It looks like zari, it feels like zari, but it isn’t zari at all. It’s cunningly woven silk. Among the new varieties of sari rolled out recently by the Kancheepuram Silk Weavers Cooperative, there is one that appears as though it was made of zari all over, but most of it is silk.
“Our handloom weavers may not have heard of nuclear physics, but the effects they have achieved in some of their new creations reminds me of the concept of wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics,” said M.P. Nirmala, Managing Director and Special Officer of ‘Cooptex’, the apex body of the handloom weavers cooperatives of the state. “The material used seems to be one thing, but is in fact quite another.”
Women who flocked to the Cooptex exhibition here last week were astounded by what they saw. “The pallu and the border of the sari are indeed made of zari,” explained M. Mahalingam, director of State Handlooms. “The rest, more than three fourths of the sari, is just silk, but looks as though it is zari as well.” A sari made entirely of zari, he explained, would cost around Rs 50,000, apart from being heavy. “These look like zari saris, but cost only Rs 14,450,” he said.
It is the unique weave mastered by the master weavers of Kanchipuram saris that achieves this effect. “The weave has to be precisely and delicately interlocked with the pallu and border portions to achieve the desired effect,” said a technical assistant of the handlooms department.
“Our weavers have created other interesting variations as well,” said Nirmala. “There is one sari which looks as if it is made of cotton at the bottom, but silk at the top. There is another in which the sari itself appears to be three dimensional.”