Handloom Sarees for Indian Summers

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  • The article helps you identify affordable handloom sarees for summer season and where can you buy them online, to avoid physical contact during COVID19.

Textiles in India are extremely adaptable. Each region has its own unique textiles for every season, all kinds of different temperatures, and there is a reason why those textiles belong to that particular region. For instance, Muslin finds its origin in Bengal because this fine, lightweight fabric is perfect for the humid climatic conditions of the region. Similarly, Rajasthan has Kota Doria and Kashmir has Pashmina.

In this article I have compiled a list of 10 such breathable, soft cotton handloom textiles, primarily sarees that are perfect for the harsh Indian summers. These are extremely affordable and will provide you comfort without letting you compromise your fashion sense. Please check them out below.

1. Patteda Anchu, Gomi Teni & Hubli sarees by Punarjeevana

Punarjeevana is a non-profit trust working to revive the languishing crafts of Karnataka and provide sustainable livelihood to artisans. The trust, led by textile revivalist Dr. Hemalatha Jain, focuses mainly on reviving 10th century weaves from Gajendragarh, Karnataka - Patteda Anchu, Gomi Teni and Hubli sarees.

According to what Dr. Hemalatha found, Patteda Anchu sarees were once very popular amongst the Lingayat community in Karnataka and considered auspicious. They were offered to goddess Yellamma Saundatti and then gifted to brides-to-be as a part of bridal trousseau.

Over the years, the tradition witnessed a downfall and so did the textile until Hemalatha spotted them during her research. While Gomi Teni, another prolific textile from the 12th century Karnataka, was gifted to pregnant women as a symbol of prosperity. The word Gomi Teni means Jowar stalks.

These sarees are made of cotton and require negligible maintenance. Not even fall, beading or ironing. The design is geometric with checks, stripes and contrast borders in bright colours. Most of the sarees have two pallas and are reversible. Because of their design element, the sarees are extremely wearable and contemporary - right choice for office & formal occasions.

Price range - Rs. 1800 to Rs. 3000. 

Buy online from - Bunavat.com, Gaatha.com, Avishya.com, Gocoop.com or Punarjeevana’s Instagram.

Product mix includes dupattas, stoles and fabrics also apart from sarees.

Shefali Vaidya (Twitter), Jaypore.com, Gaatha.com

2. Malkha Sarees

Malkha is again a non-profit organisation based in Hyderabad, Telangana, with a mission to impart livelihood, financial support and creative dignity to cotton producers and weavers. Malkha textiles are extremely unique - having softness of Mulmul and toughness of Khadi, hence the name ‘Mal-kha’.

Malkha sarees come in different designs - from checks to block prints to solids. All products are 100% natural dyed using pigments like indigo, anar, haldi, manjistha etc. The textiles are lightweight, porous and soft on your skin.

Price range - Rs. 2500 to Rs. 5000

Buy online from Malkha.in or Itokri.com

Product mix includes dupattas, stoles and fabrics also apart from sarees.

Credits Malkha.in, Jaypore.com

3. Hand-block printed sarees from Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh & Gujarat

India is host to hundreds of beautiful, intricate hand-block printing crafts. These crafts have been practised in our country for centuries now, because hand-block prints can never go out of fashion.

First up is Bagh from Madhya Pradesh. Bagh sarees are known for their classic colour combination of white, black and red. However, sarees in shades of blue, green, yellow, orange and pink are also produced now-a-days. Named after Bagh village in Madhya Pradesh, the craft involves relief printing using wooden blocks. The motifs can be geometric, paisley or floral.

Hand-block printed Kalamkari sarees from Pedana, also known as Machilipatnam Kalamkari sarees, are next up on the list. Pedana Kalamkari involves wood block printing using natural dyes, and therefore, the colours used are very basic - like brown, black, maroon, mustard and indigo. The prints are very fine with floral, paisley and Mughal motifs like kairi, vines, creepers, birds etc.

Ajrakh is an intricate hand-block printing technique practised in Kutch region, Gujarat. The craft originated in Sindh province in modern-day Pakistan and was brought to India by the Khatri community when they migrated to Bhuj, Kutch. The process of Ajrakh block printing is really complicated and lengthy - involving 14 steps in total. Elaborate, very fine blocks are the speciality of Ajrakh. Here again, only natural pigments like arda, lime, alizarin, indigo and camel dung are used to create magnificent colours and shapes.

Price range - Rs. 1000 to Rs. 3000

Buy online from Itokri.com, Amounee.com, Gocoop.com, Gaatha.com etc.

Product mix includes dupattas, stoles, fabrics, bed sheets, drapery, table mats, bags also apart from sarees.

