Friday, June 11, 2010



Man is always inquisitive for silk products. SILK - The Queen of Textiles, spells luxury, elegance, class and comfort. Mankind has always loved this shimmering fibre of unparalleled grandeur from the moment Chinese Empress Shiling Ti discovered it in her tea cup. It withstood many a daunting challenges from other natural and artificial fibres and yet, remained the undisputed Queen of Textiles since centuries. Exquisite qualities

Silk Saree

like the natural sheen, inherent affinity for dyes and vibrant colours, high absorbance, light weight, resilience and excellent drape etc. have made silk, the irresistible and inevitable companion of the eve, all over the world.

Chemically speaking, silk is made of proteins secreted in the fluid state by a caterpillar, popularly known as 'silkworm'. These silkworms feed on the selected food plants and spin cocoons as a 'protective shell' to perpetuate the life. Silkworm has four stages in its life cycle viz., egg, caterpillar, pupa and moth. Man interferes this life cycle at the cocoon stage to obtain the silk, a continuous filament of commercial importance, used in weaving of the dream fabric.


Silk is a high value but low volume product accounting for only 0.2 % of world's total textile production. Silk production is regarded as an important tool for economic development of a country as it is a labour intensive and high income generating industry that churns out value added products of economic importance. The developing countries rely on it for employment generation, especially in rural sector and also as a means to earn the foreign exchange.


Geographically, Asia is the main producer of silk in the world and produces over 95 % of the total global output. Though there are over 40 countries on the world map of silk, bulk of it is produced in China and India, followed by Japan, Brazil and Korea. China is the leading supplier of silk to the world with an annual production of 153942 MT (2006).Out of Which the Mulberry raw silk product is 115092 MT.

India is the second largest producer of silk with 18475 MT (2006-07) and also the largest consumer of silk in the world. It has a strong tradition and culture bound domestic market of silk. In India, mulberry silk is produced mainly in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal, while the non-mulberry silks are produced in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa and north-eastern states.


There are five major types of silk of commercial importance, obtained from different species of silkworms which in turn feed on a number of food plants. These are:





Except mulberry, other varieties of silks are generally termed as non-mulberry silks. India has the unique distinction of producing all these commercial varieties of silk.


Mulberry: The bulk of the commercial silk produced in the world comes from this variety and often silk generally refers to mulberry silk. Mulberry silk comes from the silkworm, Bombyx mori L. which solely feeds on the leaves of mulberry plant. These silkworms are completely domesticated and reared indoors. In India, the major mulberry silk producing states are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir which together accounts for 92 % of country's total mulberry raw silk production.


Tasar: Tasar (Tussah) is copperish colour, coarse silk mainly used for furnishings and interiors. It is less lustrous than mulberry silk, but has its own feel and appeal. Tasar silk is generated by the silkworm, Antheraea mylitta which mainly thrive on the food plants Asan and Arjun. The rearings are conducted in nature on the trees in the open. In India, tasar silk is mainly produced in the states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa, besides Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Tasar culture is the main stay for many a tribal community in India.

Oak Tasar: It is a finer variety of tasar generated by the silkworm, Antheraea proyeli J. in India which feed on natural food plants of oak, found in abundance in the sub-Himalayan belt of India covering the states of Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu & Kashmir. China is the major producer of oak tasar in the world and this comes from another silkworm which is known as Antheraea pernyi.


Eri: Also known as Endi or Errandi, Eri is a multivoltine silk spun from open-ended cocoons, unlike other varieties of silk. Eri silk is the product of the domesticated silkworm, Philosamia ricini that feeds mainly on castor leaves. Ericulture is a household activity practiced mainly for protein rich pupae, a delicacy for the tribal. Resultantly, the eri cocoons are open-mouthed and are spun. The silk is used indigenously for preparation of chaddars (wraps) for own use by these tribals. In India, this culture is practiced mainly in the north-eastern states and Assam. It is also found in Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa.


Muga: This golden yellow colour silk is prerogative of India and the pride of Assam state. It is obtained from semi-domesticated multivoltine silkworm, Antheraea assamensis. These silkworms feed on the aromatic leaves of Som and Soalu plants and are reared on trees similar to that of tasar. Muga culture is specific to the state of Assam and an integral part of the tradition and culture of that state. The muga silk, an high value product is used in products like sarees, mekhalas, chaddars, etc.

