The Kunbi saree was developed by two native tribes of Goa, namely, the Kunbis and the Gawdas. These tribes were mainly farmers who cultivated rice and owned paddy fields. The saree, therefore, is shorter in length and allows women to perform household chores and partake in agricultural work without getting their clothes dirty. This simple garment has gradually changed with time and now its use has declined significantly. Today, it merely serves as a reminder of the culture of tribal groups that lived around the hilly areas in Goa.

Q What is Kunbi Saree?

This cotton checked saree was initially worn by the women in the tribes of Kunbi and Gadwa. These women worked in paddy fields and they wrapped the saree in such a way that it ensured that it did not fall below the ankles.

Q Which cluster In Goa weavers make Kunbi Saree

There are no Kunbi weavers clusters in Goa. However, some organizations are making efforts to revive Kunbi sarees. The weaving, however, takes place in nearby states rather than in Goa.

Q Kunbi Saree's are always in red Color?

NO, Catering to various stages in life and occasions, they made Kunbi saris in their trademark checkered patterns in Yellow (Kesara), Red (Tamodh), Green (Hirva), darker shades of Maroon, Purple and Black signifying Youth, Marriage, Old age and Death.

Q What is the meaning of Kunbi?

Kunbi is the name of a Nativ Tribe, Word Kunbi is derived from kun and bi meaning “people” and “seeds”, respectively. Fused together, the two terms mean “those who germinate more seeds from one seed”.

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      This bright red checked saree was initially worn by the women in the tribes of Kunbi and Gadwa. These women worked in paddy fields and they wrapped the saree in such a way that it ensured that it did not fall below the ankles. The Kunbi saree is draped by tying the fabric below the shoulder and then a strip of cloth is crossed over the left shoulder and fastened at the back. This style of draping allowed these women to carry their daily chores and hard fieldwork with ease. Since it is so convenient to wear and work in, the Kunbi saree is still worn by some farming and working class women in rural Goa. Till the 1940s, these sarees were worn without any blouses but soon after, the colonial Portuguese government passed a law making it compulsory to wear a blouse. Traditionally, these sarees were woven only in red and white, however today, this saree can be found in different colours. Today, the saree is worn only on special occasions or for folk performances.
      Kunbi women wear a silk woven fabric on special occasions such as festivals and weddings. Women only wear a single ring in one hand since a majority of their work entails labour by hand. Bangles are also scarcely worn, mostly on the left hand which is not active in labour. Metal bangles are preferred over glass ones due to the latter’s fragility.


      The significance of the Kunbi saree can be understood in many different ways. People believe that each season has its drapes and a kunbi drape tells you seasons are coming. It is believed that the basic colour palette for the Kunbi saree is symbolic of life and the material used for making these sarees was locally sourced. The red colour in the saree stands for fertility and vibrancy of life. The dye for it was derived from a wild fruit called, ‘Japani fruit’ which was found in Goan forests. The saree was also dyed in yellows (which came from haldi) and lilacs, usually worn by widows. Since these dyes are derived organically, they are said to possess beneficial properties for one’s skin too. Hence, the saree’s material would not cause rashes on one’s skin.

      While their color pallet was small and standard, the lengths and their widths were made as per the person. The popular Maharashtrian Nauvaari being a nine yard sari, usually optimum for most of the population, one could also see Dahvaaris and Chavaaris… Variants in smaller widths for shorter people were also made. Women dressed up in new saris… flower Venis decorating their mane and scenting their clean, oiled buns, bindi or a tilak on their foreheads and ears dazzling with gold rings and studs…. Their stature strong and well built.

      The simplicity of the design in the Kunbi sarees also makes them stand out. These sarees do not have any motifs, and instead, only feature patterns of squares and checks. Interestingly, the patterns on these sarees also vary from community to community. For example, the saree worn by the Christian Gawda ladies have big squares, whereas the sarees worn by other tribes have smaller squares.
      Moreover, the Kunbi also made its appearance at the Cannes red carpet in France further giving proof for its significance and beauty.

