QUEEN OF SILK:
The famous Patola weaving of Patan is known for its colourful geometrical pattern, which are strikingly beautiful. The unique tie and weave method of Patola results in identical patterns on both the sides of the fabric. The Patola of Patan is a unique fabric of Gujarat.
The Patola is one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. What distinguishes the Patola is the tie-and-weave method wherein the yarn is dyed in bright colours and intricate designs worked out before being woven. Today, only a few skilled weavers remain to make the Patola sarees.
THE RICH HISTORY:
The salvi silk weavers from Maharashtra and Karnataka opted to make Gujarat the home of their renowned Patola fabrics. The Salvis are said to have arrived in Patan from Maharashtra and Karnataka in the 12th century to make the most of the patronage of the Solanki Rajputs, who then ruled all of Gujarat and parts of South Rajasthan and Malva with the capital at Anahilwad Patan.
According to folklore, as many as 700 Patola weavers accompanied Raja Kumarapala to the palace of Patan, and the ruler himself wore a Patola silk robe on the occasion. After the fall of Solanki dynasty, the Salvis found patronage in the affluent Gujarati merchant, and the Patola sarees soon became a status symbol with Gujarati girls and women especially as an important part of 'stridhan' for the departing wedded daughter.
DESIGN & PATTERN:
This special variety of women's wear is strikingly attractive with its colourful geometrical patterns. This lovely silken fabric, which resembles a printed sari is not an apparel printed by blocks. Its tie and weave method resulting in identical patterns on both sides of the fabric, involving complicated calculations, is entirely based on the geometry of the design.
The process consists of dyeing the warp and the weft threads in conformity with the proposed design on the fabric. Hand-woven and silk yarn is used for weaving. The process is both costly and time consuming and the market is limited with the result that the families doing this work are fast dwindling.
The Patola of Patan is done in the double 'ikkat' style, which is perhaps the most complicated of all textiles designs in the whole world. Each fabric consists of a series of warp threads and a single weft thread, which binds the warp threads together. Each one of the warp threads is tied and dyed according to the pattern of the saree, such that the knotted portions of the thread do not catch the colours.
The result is not only a tremendous richness in colour of the fabric, but that both side of the saree look exactly alike, and can be worn either way. In fact except to an expert, a Patola looks like a piece of silk fabric, printed on both sides in the same design. The weaving is done on simple traditional handlooms, and the dyes used are made from vegetable extracts and other natural colours, which are so fast that there is a Gujarati saying that "the Patola will tear, but the colour will not fade."
A COLLECTOR'S DELIGHT:
A Patola saree takes 4 to 6 months to make, depending on how complicated the designs is. The more elaborate ones may take a weaver a whole year to complete. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they have fabulous price tags, but then it is a collector's item.
If the length is 5 or 6 metres, it can cost from Rs.50, 000/- to over Rs.100,000, a piece. Patan produces very intricate patterns worked with precision and clarity, with the characteristic geometric delineation of the design, while maintaining the soft hazy outlines, a natural effect of the technique. In an area called Sadvi Wada, you can watch the complex weaving of silk Patola saris, once the preferred garment of queens and aristocrats, and now made by just one family.
THE DISTINCT STYLES:
There were four distinct styles in the Patolas woven originally in Gujarat by the Salvi community. The double 'ikkat' sarees with all over patterns of flowers, parrots, dancing figures and elephants were used by the Jains and Hindus. For the Muslim Vora community special sarees with geometric and floral designs were woven for use during weddings.
There were also the sarees woven for the Maharashtrian Brahmins with a plain, dark-coloured body and borders with women and birds, called the Nari Kunj. There was a cloth specially woven for the traditional export markets in the Far East.
Patola is a specialty of Patan, and is famous for extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. Besides Patan, Surat is acclaimed for velvets with Patola patterns.