Silk: Silk has been intermingled with the life and culture of the Indians. Though India is producing all the varieties of silk i.e., dress materials, scarves/stoles, readymade garments, etc., the silk sarees are unique. The saree is almost synonymous with the word silk. It is the traditional costume of Indian woman since time immemorial. There are innumerable references in Indian literature about this draped garment and the style of wearing differs from time to time, region to region and people to people. The silk sarees of India are among the living examples of the excellent craftsmanship of the weavers of the country.

Silk Sarees

The artistic and aesthetic sense of Indian weavers is not content with striking colours they choose for the fabrics, but lies in their mastery over the creation of floral designs, beautiful textures, fine geometry and the durability of such work. The weaver not only weaves with yarn but with intense feeling and emotion. In India, there are a number of silk weaving centers spread all over the country, known for their distinct and typical style and products. For Indians, particularly ladies, silk is lifeline - the elixir. Silk is always woven interwoven with way of life and culture of a region. Craftsmen all over the Indian sub-continent tried to master the weaving of sarees as exclusive as one can think of, putting motif designs, colours, pattern and versatility in them. No two sarees can be of same design left to the choice of weaver, thus there is innumerable pattern or diversity. Over the years, specific centres sprung and developed to promote a particular pattern of design / weaving and they became distinct. Some of the famous silk centers in India are as under:-


Silk centre


Andhra Pradesh

Dharmavaram, Pochampalli, Venkatagiri, Narainpet









Surat, Cambay


Jammu & Kashmir




Bangalore, Anekal, Ilkal, Molakalmuru, Melkote, Kollegal



Champa, Chanderi, Raigarh





Tamil Nadu

Kanchipuram, Arni, Salem, Kumbhakonam, Tanjavur


Uttar Pradesh



West Bengal

Bishnupur, Murshidabad, Birbhum

The Brocades of Banaras

Silk Border

Situated on the banks of the holy river Ganges, Varanasi is famous for its finest silk sarees and brocades. These sarees are known for rich and intricately woven motifs of leaf, flowers, fruits, birds, etc. on a soft colour background. They are enriched with intricate borders and heavily decorated pallus. The centre is also known for its gauzi silver and gold tissues, which are ultra light in weight and delicate. The kinkab of Banaras is legendary. It is a glittering weave of gold and silver threads. The pure silk with a touch of gold is called bafta and the finely woven brocade of variegated silk is known as Amru.

The tricks of tie and dye

The resist dyeing techniques has been practiced in India since centuries. There are two distinct traditions in this technique. The patola or ikat technique involves the dyeing of the tie-resist yarn. The bandhej or bãndhini involves the dyeing of the fabric.

The ikats of Orissa

Silk  Threads

The tie and dye weaves of Orissa known as ikats employ the yarn resist method for both warp and weft with diffused effect. But the overall pattern is boldly articulated as in confident strikes of a brush. Both mulberry and tasar silks are used in the weaving of these ikats.

The Patolas of Gujarat

The patolas are known for their precision subtlety and beauty. Here, both warp and weft are dyed by dye resist method in a range of five or six traditional colours like red, indigo, blue, emerald green, black or yellow. The exact and highly skilled process ensures that when the fabric is woven, the design will appear precisely and create a magnificently coloured and figured ground of great richness and beauty with birds, flowers, animals, dancers, etc. in a geometrically stylized perfection.

The ballet of bandhej


In bandhej or bãndhini, the finely woven fabric is knotted tightly and dyed to achieve a distinct design. The sarees, odhnis (veils) and turbans of these regions are a medley of brilliant colours. The bãndhini of Kutch is unmatched for their fineness of the minutely tied knots, the magnificence of the colours and the perfect designs.

The Tanchois of Gujarat

The tanchoi brocade was named after the three Parsi brothers called choi who learnt this art in China and introduced it to Surat. The choi brocade is usually a dark satin weave, purple or dark red in ground colour, embellished with motifs of flowers, creepers, birds all over design.

The temple silks of the South

South India is the leading silk producing area of the country also known for its famous silk weaving enclaves like Kancheepuram, Dharmavaram, Arni, etc.

While the temple towns like Kancheepuram are renowned for their magnificent heavy silk sarees of bright colours with silver or gold zari works, the centers like Bangalore and Mysore are known for their excellent printed silks.

Silk DesignSilk Design

The traditional handloom silks always score over the powerloom silks in the richness of their textures and designs, in their individuality, character and classic beauty. Handloom weaving remains a symbol of versatility and creativity of living craft. Today, Indian silks, especially the handloom products, remain the most beautiful and cherished the world over.


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