      This Goan Kunbi fabric is also offered to gods and is a part of religious rituals since it is believed that checked cloth is pure, sacred, auspicious and powerful. The annual Veerabhadra ritual held in March-April during the Shigmo festival is truly incomplete without this fabric. Additionally, various other dances such as Dhalo and Fugdi are performed while wearing these cherry red Kunbi sarees. Kunbi sarees form not only an integral part of daily routine activities but also special occasions and festivals.

      Myths & Legends:

      Kunbis’ reverence for their ancestors
      It is believed that members of the Kunbi tribe craft the silhouettes of their ancestors in silver and brass. These figures are kept in a basket and placed in the household’s shrine. When the number of figures increase and are too many to be kept in the household, they are taken to a nearby pond or a sacred river and deposited in it.

      How the Kunbis explain the spots on the moon
      According to a story told amongst the Kunbis, the moon acquired its dark spots due to Ganpati’s anger towards it. The story follows that all the gods were going to a feast. Naturally, every god was mounted upon their vahan which carried them to the area where the feast was being held. Ganpati’s vahan is a mouse and when the huge god sat on this mouse, the mouse could not move quickly. As the mouse tried to move quickly, it tripped over a stone. This resulted in Ganpatiji falling from his vahan and injuring himself. The moon who was witnessing this incident laughed out loudly. Ganpatiji became angry and cursed the moon by making its surface completely dark. However, the other gods intervened and requested Ganpatiji to reduce the severity of his curse. Consequently, Ganpatiji said that the entire moon would not be covered in dark spots and only one side of it would remain blackened.

      The importance of sarees in Hindu cultures
      It is widely accepted and known that saree-like drapes were worn by women in ancient India wherein the lower garment was known as ‘Nivi’ and the upper body was usually left bare.
      Works by Kalidas mention ‘Kurpasika’ or a tight-fitting band that was worn by women to cover their chests.
      Tamil works like ‘Silappadikaram’ from the Sangam period indicate women wearing a single piece of clothing to cover their lower body and head while the midriff was left entirely bare. Similar saree styles can be found in the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma in Kerala.
      One must also notice that in Hindu culture, all goddesses in temples and shrines are dressed in beautiful sarees. These sarees are changed regularly and special colours are worn on certain days. Festivals and other celebrations call for even more extravagant and beautiful sarees for the goddesses. Moreover, movies, TV serials, and even animated cartoons featuring Hindu goddesses always showcase these goddesses being dressed up in sarees. This further allows us to understand the deep connection between Hindu mythology and saree garments.
      The literary and historical sources from India point out the different styles of draping a saree and the different names given to it. Even today, we find different sarees and draping styles all over India. It is this difference and diversity in Indian sarees that adds to their beauty and cultural significance. Every saree is an expression of a state’s culture embedded in Indian culture. As a piece of clothing, these sarees speak volumes about India’s notion of ‘unity in diversity’ and how a single piece of cloth worn differently by Indian women, connects them and creates a perfectly balanced blend of religion, culture, and distinctiveness.


      The history behind the Kunbi saree is one that can be found in dusty old books in the library since it dates back to such an ancient period of time.
      These beautiful sarees were initially worn by tribal women- mainly from the groups of Kunbi and sometimes, other groups such as the Gadwa. The Kunbis are believed to have migrated to India sometime in the 11th century. They came to the Khandesh region via Gujarat and sustained themselves by farming. However, they were forced to abandon the region due to occupation by Rajput clans. From Khandesh, they travelled to different parts of India, mainly settling in Nagpur, Berar and Wardha. The group itself is known by different names in different regions. They are called Kunbi or Kulambi in the Deccan, Kulwādi in the south Konkan, Kanbi in Gujarāt, and Kulbi in Belgaum. Unfortunately, there are no records to show the weavers who initially weaved these sarees. However, between the 1930s and 50s, the trade for these sarees was monopolised by three big families- Shettigars of Candolim, Rasquinhas of Bastora and the Kamats.

