Chanderi, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, is among the most popular handloom locations in India. Chanderi is located 230 km from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It is surrounded by hills, lakes, and forests and is spotted with several monuments of the Bundela Rajputs and Malwa sultans.

And what Chanderi is it best known for? Its ancient weaving expertise that produces intricately textured cotton and silk fabrics embellished with rich zardozi work.

Let us today know some details about Chanderi sarees – the saree which mesmerizes us with its ethereal beauty. Chanderi – where history speaks to us.

The history of Chanderi dates back to the eleventh century. The first written mention of Chanderi was made by Persian historian Alberuni(973-1048). Chanderi  was ruled by the Mamluks, the Khiljis, and the Tughlaqs.

Chanderi was an important place strategically since it was used as a base for the military campaigns to the Deccan. At one time, the town was a major route for trading because of its proximity to the old ports of the Deccan and Central India (particularly Malwa).

Etymologically speaking the fabric Chanderi, received its name from a village, situated between the hills Vindhyachal in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The history of the evolution of this fabric is believed to date back to the Vedic period.

Though historical records show that Chanderi weaves have been around since the 11th century, references in Indian mythology to the Vedic period suggest that the Chanderi fabric was introduced by Lord Krishna’s cousin Shishupal.

In the year 1910, the royal Maratha clan of Shinde adorned the chanderi fabrics by getting them weaved into sarees. The embroidered motifs on those royal chanderi sarees were mostly done with gold threads. It was during this time that the weavers of chanderi enmeshed silk yarn into the cotton yarns and this fabric continued to maintain its royal hiatus throughout the Mughal era.

However, it was during the period of colonization that the Chanderi weavers suffered a huge setback with the influx of imported cheap cotton into Indian markets. Soon, the weavers overcame their loss, by discovering Japanese silk. They started combining the same with their pure cotton and also came up with a silk-by-silk weave, which made their chances better against their competitors.

In this light, the chanderi fabric is of three major kinds- the pure cotton chanderi, the silk chanderi and the cotton-silk chanderi. Unique ‘buttis’ and motifs are markers of this sophisticated fabric.

These motifs have come a long way from resembling traditional coins, floral patterns, and peacocks to geometrical patterns. Earlier original gold, silver and copper yarns were used for designing these motifs. However, with the extinction of the royal age, that practice too is a bygone one.

In contemporary times, the weavers use the weft called ‘tested Zari’ which resembles the richness of gold, silver and copper threads.

Through the passage of time – the weaving of chanderi sarees holds the mirror to various fascinating tales. Indulge yourself in the opulence of chanderi handicrafts – chanderi sarees – where history speaks itself.