Chanderi Sari: 700 years of history and a traditional handloom icon of India - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Chanderi Sari: 700 years of history and a traditional handloom icon of India

Shopping for the famous sarees of Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh

It is among some of the finest weaves of India. It was loved by the ladies from the royal houses of Baroda, Indore, Gwalior and Nagpur. It is as famous and as big a traditional handloom icon as the Patola sarees of Gujarat, the Benarsi Saree of Uttar Pradesh, the Kanjeevaram Pattu of Tamil Nadu, the Muga silk sarees of Assam, the Mysore Silks of Karnataka or the Kasavu sarees from Kerala. I am talking about the famous Chanderi sarees of Madhya Pradesh that have more than 700 years of weaving history and that are one of top heritage destinations to visit in Madhya Pradesh.

The Chanderi saris, which are among the finest in the country are produced from a mix of cotton and silk, which gives it its unique texture and feel. Embellished with beautiful motifs of coins, buds, peacocks, geometric designs and gold zari border, these sarees originated sometime in the 13th century even though the weaving culture dates back to the 2nd century CE.

The birth of the Chanderi saree might have taken place at the hand of a Koshti weaver when they were employed as the royal weavers of the land. But, its evolution might have happened on multiple fronts. The continuous change of royalty (Bundelkhand, Malwa, Mughals), the consistent trade that took place in Chanderi during the medieval times (Malwa, Medwa, Central India, Southern Gujarat, etc.)) and finally, the involvement of Mughal designs when this handloom most probably reached its zenith have all played a part in its journey.

A portrait of a Chanderi saree weaver

Today, the Chanderi weave and designs are used by every saree designer house in the country and are a hot favorite across all saree shops. They have been known to also include modern design elements too. But, even today, you can get your hands on a traditional Chanderi saree woven by a traditional weaver of Chanderi. The traditional handlooms have been slightly modernized and new jacquards can be found above the traditional looms due to the state and central government’s help, but the skills, designs and weaves are still classic Chanderi as the weaving knowledge has been passed on for generations and kept alive and kicking.

You can not only buy such traditional sarees at Chanderi, but you can see them in close action and may be even interact with the weavers too. And once you are done with your saree shopping in Chanderi, you can also explore the various heritage sites of this once bustling kingdom of traders and merchants.

And just so you know, these traditional weavers of Chanderi not only make only saris, but also stoles, shawls, bedsheets, table cloths, wall hangings and many more. Do pay a visit to experience one of India’s best traditional handicrafts.

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Bhopal international airport, about 219 kms away. It should take you about 4 to 5 hours to reach Chanderi from Bhopal.

The nearest railway station would be Lalitpur (40 kms away), but Jhansi railway station (about 110 kms away) might offer better connectivity and pan-India coverage.

Good roads connect Chanderi with most of Madhya Pradesh. Buses, taxis and self drive rentals can easily help you cover this journey.

Iconic sarees of Chanderi available in different colors and designs

Best season to visit:

Chanderi is open all year round, but the heat of the summer months can be a bit oppressive. The monsoon months of July through September give a totally different character to this heritage town.

Getting a closer look at the Chanderi saree weaving industry

Where to shop:

There are many authentic saree shops in Chanderi, but if you wish to see the traditional looms and the weavers weaving these sarees, the place to visit is the ‘Handlooms Park’ that is tucked a little bit away from the main town. A lot of different master weavers have their own facilities and shops here. Apart from buying sarees, stoles or shawls, you can also place individual orders here.

Note: Cash is much preferred as the mode of payment. Mobile payment options are available, but internet connectivity can be patchy. Card payments are not available at this point in time, but could be available in the near future.

The traditional saree of Chanderi in the making

Where to stay:

There are only 4 or 5 good properties to stay in Chanderi. Out of these, I would recommend Kila Kothi run by Madhya Pradesh tourism for their location and food. Hotel Shri Kunj and Tana Bana are other good accommodation options in the town.

Where to eat:

There is a property run by Madhya Pradesh called Kila Kothi and it is located on the top of Chanderi Fort. The food here is absolutely lip smacking and the views of the Chanderi old town from here are spectacular.

There are a few other simple options in Chanderi town. You can try those if you just wish for a quick bite.

The saree weavers of Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh

Other tourist attractions in Chanderi:

1) Chanderi museum – A great place to see the artefacts from the Bundela and Malwa era

2) Kaati Ghati – is a gate cut out of rock mountain in a single night. It links the route between Bundelkhand and Malwa and doesn’t have a door

3) Badal Mahal Darwaza – is a 100 feet high singular structure of a gate that was constructed by the King of Malwa in the 15th century

4) Chanderi Fort – is a vast Mughal fort that commands a lovely view of the old town of Chanderi

5) Jama Masjid – is a 15th century mosque with beautiful carvings and that is located right opposite the Badal Mahal Darwaza

6) The village of Chanderi - that is full of ancient alleys and beautiful temples and that is the shooting location of popular Bollywood movies like Stree and Sui Dhaga

A Chanderi weaver and the saree that he is weaving

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The medieval Bundelkhand kingdom of Orchha – 108 kms

2) 5th century rock-cut cave temples at Udaygiri – 159 kms

2) the 3rd century BCE UNESCO World Heritage site of Sanchi Stupa – 166 kms

3) The UNESCO world heritage site and the erotica temples of Khajuraho – 229 kms

4) The largest Shiva linga at Bhojpur – 243 kms

5) Bhopal, the city of lakes and that were ruled famously by the begums – 214 kms

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