Patola Sarees

Patan Patola Saree
at INA Metro Station, Delhi
Gujarat's Patola sarees are known to be coveted: they are Ikat sarees woven in silk. The effort required to weave one of these sarees is apparently so much that weaving them in cotton (which doesn't last as long as silk) simply doesn't make sense. There are currently two kinds of Patola sarees available: the Patan Patola which is an expensive double Ikat weave, and the Rajkot Patola which is a comparatively accessible single Ikat weave.

Patola sarees are reversible, and Patan Patola sarees are assumed to last for about three centuries. They are woven in the town of Patan which is believed to have been established around 745 AD by Vanraj Chavda. The sarees, however, began to be woven much later: it is said that Patola attire was originally woven in Jalna, Maharashtra, and imported from there. However, around 1175 AD, King Kumarpal from Gujarat (who wanted a new, unworn Patolu to wear each day for his daily worship) defeated the ruler of Jalna, and brought Salvi weavers from there to his own kingdom.

The silk used is generally eight ply silk, and both the weft and the warp of Patan Patola sarees are dyed before being woven. The sarees usually have a red background, and their designs are rarely of new vintage: Patan Patola sarees tend to feature traditional designs such as those of the nine gems (Navratan); of elephants, parrots and dancing angels (Narikunjar); of hunts with elephants and tigers fighting (Wagh Haathi); of treasure- and flower-filled baskets (Chabadi); of shimmering night skies (Taraliya); of peacocks and butterflies (Mor Patangyu Bhat); of flowers (Ful); and of stylised geometric patterns. These designs are repeated every six to eight inches, and starch along with (in humid conditions) a heater under the loom are used to keep the threads from becoming entangled during the weaving process which can take several months. Running along one side of Patan Patola sarees is a golden Zari Patto, and there are Pallavs distinguishable from a saree's field at both its ends. Consequently, a Patan Patola saree can be draped from any of its four corners.

In contrast to this, Rajkot Patola sarees are single Ikat sarees with the design dyed only along the weft. Their history is much shorter than that of Patan Patola sarees: it appears that Patola sarees began being woven in the Rajkot workshop of a weaver named Karamchand Godhamdas from the Kumbhar potter's caste in 1951 after he had worked in the Patan workshop of Laherchand Salvi. Rajkot Patola designs tend to feature not only designs seen in Patan Patola sarees but also more contemporary designs, and designs which mimic the Gharchola. They have a block-like appearance with edges that have 'bled', and are devoid of curves. There also Lagdi Patta along both borders of Rajkot Patola sarees, and, unlike Patan Patola sarees, they tend to be woven with blouse pieces attached to them.