Thursday, August 31, 2017

All about making and buying of Kanchipuram / Kanjeevaram silk sarees.

KANCHIPURAM SILK SAREE WEAVING – VIDEO:
This article; on the most popular and grand silk saree, the Kanchipuram saree which is also known as Kanjeevaram saree is based on my interaction with the weavers and salesmen you see in the attached photographs and video (and also information researched on internet). Its popularity and grandeur is known to all Indian women here and abroad and some foreigners too love and own them. But few may know how it is made and how to pick the best, hence this article. I sincerely hope this blog post would be helpful to you in understanding the making of this saree and buying the best.
Every Kanchipuram silk saree is made from one of the world’s most superior silks. Hand woven from pure mulberry silk, a single saree takes almost a week to finish and some intricate designs even more. The saree you see being weaved in the attached photographs will take 20 days to weave on a daily working of eight hours and would cost Rs. 26,000. Coming back to the making of the saree, the silk yarn, after careful extraction, is dyed in richest of colors and weaved with the zari. First the yarn is washed and then dipped in the required color which is in a boiler and the worker goes on turning the yarn so that the color is evenly mixed in the yarn. The most important aspect in this process is the mixing of colors which will give unique and durable color to the fabric. Then it is again washed and dried. These yarns are then starched. Starching of the yarn is where the color in the yarn will get more permanent nature and gives the yarn a polished look. The silk used in Kanchipuram saree is of the finest quality, one that is not cut or broken.
Pure gold and silver is used to create the zari in a Kanchipuram saree. The cost of a saree largely depends on the amount and the purity of the zari. The art of creating the perfect zari is relatively unknown – only a handful of families possess the knowledge of zari making. Though this makes a Kanchipuram all the more covetable, it also makes acquiring zaris quite challenging. Essentially, the ‘zari’ is a silk thread, twisted with a thin silver wire and then gilded with gold, is interleaved with the silk weave to create the designs or motifs on the saree. Most of the zaris used today come from Surat in Gujarat State. The genuineness of the zaris is checked in specialized Testing Centers in Kanchipuram itself. By custom, 1 Kg of zari would have approximately 500 grams of pure silver, around 5-5 1/2 grams. of gold. But now a days the quantity of pure metal used is lesser – only 420 to 470 grams of silver and 3 to 3.5 grams of gold. This practice enhances the beauty and the value of the silk, as it contains gold and silver in it. And it also has a resale value for the same reason.
The width of any regular saree, even a silk saree, is a standard 45 inches; but the Kanchipuram saree is typically much broader, around 48 inches and the standard length is 6 yards and more with the blouse piece included. The specialty of Kanchipuram saree is that the silk yarn is “double warp”, that means; each “thread” is actually made up of three single threads twisted together. Also, because of the pure mulberry silk used for these threads Kanchipuram sarees are renowned for their texture, luster, durability and finish – thus making a Kanchipuram saree much stronger and more expensive than its counterparts from Dharmavaram and other places. A regular Kanchipuram saree weighs between 500 grams and 1 kg, because of the intricate weave using “double warp” thread, the broader width, and the pure, gold-dipped zari. All these factors have together given Kanchipuram sarees an enviable reputation for weight, size and durability.
Sky-high wages due to lack of skilled artisans/weavers and the sky rocketing cost of silver and gold has already pushed the price range to 6,000 – 60,000; and it is rising higher by the day. But no Indian wedding is complete without it – especially a south Indian one. It is also a hot favorite for women during festival seasons – it being customary to wear them during poojas and while visiting temples. These sarees are now shipped abroad in huge lots to meet the demands of the ever growing Indian and Indian product loving population overseas. The bottom line is, whether in India or abroad – the soaring prices of the Kanchipuram sarees are met with an equal amount of purchasing power!
The Kanchipuram weavers are in this profession by tradition. The very first weavers called by the Chola king, Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014 CE), to weave these sarees, were chosen for their sheer talent on a loom. And for centuries now, this skill has been handed down from one generation to the next, with great care and diligence. There are no explanations, theories, or trainings for weaving. It is an art that was inherited, taught by the elders, and honed only by practice, creativity and vision. Kanchipuram sarees are weaved using the Korvai technique. A Korvai saree’s border and pallu are of the same color, and are in bright contrast to the “body”. Weavers use the ancient craft of three-shuttle weaving and interlocking weft to achieve this effect. The saree is ornamented with pure gold zari. The motifs are inspired from nature and temple sculptures — religion, architecture. Weaving a Kanchipuram is tedious but the Korvai technique makes it one of a kind, and stamps it with splendor and durability.
Kanchipuram sarees are registered and patented. What is made in Kanchi district is still a Kanchipuram or Kanjeevarm saree, if it exhibits features (weight, amount of metal, traditional designs) defined by the Geographical Indication Act. The handloom label indicates that the product benefits a weaver, as these days power loom weaving is taking over the traditional hand weaving and what once was an art is getting more and more commercialized and commoditized. As per Geographical Indication (GI) label, a Kanchipuram saree should have 57% silver and 0.6% gold in the Zari. The Tamil Nadu State government has relaxed this ruling to 40% silver and 0.5% gold. GI label adds to the Kanchipuram’s authenticity and helps maintain its standard, especially when sold in global markets.
The times have changed, and the Kanchipuram sarees have also undergone a transformation of sorts. Designs are now available, with embroidery or even crystal work done on the traditional silk saree, in every shade and combination imaginable.
Having read all this, next time or first time you intend to buy a Kanchipuram silk saree make sure you pick the very best by following these points:
- Insist on the Kanchipuram/Kanjeevaram label
- Check the weight and the width of the saree
- Ask for a genuine hand-woven six yards saree
- Look for the GI label
And if you still have doubts you could take a silk thread out of the saree and burn it. If it turns to ashes it is pure silk and if it melts it is fake.
Keep this check list in mind when you go Kanchipuram saree shopping, and you definitely won’t go wrong!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Adiyogi – A grand reintroduction.






