from Gulti-land. It’s considered a mark of high status.

The brocade weaving skills have been traced by some to Varanasi, though they are said to show no signs of the Banarasi style, and is considered authentically undivided Andhra.  While the cotton typically comes from Bangalore and the gold jari from Surat, it is pure Telangana and Telugu.

The colors are very unique (gacchakayyi rangu you don’t see anywhere–“neither green nor grey” color as shown by model above).


Originally Cotton, Silk and SICO (silk-cotton mix) varieties have been introduced since.

The traditional cotton version had mulberry or tussar in the border, with unbleached cotton. This cotton variety is known to be very breathable, making it ideal for the hot summers of the South.

Older varieties show earth tones (like gacchakayyi above), but brighter contrasting colors are now becoming popular also.

Everyday and Party wear types of Gadwal are common, but it has long had a reputation as a Puja saree, due to being able to be classy, trendy, and traditional all at the same time!


It is known for a distinctive jari pattern. But it’s really weaving pattern of the body of the saree that stands out for its notable squares, created from “an interlocking weft-technique” known as Kuppadam. Motifs such as nemali (peacock) and rudraksa are also very common.

It is maintenance-heavy, as starch is required to retain its crisp look. Copper, silver, and gold tipped jaris are used.

The real genius of the saree is that it has a reputation for weavers to be able to take the full almost 6 meter long saree and fold it to the size of a matchbox!!

The most impressive saree of old Andhra rashtra, Telangana’s Gadwal gets the Velugu Thalli Stamp of approval!!!

Choodaganey Gadwal ani telusu

As soon as you see, You can tell it’s Gadwal!



  1.  http://www.bharatplaza.com/gadhwal-saree.html
  2. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/300210/gorgeous-gadwal.html
  3. http://www.metromela.com/gadwal-sarees-6-yards-of-tradition/