L for Leheriya

There is this one, forgettable phase of my life when I was in college. I was heavily into learning  palmistry. Armed with books by Cheiro and a magnifying glass, I would read my own palm, pretty much every day and tried to correlate my life with the length and shape of the lines on my palm. I would discuss my ‘discoveries’ with a bunch of interested and skeptical friends. It was fun and got me some attention. A steady stream of young girls and boys, mainly my juniors would  come up to me asking questions about their future. I recall this one funny question a girl asked me; “Will me husband’s name begin with ‘N’”. After studying her palm I had said “Yes”. This girl almost threw me down with her hug.

Just like good things, even silly things come to an end. This phase, thankfully, did not last. Science had spoken. Soon the idea of lines on the palm being able to foretell the future seemed ridiculous and I got bored.

Now even though many many years have passed since that phase, I cannot help but sneak a peek at someone’s palm every once in a while to make some wild guesses by looking at some tell-tale lines. She may start her career in a foreign land. Or here is someone actively involved in some form of social work. There, I have said it. My little secret is now out on the world-wide-web.

Now look at these long lovely lines on the Leheriya saree. I know enough about tell-tale lines to easily predict one thing – you will fall in love with these sarees after you have completed reading the next two paragraphs. How’s that for fortune telling?  😉

A royal blue Leheriya. Notice the irregular lines. Clearly an indication of a hand-made product.

A royal blue Leheriya. Notice the irregular lines. Clearly an indication of a hand-made product.

A Leheriya is a simple saree with lines that run diagonally across the body of the saree. Wow! The Leheriya saree is similar to the Bandhani, i.e. like the Bandhani, the Leheriya is also made using the tie-and-dye technique.

When pleated, Leheriyas create interesting patterns

When pleated, Leheriyas create interesting patterns

I am not sure how the Leheriya originated as an idea. But it was most likely around when the Bandhani saree came about i.e. 7th century. While the Bandhani saree has patterns created from a bunch of dots, the Leheriya has wave-like pattern formation made from zig-zag lines that run across the saree.

Sometimes the lines run twice across each other, one set of lines originating from one end and one set originating from the opposite end. This creates a cool pattern where instead of square checks you get to see rhombus checks in the saree.

A black Georgette with fuschia lines running through. A classic Leheriya.

A black Georgette with fuschia lines running through. A classic Leheriya.

Leheriyas owe all their characteristics to their place of origin. Bright colours, like fuschia, parrot greens, sunny yellows, bright reds, daring blacks and pure whites combined with lines of different contrasting colours are reminiscent of the joyous brightness of Rajasthan.  Today, ombre shades rule the colouring styles of Leheriyas. The fabric used for creating them – thin, soft and light – suitable for harsh summers in Rajasthan. That’s why you will find most Leheriyas are Georgettes, Kota Dorias, Chiffons, Muls and Silks.

A splendid Georgette Leheriya. Image courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

A splendid Georgette Leheriya. Image courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

A splendid Georgette Leheriya. Image courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

A splendid Georgette Leheriya. Image courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

If you examine a Leheriya closely you may notice a certain irregularity or a sort of an imperfection in the continuity of the lines that run across the saree. This very imperfection, which occurs every once in a while can be the proof of the saree being an authentic hand-made tie-and-dye.

A splendid Georgette Leheriya. Image courtesy and copyright www.jaypore.com

A splendid Georgette Leheriya. Image courtesy and copyright http://www.jaypore.com

Although I own a couple of Leheriyas, I have not found the perfect one – you know the fabric, colour, the spacing of the lines – where it all comes together to make that one delectable saree that you reach out for every time. And I must add here that the joy of searching and waiting for that perfect saree is as much as the joy of owning one.

I wish today that I could look at the long lines of the Leheriya saree and predict not just its future but the future of the hand-woven saree. If you have read up until this point of the post, you are most likely an ardent saree lover who already knows that the Handlooms Reservation Act of 1985 may be repealed. If this act is indeed repealed, power loom owners will be able to produce hand woven design en masse at cheaper rates thus putting handloom weavers out of their livelihoods.

Well… I cannot predict the future of the handloom sarees – what I can hope for however is that you fall in love with the soft, slinky and flirty Leheriya saree of Rajasthan. If you don’t have one, please go out there and buy one, a hand-made one. It seems that the Leheriya seems to be crooning a la Jagjit Singh:

“Apne haathon ki lakeeron mein basa le mujhko

”Main hoon tera toh naseeb apna bana le mujhko”

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K for Kalakshetra

This is a placeholder post. Let me explain. When I started writing this blog – I knew a fair bit about the sarees I owned. I had worn and experienced their beauty and could write about them. My quest for authentic information about them led me to discover more sarees. Of all the discoveries I made, the most stunning was about the beautiful Kalakshetra saree.

When I read about this saree, almost 6 months ago, I began a frantic search for images and some more authentic information. None of my earlier sources were of help. I could not even find a suitable image – leave alone buy one.

Now I have reached K and this is where the Kalakshetra saree belongs. And here I am – without any images, without any new or exciting information. And so a placeholder post.

Based on what I have read so far, this saree deserves a special spotlight of its own. The Kalakshetra saree, based on the rich Southern weaving legacy, revived by the eminent Rukmini Devi Arundale. It is said that its weave and design is so rich, intricate and pure, that it deserved a new and distinct identity. Hence the Kalakshetra saree is a saree type in its own right.

The story of the Kalakshetra saree and its maker are both very inspiring. Let me begin with Rukmini Devi Arundale. Her name needs no introduction. An eminent person of great beauty, intellect, talent and grace, she crossed boundaries of her own art, dance, to enhance other art forms. According to Wikipedia, Rukmini Devi was an Indian theosophist, dancer and choreographer of the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam and an activist for animal rights and welfare.

Way back in the 1930s, Rukmini Devi Kalakshetra, an academy of dance and music, built around the ancient Indian  Gurukul system in Chennai. The sole purpose of this academy was the preservation and revival of traditional arts and crafts of India. Read more about this here.

Our interest is the Kalamkari (pencraft) center. The Kalamkari unit was set up to breathe life into the ancient  Indian craft of textile printing. Some of the sarees that were designed by Rukmini Devi herself are today preserved in the museum at the Kalakshetra centre. I have read that the use of colours, the use of motifs, it is all exquisite.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to access any other information from anywhere. So till such time, this is a placeholder.

Sources:

http://www.kalakshetra.in/craft_history.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rukmini_Devi_Arundale