The glory of Narayanpet
Most of us grew up admiring our grandmothers’ almirahs
Most of us grew up admiring our grandmothers' almirahs. Almirahsstacked with vibrant buttery soft silks that are neatly folded with loving tenderness - fragrant of their warm embrace. A memory - so soft, light and heartwarming in nature, that every time one reminisces this imagery, the said embrace comes to life. And that silky-buttery memory is written in the name of Narayanpet sarees.
Yes, a long and rich history precedes Narayanpet sarees. However, one must not make the mistake of limiting it to the elderly. It is to say that these exquisitely vibrant sarees are timeless, but never old. Besides, if anything, if the elderly preferred these more, it only goes to speak of their better taste.
Akin to the crimson setting of the majestic Sun, the colours of Narayanpet sarees are a mere reflection of its originating town. A potpourri of cultures, Narayanpet is located in western Telangana, near northern Karnataka and southern Maharashtra borders. This pluralism can be noticed in the various customs, festivals, jewelry designs and of course, even in the trademark weave, of the town.
But how did it all start? They say it was in the 1630s, when Chhatrapati Shivaji camped in Narayanpet, the town, during his anti-British campaign. Little did he know that the jewel-stoned garments of the locals had different plans - of enamoring him. Although his army had to move on from the town, many weavers stayed back in Narayanpet, to perfect the craft, which, over the years, came to be known as the Naraynpet weave. Even better, the Maratha royals joyously patronized these fine sarees, by wearing them on auspicious occasions and also using them to drape the idols of gods. Bright like a child's smile, and soft like a woman's grace - Narayanpet sarees, even today, are extremely popular in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
As for the weavers, Narayanpet sarees are woven exclusively by the seasoned handloom weavers belonging to the town of Naraynpet. Fortunately, the weave also received a GI tag in 2013. These sarees are not just known for their vibrance, but also for their personality - of contrasting double borders with timeless designs, of lines and checks. Alternatively, they are also woven as shot silks with a dual tone sheen along with traditional temple or arrowhead motifs. What was originally a 9 yards weave, is today available only in 6 yards, owing to the prevalence of the nauvari (nine yards) and thommidi gaja (nine yards) culture during the yesteryears, and not so much of it today.
Easy-to-drape, soft in feel and a perfect all-day wear, with a minimum thread count of 80, Narayanpet sarees also have to their advantage an extremely affordable price bracket (Rs 2000 - Rs 9000). A rare, juicy combination - of style and pocket-friendliness.
So many reasons to own the glory of this weave, yet it is on a steady decline. The reduced demand from the youngsters who are busy chasing the soon-out-of-fashion trendy weaves and the sub-par powerloom imitations in the market, Narayanpet handlooms continue to suffer. Once upon a time, the town used to have over fifty thousand handlooms, which, today is reduced to a mere two hundred.
Despite the unsubscription by the youth and the invasion of quick trends, Naraynpet sarees endured the test of time. The shine in their vibrance wasn't just reserved for the good days, but also for the challenging times - for they continue to shimmer their presence across generations and times. On that note, a special request to the saree-wearers of our age - please zoom in to the beauty of the Naraynpet weave and you will be enslaved by its charm and soon enough consumed by it.
For, in the case of a Narayanpet saree, all you need to do is make the choice to pick one. And the style follows. Treat that as your cue to find yourself a Narayanpet silk saree - and let's make our weavers and grandmothers happy!
(The writer is a handloom and handicraft enthusiast. She is also a member of crafts council. Instagram handle: Rajeswariramachander)