She wanted to be dignified. So cotton was made. She wanted to be special. So silk was made. She wanted to be celebratory. So gold was made. And then, she wanted it all at the same time. So the Gadwal saree was made.
The glorious but understated Gadwal saree is a love triangle between cotton, silk and gold where the only heart that breaks is of the one who cannot have the saree.
The Gadwal is a pure cotton saree filled with small self or gold checks.
The saree body usually has a pale neutral colour like beige, tan, off-white or even white with a border and a pallu of a contrast colour. The border and pallu also come embellished with gold or zari brocade work of varying detail. The pallu of a Gadwal may be filed with heavy brocade but is usually quite small, just a little more than a foot long.
This saree comes in exciting body-border combinations, with gold being a standard on all. You have white and black, off-white and maroon, beige and pink, black and pink, off-white and bright green, light-blue and dark-royal blue and whew! There are too many to list. Even though I own quite a few Gadwals, I do enjoy browsing these sarees in shops just to see if I can spot a unique or unusual combination.
Sometimes a border may have two-tones. Just thinking of the colour combination possibilities fills me with glee and a hmmpphh…because I know I can never have them all.
The border and pallu are made of pure silk and sometimes even cotton-silk. The border is stitched on, or woven to the body in a manner in pretty much the same way as a Kanjeevaram border is woven a silk saree. The place where the order joins the body leaves a distinct wavy line which is often seen in a Kanjeevaram as well. This technique of interlocking the border and body is called ‘kupadam’. Sometimes the Gadwal is also called a ‘kupadam’ saree locally in Andhra Pradesh where it is made.
The brocade patterns on the border are influenced by the traditional stone and wood carving of the Gadwal area in the Telangana region from where these sarees hail. The ‘hansa’ or mythical swan, the ‘youli’ or lion or the double-headed eagle are popular motifs. One of my sarees luckily has the ‘hansa’.
Other popular border motifs are a paisley, a temple or a peacock. Sometimes these motifs are geometric.
In recent times I have seen Gadwals that come with longer, heavily brocaded pallus and even small or large butis all over the body. It is even possible to find a Gadwal made of silk and not just cotton. Now when a saree departs from its definition so much, it is difficult to tell it apart from other types of sarees and then you’re left with just the shopkeeper’s word. That said a pure, real Gadwal would essentially be cotton body with self or gold checks and a silk border with gold brocade work on it.
The Gadwal saree hails from Gadwal, in the Mahbubnagar district in Telangana in Andhra Pradesh. And I think this is the place where I must mention that Gadwal town of Andhra Pradesh must not be confused with Garhwal of Uttarakhand. Garhwal is the name of a region up North of India while Gadwal is a small town or mandala in Mahbubnagar (also called Raichur earlier). This town is known for its traditional, highly skilled weaving. Like is the case for many other sarees I have written about in this blog, this saree too came into being after being commissioned and patronized by the royal family of Gadwal.
This saree has been my favourite for a long time. It’s the ideal saree for a wedding when you don’t want to be too overdressed. It is ideal for wearing at a pooja ceremony or any other traditional family event. The cotton body lends comfort in the predominantly warm climate conditions of India and the silk and brocade border lends the saree its festiveness. Such a thoughtful saree!
And while I am hovering on the alphabet G and in the state of Andhra Pradesh, I must mention another local staple here – G for Guntur. The Guntur saree is made in, well you guessed it, Guntur, a city in Andhra Pradesh. Guntur, most known for growing one of the spiciest types of chilies available in India is also known for producing some of the finest cotton. This cotton goes into making a Guntur saree, also sometimes called the dance saree.
The Guntur cotton saree fine as it may be is also very sturdy. Its only embellishments are a body which may have lines or checks and a distinctive pallu – again with woven lines. The same weave is found on the border of the saree which may or may not be in high contrast with the body. Sometimes the body of the saree may have sparse, small woven butis all over.
So how can you say whether you are looking at a Guntur saree? Well for one, Guntur sarees are the daily staple fare in Andhra Pradesh and not popular in other states or cities. And the other most distinctive feature of a Guntur saree is that this saree has the most well behaved cotton weave ever. Those who struggle while wearing a cotton saree which has a mind of its own will know what I am saying. The cotton is superfine without being too diaphanous and is blissfully easy to drape.
The Guntur saree was one my mother-in-law loved and any trip to Hyderabad I made was usually preceded by a request for the Guntur saree. She loved the feel of the cotton and the colours – always very warm and earthy. Just the way she was.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Although every saree I own and write about is my favourite but there is one which can be called ‘the first among equals’. That is for my next post. And let me add that I am not done with the alphabet G yet, in case you want to take a shot at guessing what that saree is.
Copyright: All photographs in this post are the copyright of Punam Medh unless stated otherwise. These photographs are not available for use for any other purpose to anyone.