Bagh, Kalamkari & Ajrakh sarees. Credits-Jaypore.com & Theloom.in

4. Hand-block printed sarees from Rajasthan

In my opinion, Rajasthan is a hub of hand block printing crafts. The table below will help you understand these crafts in brief.

BAGRU - A hand-block printing technique practised by the Chippa community in Bagru village, Rajasthan. This technique uses wooden blocks and dark colours like indigo, red, black and grey.

Price range Rs 1200 to 1500/.

Where to buy online - Itokri.com, Amounee.com

Product mix - Stoles, Dupattas, Suit sets, fabrics & home linen apart from sarees.

DABU - This is another hand-block printing done using clay & sawdust. The design to be printed is first sketched on the fabric and then it is covered with clay & sawdust. Once the clay dries, the fabric is dyed in desired colour. The area covered with clay & sawdust remains unchanged while the rest of the fabric picks colour. That is how the design is formed. Due to the complex process, Dabu products might look slightly messy and irregular but, remember, that is the true beauty of it.

Price range Rs 12 to 1500/.

Where to buy online - Itokri.com, Amounee.com

Product mix - Stoles, Dupattas, Suit sets, fabrics apart from sarees.

SANGANERI - Evolved in Sanganer region, Rajasthan, this technique involves floral, Mughal motifs in pastel shades. The printing is finer compared to Bagru or Dabu. Classic Sanganer sarees have a white base and contrast borders & prints with delicate designs. Some common prints in Sanganer are roses, birds, trees, marigolds, lilies, sunflowers, lotuses etc.

Price range Rs 1500-1800/.

Where to buy online - Itokri.com, Amounee.com, Gocoop.com, Gaatha.com

Product mix - Stoles, Dupattas, Suit sets, fabrics & home linen apart from sarees.

Bagru, Dabu & Sanganeri sarees. Credits-Jaypore.com & Pinterest

Note – In most cases, block printing is done on mill-made, powerloom cotton fabrics. However, organisations like Malkha do block-printing on handloom cotton as well. Handloom cotton block prints are slightly more costly than powerloom ones.

5. Cottons from Bengal-Begumpuri, Dhaniakhali/Dhonekhali Tant & other Bengal Cotton sarees

Bengal is the home of fine cotton in India. Majority of textiles in Bengal are cotton based. Some fine weaves from Bengal I would like to feature are -

Begumpuri sarees - from Begumpur village in Hooghly, West Bengal. These sarees are known for their vibrant, contrasting colour combinations in borders and extra-weft motifs. There are two designs in Begumpuri - Mathapar (broad bordered sarees without any motif) and Nakshapar (simple-patterned with buttis wherever necessary).

Dhonekhali or Dhaniakhali Tant sarees - Tant sarees are woven in Dhonekhali region of Hooghly district in West Bengal. Tant sarees are known for their fine cotton, called Tangail cotton, weaving with contrast borders in zari and floral, paisley motifs. A classic Tant saree is off-white in colour with borders in bright colours like fuchsia, red, pink, orange, yellow, maroon etc.

Apart from these known, recognised sarees, weavers in West Bengal weave numerous other varieties of simple cotton and linen sarees that are inexpensive and very comfortable. You can buy them from online avenues mentioned below.

Price range - Rs. 2000-Rs.4000.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Gaatha.com

Begumpuri & Dhanikhali Tant sarees. Credits-Surjana.studio, Pinterest, thegoodloom.com.

6. Sambalpuris, Bomkais and Nuapatna sarees from Odisha 

Odisha state is renowned for its tie-dye, resist dyeing technique called ‘Ikat’, a craft that this state shares with its neighbour, Telangana. Most of the textiles produced in Odisha are more or less design variations of Ikat with seldom use of extra-weft weaving technique in some weaves.

Sambalpuri & Nuapatna sarees belonging to Sambalpur & Cuttack districts of Odisha respectively are completely based on tie-dye Ikat technique called ‘Bandhkala’ in local Odia dialect. These sarees draw designs heavily from the architecture of Odisha, like the Konarka Sun temple. Other design elements include peacocks, elephants, shankhas, chakras etc. & basic geometric shapes.

While Bomkais, woven in Sonepur & Ganjam region in Odisha, are more complex, intricate in design & involve extra-weft weaving technique in addition to Bandhkala. The major difference in Sonepur and Ganjam Bomkai is the motifs. Sonepur Bomkai motifs are more influenced by Benarasi & Baluchari designs - while Ganjam has more indigenous Odia motifs like fish, rudraksha, lotus, Bomkai bird, bitter gourd etc.

These weaves from Odisha come in a wide array of designs and prices. However, pure cotton sarees that are less intense in design are available at a lower price range.

Price range - Rs. 2500-Rs.4000.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Gaatha.com

Sambalpuri & Bomkai. Credits-Jaypore.com, Vijayalaxmi Chhabra’s Instagram.

