Kanchipuram. Kanjivaram. Kancheevaram……..
India is a land of a thousand weaves: native to land, specific to region, linked to caste and community, and patronized by its local people for centuries.
Why is the Kanchipuram weave special?
If you ask people they will talk about the weight of the saree, its thread count. About its murukku pettu or three-ply silk which is twisted together for additional strength.
They will talk about how elegant it looks with infinite permutations and combinations between body, border and pallu. But more than anything else, they will use the word korvai. Which begs the question: what is korvai?
The etymology of the Tamil term korvai reveals that the technique is characterized by a “unity”and “opposition” of elements. “Korthu vaanguthal,” means to unite disparate elements, which in this case are the borders and the body of the saree. This means that two weavers work in tandem to weave such a saree.
In her paper, “Kanchipuram saree: design for auspiciousness,” Aarti Kawlra says, “The korvai design of opposed borders “joined” to the main body of the saree, it will be seen, mirrors the cultural value expressed in the Tamil term for auspiciousness, raasi, also viewed as involving the conjunction of opposed elements.”