You can see in the attached pictures the huge, Adiyogi, Lord Shiva Statue, which we visited yesterday, 28th August 2017. It is a 112 feet (34 mtr.) tall Statue. It is located near the Isha Yoga Complex / Center; close to Coimbatore city, in Tamil Nadu State. It is designed by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a great yogi, mystic, philosopher, poet, author and founder of the Isha Foundation. It was built by the Isha Foundation and weighs around 500 tonnes. The Statue is made of Steel. It was designed over a period of two years and was manufactured in eight months.  As per Sadhguru the height of the Statue at 112 feet symbolizes the 112 possibilities to attain Moksha (liberation) that are mentioned in Yogic culture and it also represents the 112 Chakras in the human system. Sadhguru said that the statue is for inspiring and promoting yoga, and is named Adiyogi, which means “the first yogi”, because Lord Shiva is known as the originator of Yoga.
Adiyogi Shiva Statue was inaugurated on 24th February 2017, by our Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. The Adiyogi Statue has been recognized as the “Largest Bust Sculpture” by the Guinness World Records.


Here is a vivid narration from Sadhguru, a look at the being who introduced yoga to humankind, the Adiyogi, the first yogi.
Sadhguru: In the yogic culture, Shiva is not known as a God, but as the Adiyogi or the first yogi – the originator of yoga. He was the one who first put this seed into the human mind. According to the yogic lore, over fifteen thousand years ago, Shiva attained to his full enlightenment and abandoned himself in an intense ecstatic dance upon the Himalayas. When his ecstasy allowed him some movement, he danced wildly. When it became beyond movement, he became utterly still.
People saw that he was experiencing something that nobody had known before, something that they were unable to fathom. Interest developed and people came wanting to know what this was. They came, they waited and they left because the man was oblivious to other people’s presence. He was either in intense dance or absolute stillness, completely uncaring of what was happening around him. Soon, everyone left…except for seven men.
These seven people were insistent that they must learn what this man had in him, but Shiva ignored them. They pleaded and begged him, “Please, we want to know what you know.” Shiva dismissed them and said, “You fools, the way you are, you are not going to know in a million years. There is a tremendous amount of preparation needed for this. This is not entertainment.”
So they started preparing. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, they prepared. Shiva just chose to ignore them. On a full moon day, after eighty-four years of sadhana, when the solstice had shifted from the summer solstice to the winter solstice – which in this tradition is known as Dakshinayana – the Adiyogi looked at these seven people and saw that they had become shining receptacles of knowing. They were absolutely ripe to receive. He could not ignore them anymore. They grabbed his attention.
He watched them closely for the next few days and when the next full moon rose, he decided to become a Guru. The Adiyogi transformed himself into the Adi Guru; the first Guru was born on that day which is today known as Guru Purnima. On the banks of Kanti Sarovar, a lake that lies a few kilometers above Kedarnath, he turned South to shed his grace upon the human race, and the transmission of the yogic science to these seven people began. The yogic science is not about a yoga class that you go through about how to bend your body – which every new born infant knows – or how to hold your breath – which every unborn infant knows. This is the science of understanding the mechanics of the entire human system.
After many years, when the transmission was complete, it produced seven fully enlightened beings – the seven celebrated sages who are today known as the Saptarishis, and are worshipped and admired in Indian culture. Shiva put different aspects of yoga into each of these seven people, and these aspects became the seven basic forms of yoga. Even today, yoga has maintained these seven distinct forms.
The Saptarishis were sent in seven different directions to different parts of the world to carry this dimension with which a human being can evolve beyond his present limitations and compulsions. They became the limbs of Shiva, taking the knowing and technology of how a human being can exist here as the Creator himself, to the world. Time has ravaged many things, but when the cultures of those lands are carefully looked at, small strands of these people’s work can be seen, still alive. It has taken on various colors and forms, and has changed its complexion in a million different ways, but these strands can still be seen.
The Adiyogi brought this possibility that a human being need not be contained in the defined limitations of our species. There is a way to be contained in physicality but not to belong to it. There is a way to inhabit the body but never become the body. There is a way to use your mind in the highest possible way but still never know the miseries of the mind. Whatever dimension of existence you are in right now, you can go beyond that – there is another way to live. He said, “You can evolve beyond your present limitations if you do the necessary work upon yourself.” That is the significance of the Adiyogi.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Hidden Castle! Is most enjoyable!







Enjoyed yesterday, 20th August 2017, a daylong stay at the Hidden Castle! Every moment was joyous for our group of twenty, right from the time our journey started! The Castle and the vast greenery all around us and even under our feet was a feast to our senses.
There was plenty of entertainment at the Castle, that which was available there – adventurous, playful and magical and the entertainment pre-planned and enjoyed on our own. Every single moment was fun. With so much activity we obviously craved for food and it was available there in plenty and to our entire satisfaction.
As a bonus the weather was most pleasant for an outing with cool breeze throughout the day. Though monsoon season is in full swing in this area for the past few days, it has not played spoilsport with us today.
Thanks to my brother-in-law, Sri. K. Niranjan who sponsored this wonderful trip.
Here are some photographs and three videos to give you a glimpse of our memorable expedition to the Hidden Castle and this post is also for recording it into my journal – my blog!

































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