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Chettinad Sarees

Cotton Chettinad Saree
Chettinad is an area in Tamil Nadu comprising about 70 villages which the Nattukottai Chettiars (also known as the Nagarathar community) call their home. They are a business community believed to have shifted to the Kaveripoompattinam port area (from Kanchipuram) during the reign of the Cholas (which belief is supported by the Tamil epic Silappathikaram), and tales of their maritime trade go as far back as the 8th century although it isn't at all clear whether the tales are true. What is well established is that by the 17th century, the Nattukottai Chettiars were trading in salt and, by the 18th century, many of them had immigrated to Burma and Ceylon where they acted as moneylenders.

It is with the Nagarathar community that Chettinad or Chettinadu sarees, also known as kandaangi, earlier often in silk, are associated. They are primarily woven in Karaikudi in cotton using pit looms. The colours tend to be bold and earthy with green, mustard, and red dominating although other colours like blue and black have also been added to the palette in recent times. The borders of these sarees tend to contrast from their main body, and to be wider than saree borders usually are; they may also include thin stripes and feature small designs along the warp.

The end-pieces of Chettinad sarees are simple and feature stripes along the weft. And although there are no designs along the weft in the body of these sarees, there are often stripes and checks. In addition to this, the structure of Chettinad sarees has changed over time: earlier sarees were not very broad (91 cm as opposed to the usual current width of 120 cm) and they were considerably more rough than newer sarees are (with thread counts of 40 in contrast to the current 60). Despite this change, Chettinad sarees tend to feel heavy and are generally easy to drape.