Arani Silk Sari
Woven using mulberry silk in the town of Arani (or Arni) in the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, Arani silk saris are traditionally single-coloured with simple body designs and a thin single-sided zari border. These originally dobby-woven saris have since evolved to take on more complex patterns in their bodies and larger, contrasting borders on both sides.
Today they may be identified by characteristics such as kottadi checks in the body or the half-and-half design in the body and pallu; border motifs such as thazhampoo, peacocks, mangoes and paisleys; and a rich colour palette, which includes reds, greens, blues, purples and yellows. Known for being light-weight, low-maintenance and durable, Arani saris are worn on ceremonial and festive occasions.
Arani silk saris can be woven on both frame and pit looms, involving a labour intensive process of meticulously picking designs by hand. Before the weaving process, however, is the preparatory phase during which the yarn is first washed, then dyed in a boiling solution of the desired colour using vegetable dyes or the more prevalent chemical dyes. The weaver continuously turns the yarn during this process, allowing for a durable and even colouration. The yarn is then washed again, dried and starched before being mounted on the loom to be woven.
Although silk weaving in Arani has traditionally been done by handloom, power looms have increasingly begun to take over, due to their relative ease of use. With the introduction of technology such as jacquard cards, designs can be transferred onto the cards which are then loaded onto the loom. This has allowed for automatic design generation, making the weaving process considerably quicker.
Arani silks now come in a variety of designs and colours, sometimes inspired by the richer saris of the neighbouring town of Kanchipuram but in a more affordable and versatile range. In 2008, Arani saris received Geographical Indication (GI) status from the Government of India for their territory-specific production and characteristics.
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