      In the earlier days, the dyes were made in Japan and imported by the Portuguese which further helped the weavers with raw materials and provided them encouragement. Till the 1940s, these sarees were worn without any blouses but soon after, the colonial Portuguese government passed a law making it compulsory to wear a blouse. Traditionally, these sarees were woven only in red and white, however today, different colours can be found featuring the Kunbi saree. In the 1950s, after India annexed Goa from the Portuguese, the weavers began looking for raw materials in Karnataka.

      With the advent of cheaper clothing and readymade clothes, this hand-woven saree disappeared from markets in the mid-19 th century and today, there are no weavers who weave the Kunbi saree in Goa. Instead, these sarees are now woven in some parts of South India. The Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodricks tried to revive Goan Kunbi saree in the early 2000s and later in 2014 received the Padma Shree for his contribution.


      The design on the Kunbi sarees is simple yet beautiful. These sarees do not feature any motifs, instead, they only have simple checks in different shades of red, green, yellow, and blue.
      While the design on the sarees were always decided by the head weaver, the weave itself always relied on the traditional colour matches and the chequered fabric was always layered with a border of a certain width and a design motif original to the adivasi.

      Kunbi sarees are made in checked patterns but different colours represent different phases in one’s life. For instance, maroon represents youth, purple symbolises old age and black represents death. The colours on the saree itself have evolved over time. Rust brown seems to be the traditional border, with a simple tiny white flower on the edges of the border. Even the checks were of different styles and shapes. These sarees find mention in the folk songs of the tribes and are part of oral histories.
      Kunbi women worked in paddy fields and therefore, they wrapped the Kunbi in a way that ensured the saree did not fall below the ankles. The Kunbi saree is draped by tying the fabric below the shoulder and then a strip of cloth is crossed over the left shoulder and fastened on the back. This style of draping allowed these women to carry their daily chores and hard fieldwork with ease. Since it is so convenient to wear and work in, the Kunbi saree

      Traditionally, the Kunbi is a cotton chequered sari in red and white with a sturdy weave good enough to be worn for farming. A dobby border, which is essentially a silken flat inset in the original Kunbi can be found. It is worn short above ankles with a knot on the shoulder. The design of checks on the Kunbi saree also has deeper meanings. According to the famous textile historian Jasleen Dhamija, a single line crossing another, creates a ‘chowk.’ A square/plaid pattern is created when 2 parallel lines, horizontal to the ground, cross, two parallel lines moving vertically upward to create an enclosed sacred space, called the ‘mandala’ alongside a checked pattern. The geometry of two pairs of horizontal and vertical lines together create the 9 houses of planets called the ‘navagraha,’ each with its own jeweled representations.

      One sari in 1960-70 would cost somewhere between Rs40 – Rs70 and a silk one would not be more than Rs200” recalls Ranganath Kamath, another master of the craft from Candolim. The required loom accessories like heald frames, shuttle, heald wires, binding thread, warping machine, creel and yarn was purchased from Belgaum , Gadag and Hubli.


      In terms of the challenges faced by the Kunbi saree, there is somewhat an ironic situation.
      Despite having such great social significance, there are no handlooms left in Goa where the Kunbi saree is woven and therefore, the traditional knowledge for creating this weave is almost lost. What makes this situation even more challenging is the fact that there is hardly any documentation available on the origin of this red-checked saree. Today, various individuals and revivalists are making efforts to document this textile and spread awareness in the masses before it is forever lost in the pages of history. Some of these individuals include- Rodrick, Phalgaonkar and Khedekar.
      Pre-1961, the Portuguese used to import the dyes and yarns from different countries. Challenges arose after the end of Portuguese rule in 1961. Importing dyes became a tough task and it ultimately resulted in taking a heavy toll on the weavers. Therefore, the cost of the materials became a huge problem for the weavers who then began selling the saree at a much higher price that was not affordable for the initial consumers.

