National Handloom Day 2023 – Mysore Silk Saree

We were in Mysore for a few days in May 2023. I realised that the famed GI tagged Mysore Silk is actually a powerloom product, not handloom. Mysore’s Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV brought back 32 power looms from Switzerland. In 1912, he built a silk production factory in Mysore using these equipments.

The same machines are used even now to produce the GI tagged Mysore Silk and there is a KSIC factory showroom selling the authentic stuff. We visited but were unable to catch the attention of a single sales person as its a tiny showroom and lots of ladies jostling to buy a saree. I decided to postpone my purchase and instead visited the Priyadarshini Handloom store.

Well, I was in for a happy surprise there. The showroom is not much to look at, but they have genuine silk mark and handloom mark sarees. I discovered the durable and lovely Mysore printed silk sarees here. Priyadarshini is the retail face of Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation (KHDC).

There was a long time customer at the outlet when we visited and she told Amma that every year she buys a dozen sarees, some for her own use and some for gifting. She was wearing one of them while shopping for more :).

KHDC requires a makeover much like what Mr. Venkatesh Narasimhan did with Cooptex in TamilNadu. The sarees are great but the showroom experience is sub-par.

Here’s one of the sarees that I bought. This one was selected by Krishnan. He loved this design. I liked the pista green base. Wore it for the first time to meet Nishi’s grandson when Anu was also visiting and we had a nano KVHV reunion.

Handloom Mysore Printed Silk

The beads am wearing are from Desh Maheshwari.

These sarees are really comfortable even in summers and the humid monsoon. They don’t crumple and hence make great office wear.

As we celebrate the National Handloom Day, let’s all buy handwoven fabric to sustain our weavers and the glorious weaving heritage that Bharat has.

#ILoveHandloom #IWearHandloom

4 thoughts on “National Handloom Day 2023 – Mysore Silk Saree”

  1. Beautiful, and the story is an interesting read. I love the look, texture, and utility of silk, but my lifestyle would not be conducive to wearing silk sarees. I had to laugh, considering how impractical it would be for me and the silk to crawl under buildings to dislodge my irascible chickens. I wear yard clothes that are patched 30-year-old hospital scrubs.

    Hand woven silk? Haha. I don’t believe I have ever seen handwoven silk, and wouldn’t recognize it if I did. More power to you for your access to such exquisite artistry, and comfortable air-conditioned office spaces in which to wear your finery.

    • Katharine – for several thousands of years Indian women have worn handwoven sarees even as they worked in the fields or were warriors battling for their kingdom. Ofcourse handwoven cotton was used for regular daily wear. My grandmothers would wear sarees that were nine yards of cloth.

      With their style of draping the saree they could ride a motorbike or run a marathon besides doing any other work.

      Men also would wear a long unstitched cloth called the “Dhoti” – again handwoven cotton or silk depending on the occasion.

      There are nearly 120 kinds of weaving techniques developed in ancient India that are still in practice. When we were a British colony, the Indian cloth that got exported to London became so popular that the Manchester cloth mills couldn’t compete. To destroy the cotton production and the handloom industry, the colonial masters brought the calico act and levied heavy taxes on importing Indian cotton. They also forced the Manchester and Liverpool mill cloth to be dumped in India forcing several weavers out of business.

      There were a set of master weavers who hand wove Muslin sarees so fine that 6 yards of cloth could be folded into a matchbox or passed through a finger ring. Again the colonial British cut off the thumbs of every Muslin weaver. This weaving has been revived post independence but has become extremely expensive.

      Sorry for the long reply – I just love sarees and especially handwoven ones. 😊

      • I love your replies. Thanks for taking the time to explain this delicate and so valuable art. It makes me ashamed of the hubris in our Western cultures, in which we denigrate that which we don’t understand or feel threatened by.

        In the quadrisphere (Northern and Western hemispheres) where I live, we are so self-absorbed that we do not appreciate the bounty that has existed in all civilizations, and in the planet itself, over time. A gift of modern technology is that I can share perspectives with people like you, who have the experience, language, and wisdom to help me see realities so different from my own.

        I hope some day to meet in person. I know we share many ideals.

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