A for Ashavali

Alright alright so I did not know that Ahmedabad was at one time called the Manchester of India. So what? Save the raised eyebrows and face palms for another day. Let me pose you a question: Do you know what Ahmedabad was called way back in early 15t century (long before it was called the ‘Manchester’ of India)?

No, not Karnavati. It was called Ashavali. And the gorgeousness we are talking about today, born in that region, is the lovely Ashavali saree.

A black silk Ashavali brocade saree. Image courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

A black silk Ashavali brocade saree. Image courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

A black silk Ashavali brocade saree. Image courtesy and copyrigh www.jaypore.com

A black silk Ashavali brocade saree. Image courtesy and copyrigh http://www.jaypore.com

In early fifteenth century when Ahmed Shah took over the region now called Ahmedabad, it was called Ashavali, named after the Bhil tribal king who ruled that region.

I may have seen an Ashavali saree, I cannot be sure. My folks in Ahmedabad though love it and talk about it all the time. It is considered the pride of Ahmedabad, as much as Kanjeevaram is the pride of Tamil Nadu. This saree is popular as the ‘Ahmedabad vanat’ (woven) saree holds a place of pride in the bridal trousseau and is sometimes worn by the bride for her wedding reception too.

An Ashavali brocade in silk, in typical colours. Image courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

An Ashavali brocade in silk, in typical colours. Image courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

The saree looks characteristically like a Benarasi Brocade, and is even called an Ahmedabadi Brocade at times. The difference lies in the way the butis of the Ashavali look embossed, giving it a three-dimensional effect. And here’s why. You already know that the when yarn is woven into cloth, the yarn running lengthwise or longitudinally is called the warp. The yarn running across the breadth, running from right to left, is called the weft. And that was a memory aid for you – right to left is called the weft.  So coming back to the Ashavali butis, they are woven in the warp unlike in other sarees where it woven in the weft.

A close-up of butis of an Ashavali brocade. Image courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

A close-up of butis of an Ashavali brocade. Image courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

The Ashavali sarees of yore were woven with pure zari, and were heavy in weight. The zari used today of course is not real, making the saree much lighter in weight and thus easy to drape and carry. Even with the faux zari, the Ashavali looks rich – like it is covered with a silken sheen – because of its twill weave. A twill weave according to Wikipedia has warps and weft crossing each other diagonally. Here is an image of a 2×2 twill weave.

A Wikipedia image showing the characteristic 'twill' - used in an Ashavali that gives its butis a 3-D effect

A Wikipedia image showing the characteristic ’twill’ – used in an Ashavali that gives its butis a 3-D effect

Look at this image (taken from Wikipedia) and scroll your screen. You will know what I mean. The feeling you get is that the image is a sheen-like cover. With a weave like this in a saree, it creates a dazzling effect when the saree is worn and shows movement. Wonderful I tell you, simply wonderful!

This saree, like many others on this blog, has a rich history that I feel privileged to share with you. Like I said, The Mughal general Ahmed Shah from Shah Jahan’s regime established Mughal rule in Ashavali region in early fifteenth insurance. The saree was commissioned around the same time and as such it pre-dates the Benarasi saree.

The famous Solanki weavers of fame from Patan were invited to create a new saree for the women of the palace. It is believed that Hindu and Muslim weavers. The influence of both communities was equal and evident in the use of motifs – human figures, temples, floral and animal motifs like elephants, peacocks and parrots in plenty.

The importance of the makers was as distinct as the product itself. For a long time the Ashavali saree represented the unity and peace between the artist weavers of both community. Although, it is said that in recent times, the Ashavali is mainly woven only by Muslim weavers.

One more close-up image. Courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

One more close-up image. Courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

This post is way out of the alphabet sequence because I really did not have the pictures, the information or the experience based on which I could write. The other obstacle I faced is that this saree is quite unheard of, even in premium saree shops in my city. Well, it’s a tad ambitious to hope that my post will bring about any change in the fame quotient of this saree, but hope is eternal right?

I am under a self-oath of not buying any saree till such time I have completed the A-Z series on my sarees. When I am nit repenting this oath, I fantasize about the time I will actually start buying sarees – and I think I will begin with this one. You, on the other hand, free from such terrible oaths can buy one right away! Go buy!

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