      Till about thirty years ago there were many families in Bastora village involved in the practice. Kunbi weaving saw a downfall during the time government power loom units were set up in surrounding villages in 1970s. The fabric was cheaper and produced faster than the weavers ever could produce. Despite this low demand some continued weaving for it was difficult to part from what they had been practicing since their childhood and this was the only means of earning livelihood respectably they could see…. Hunting for yarn and weaving to sustain and supply merely to their neighbors. This, from the times his fabric was much in demand and he was a celebrity has hampered his generosity little.

      After Independence, people from the Gawda and Kunbi tribes started assimilating themselves into mainstream society. This implies that a lot of the cultures and traditional practices intrinsic to their group began to be lost. Moreover, due to modernisation and the import of Western ideas and items in India, these tribes found cheaper replacements of the Kunbi saree. They started taking up other occupations that would pay better. Presently, there are no looms in Goa, the Kunbi saree is woven in the neighboring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It is upto us and the population of Goa to give this textile the designation of being a heritage textile of Goa and supporting it with the love a beautiful garment like it, deserves.

      Introduction Process:

      This saree is seen as one of the most utilitarian weaves, woven from cotton and designed with simple checked patterns in different coloured borders. The most special aspect about the Kunbi sarees is its brightly coloured palette of Yellow (Kesara), Red (Tamodh), Green (Hirva), as well as darker shades of Maroon, Purple, and Black, symbolising youth, old age, and death respectively.
      Men don kastti which is a red and white loin cloth while women drape these sarees around their shoulders and tie a knot at the front. Traditionally, Kunbi women wore sarees without blouses but the Portuguese colonialists mandated that women wear a blouse with it.

      Raw Materials:

      Yarn – Earlier, 20s count to 40s to 60s was woven as per the demand and was sold in Mapsa and Margaon markets. Thirty yards of yarn could be used to produce five sarees. The yarn was starched in rice in the loom itself.
      Silk – White colour silk cloth is used to weave the dobby border
      Natural Dye (Japani fruit dye) – This fruit was believed to have been found in Goan forests but was also imported from Japan by the Portuguese to make dyes for the Kunbi saree.
      Chemical Dye – As times progressed, natural dye was replaced with chemical dyes.
      Water – Water was required to wash the plain cloth and to soak the fruit to obtain tannins.
      Wheat flour – wheat flour with water is applied as sizing material. This activity of starching the yarn for weaving is known as “sizing”

      Tools & Tech:

      The following tools and technology are utilised in the process of weaving and production of kunbi sarees-
      Looms – pit looms/frame looms have been used for weaving the kunbi sarees since the beginning. One dobby is used for the border
      Paddle – Every loom has 2 paddles.
      Shuttle – Every loom has 3-4 shuttles
      Warping Machines – These huge machines are used to prepare the warp. The prepared warp is loaded into the warpers beam before the weaving process.
      Reel and Charkha – Reeling is done using a charkha. The women of the household usually take up this task
      Dobby loom – Dobby loom is a manually operated simple loom machine which is used to produce a checked pattern.
      Carding machine – A mechanical apparatus utilised to arrange and untangle fibres, eliminate impurities and establish a consistent and parallel pattern. This procedure enhances the yarn’s overall quality and durability before it is woven into fabric.