7. Narayanpet from Telangana & Mangalgiri from Andhra Pradesh

Narayanpet and Mangalgiri are two simple yet elegant weaves with rich borders (like temple, peacock, rudraksha, aaji, diya, elephant border etc.) & pallus, and plain bodies (occasionally striped or checkered too). These sarees are made in pure silk, pure cotton and in a mixture of silk by cotton as well. However, pure cotton or silk by cotton drapes are recommended for this season. The borders come in gold zari as well as silk & cotton. This is what makes these sarees extremely versatile.

Price range - Rs. 1200-Rs. 3000.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Bunavat.com, Nalli, Sundarisilks.com &Instagram stores like Villvam, Hastavem, Margazhi designs, Azhagi

8. Ilkal/Irkal sarees from Karnataka

Ilkal or Irkal sarees are classic weaves from Bagalkot, Karnataka. These sarees are characterized by checkered or plain bodies in classic colours with bright pure silk pallu in red & white. The pallu is woven separately and attached to the saree using ‘Toni Teni Seragu’ or ‘Topi Teni’ technique. The body of the saree is made up of cotton while the border and pallu are of silk. Kondi, Gomi and Chikki paras are some popular designs in Ilkal.

Price range - Rs. 2000-Rs. 3000.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Bunavat.com, Nalli, Sundarisilks.com &Instagram stores like Villvam, Hastavem, Margazhi designs, Azhagi. 

Irkal, Mangalgiri & Narayanpet. Credits-karagiri.com, ajio.com, unnatisilks.com.

9. Bandhani from Gujarat & Madurai Sungudi from Tamil Nadu

Bandhani is one of the oldest tie-dye crafts found in India. Its origin can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization.

Bandhani today is primarily practised in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, with slight variations. Gujarat craftsmen produce bright, vibrant Bandhani sarees, duppattas and fabrics in pure cotton (and silk as well). The Bandhani work produced in Madurai region, Tamil Nadu, is called Madurai Sungudi, done by craftsmen from Saurashtra, Gujarat who migrated to Madurai region in the 17th century.

The Sungudi sarees from Madurai have zari borders in traditional Deccani designs like peacock, elephant, temple borders etc. This is an add-on feature to Sungudis than normal Bandhani sarees.

Price range - Rs. 800-Rs.1500.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Gaatha.com, Nalli, Sundarisilks.com &Instagram stores like Villvam, Hastavem, Margazhi designs, Azhagi. 

Bandhani & Sungudi. Credits- Villvam

10. Handloom Cotton sarees from Tamil Nadu

Just like Bengal, Tamil Nadu boasts numerous beautiful cotton weaves. The hot, humid climate of Tamil Nadu makes cotton the most ideal choice of clothing. Sarees like Chettinadu cotton, Coimbatore & Kanchi cotton, Sungudi (already covered in another section of this article) are extremely affordable and come in different designs & vibrant colours. Some have zari borders while others are plain, simpler sarees with silk or cotton borders and pallas.

Price range - Rs. 1200-Rs. 3000.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Nalli, Sundarisilks.com & Instagram stores like Villvam, Hastavem, Margazhi designs, Azhagi. 

Kanchipuram cotton sarees. Credits-Villvam

11. Gamcha, Bodo Weave & Mekhela Chador from Eastern India

Bright and beautiful sarees from eastern India, the most underrated region in terms of textiles. Odisha’s Gamcha saree is a basic cotton weave, with interesting checks in eye-popping colours.

Similarly, Bodo weave sarees, woven by the Bodo tribe of Assam, also plays with checks, stripes in stark shades with heavy usage of extra weft motifs. Mekhela Chador in cotton, the official state dress of Assamese women, is a two-piece garment with Mekhela forming the bottom & Chador forming the top part. This saree too involves heavy usage of extra-weft weaving technique to forge picturesque designs.

Price range Rs. 2500-Rs. 5000.

Buy online from Itokri.com, Gocoop.com, Dastakar.com and Gaatha.com

Mekhela Chador & Gamcha saree. Credits-Strandofsilk.com, Jaypore.com. 

That is all, my friends. I have tried to thoroughly research textiles from each state and compile this article that allows you all to access handloom products easily at affordable prices, as people often complain that handloom is expensive. Well, not all handloom products are expensive, as we’ve just seen. However, handloom is surely slightly more pricey than machine-made or power loom products because of the sheer amount of effort required in making handloom products and the unmatched quality of such products.

Folks, due to the COVID19 pandemic, the craftspeople of our country are suffering greatly in terms of livelihood & sustenance. By purchasing handlooms, handmade products, you can offer great help to our craftspeople. They need our support, now more than ever. 

Word Crs where used means Credits. Cover pic credit is Bhashabharat.com

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