An art brought to glory by the weaving techniques of 700 families, is now sustained by only 3 of them. The families weave not just threads, but also their love and pride for their ancestral art: Double Ikat Patola Silk.
History of Patola
Patola, or ‘Pattakulla’, meaning ‘Silk Cloth’ in Sanskrit, boasts an opulent history. Many say that it started a war that led to the dethroning of a king. The tale goes back to 1175 AD, when the Solanki Rajputs were ruling parts of Western India. King Kumarpal, a follower of Jainism, would insist on wearing only pure Patola Silk everyday, especially for temple events or festivities.
During one such temple visit, the King was stopped and barred from entering as he was deemed ‘impure’. On inquiry, it was found that the Patola Silk, exported from Jalanpur and crafted by the Salvi weavers, was being used as bed sheets for the King of Jalanpur before being exported. Enraged and humiliated, King Kumarpal attacked the King of Jalanpur and defeated him. About 700 weavers of the Salvi caste then relocated to Patan and found employment in King Kumarpal’s court.
Over the years, this silk has been mentioned in various pieces of literature, including the Ramayana, Narsinha Puran, South Indian Texts, and more.
(Sourced From The reDiscovery Project)
Weaving of Patola
These sarees are double ikat woven sarees, usually in silk, and are entirely handcrafted. It often takes up to 6 months for 3 weavers to create one sari. A well-crafted double ikat saree makes it almost impossible to distinguish between the front and back, even for the weavers.
Double Ikat weaving involves dying both warp and weft, which means that the slightest discrepancy can ruin the entire design. Double Ikat Patola weaving uses no computers or machines, and are crafted entirely by dedication, mathematical calculation, and precision. The dyes used are usually natural dyes, which ensures that the colour stays for almost 80 years.
The hard work and time invested, along with extraction of natural dyes and the tenacity of the cloth make the cloth highly expensive. This is why this cloth is worn mainly by the rich, noble, and royal. A genuine double ikat Patola silk item is usually passed from generation to generation, as an heirloom.
Commercial Patola Silk
Due to an imbalance between wanting the cloth and its price, many weavers in the market have come out with more affordable options. Though still expensive, the variations are well woven and crafted, given the restraints.
The best variation is the Single Ikat Patola silk cloth, which requires less precision and time, making it ideal for the commercial market. These are still handcrafted, and may even use natural dyes. These can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete.
(Sourced From Parisera)
Sustained largely by only three families in Patan, this craft of weaving has gained more popularity in the past few decades. With the introduction of commercial patola silk, the demands for genuine Patola shawls and sarees have grown two-fold.
Borrowing inspiration from the nature and culture surrounding the weavers, the patterns and motifs of this craft vary from location to location. However, the value and pride attached to each completed piece of creation remains the same everywhere.