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Tie and Dye

Tie-dye, Bandhani, Shibori

Tie and Dye: Patola Silks of Gujarat

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The traditional patola is a double-ikat silk, with intricate five-colour designs resist dyed into both warp and weft threads before weaving. In the patola both warp and weft is resist dyed in a manner that, when woven, the elements of patterns on warp and weft mesh completely and perfectly. A slight ‘run-on’ in texture – a flame effect – is often there, though in a pure patola this ‘run-on’ should be almost imperceptible.

The term ‘patola’ possibly derives ‘from the Sanskrit pattakula meaning a silk fabric’. The patola is considered an extremely auspicious sari. Traditionally the wedding sari of the women of Kathiawar, the patola is regionally concentrated in western India, in the state of Gujarat, where it is traced back to the thirteenth century. ‘The patola is worn by Brides from rich Bhatia and Brahmin families of Gujarat and by expectant mothers during the simanta ceremony, marking the seventh month of pregnancy. Scraps of the patola are preserved and revered by poorer families as having sacred properties.’

Earlier the patola was woven in Ahmedabad, Surat, Cambay and Patan in Gujarat; Jalna in Maharashtra; and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh. It was also a highly esteemed fabric in South East Asia – in Bali and the Malay Archipelago – where it was used in court, ceremonial, and ritual occasions. Now the traditional patola is made only in Patan by a few Salvi families, the traditional weavers of the patola.

The ‘distinctive, repetitive, often geometric designs [of the patola] fall into three types’:

  1. Purely geometric forms (e.g.: the navratana bhat or nine-jewel design)
  2. Floral & vegetal patterns (e.g.: the pan bhat or pan-leaf design/ chabbdi
    Bhat
    or flower-basket design)
  3. Designs depicting forms (nari or woman/ kunjar or elephant/ popat or
    parrot)

The colours are of the earth, of stones.
The modern patola often has the designs are created in the weft threads only. This is less labour intensive and hence less expensive.

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