      The process of sizing was not carried out in workshops or households, it was done on the streets. The weavers set the warp and then starched the yarns. The yarns were rolled with the help of wooden bars and then put on the loom. Approximately 14 metres of yarn would be wound in 8 different sections to make the required width of the sari body. The yarn for the loom is loaded on the Chakra and from it, transferred to small metal drums called the Dabbas. From these Dabbas it is again transferred to small Bobbins (Parn), to be fitted in the shuttle. The Kunbi saree is stitched using the plain weave technique. The plain weave is also known as the Tabby weave, which is the simplest and most basic weaving technique. The tabby weave involves the weft thread passing over and under each warp thread in an alternating manner, forming a straightforward over-under pattern. This leads to a well-balanced and tightly woven fabric with a sleek surface. This type of weave is known for its strength, stability, and longevity. It produces a fabric that is robust, uniform, and exhibits excellent draping qualities.

      To craft the saree uniquely, the fabric’s border is woven using a dobby that raises or lowers specific warp threads according to the desired design. By utilising this technique, the weaver incorporates diverse motifs, geometric patterns, and even pictorial designs on the fabric’s edges. Dobby border weaving introduces an additional layer of complexity and enhances the fabric’s visual charm.

      The process of weaving entails the meticulous threading of the warp yarns through the heddles and reed of the handloom. Subsequently, the weft yarns are interlaced by systematically passing them over and under the warp threads according to a specific sequence. Through skillful manipulation of the warp and weft yarns’ positioning, the weaver achieves the desired chequered pattern. The simple design of the checked pattern gives it a timeless look. After every 15 inches of weaving, the woven fabric is given a starch coating. The weaving process requires great skill as the weaver has to constantly keep pedalling to operate the dobby. At the same time, he has to pull the string that controls the shuttle, which flies over the wooden sill of the loom, taking the yarn of the weft across the threads of the warp.

      Leading us to the good old times, when business was flourishing Baburao Thilve (80 years master weaver) shows us his looms, spindles, spinning wheels and a carding machine. Mentoring a group of 14-16 weavers at a time, churning one and a half sari per day per weaver, his workshop was also a school in running. Weavers from Mangalore were popularly called for their deft capacity of two sarees a day and carpenters to fashion their looms were also invariably from the city. Harishchandra, a local carpenter was an exception to the happy go lucky Govan population. Each order was made to custom. Now, no one weaves in this region.” I spend my time with a small grocery store.


      There are two primary waste materials obtained from the saree weaving and production process. These are the cotton waste from pre and post customer usage, and water after dyeing.
      Cotton can be recycled from pre-consumer (post-industrial) and post-consumer cotton waste. Pre-consumer waste comes from any excess material produced during the production of yarn, fabrics and textile products. For example, selvage from weaving and fabric remnants from factory cutting rooms. On the other hand, post-consumer waste comes from discarded textile products.
      During the recycling process, the cotton waste is first sorted by type and colour and then processed through stripping machines that break the yarns and fabric into smaller pieces before pulling them apart into fibre. Recycled cotton is therefore often blended with virgin cotton fibres to improve the yarn strengths. Commonly, not more than 30% recycled cotton content is used in the finished yarn or fabric. Since waste cotton is often already dyed, re-dyeing may not be necessary. Cotton is an extremely resource-intense crop in terms of water, pesticides and insecticides. This means that using recycled cotton can lead to significant savings of natural resources and reduce pollution from agriculture. In fact, recycling one tonne of cotton can save 765 cubic metres of water. This ensures that the wastage is curbed and environment-friendly methods are adopted.
      Another form of wastage that takes place during the production of cotton sarees is that of the water left from after dyeing of the yarn. Presently, chemical dyes are used for dyeing the yarn.This leaves behind water that is polluted and harmful since it contains chemicals A lack of proper waste disposal techniques makes it worse and contributes to environmental pollution
      and water wastage.

      Cluster Name: Paliem


      Kunbi communities live in many areas and small villages. The weavers community among the Kunbis are referred to as thilve and kamatha kosthi. They, too, lived in different parts of Goa. While Paliem in North Goa district is one of the main towns where the Kunbi saree weaving took place, there are other regions where the Kunbi saree was once woven too. 

      District / State
      Paliem / Goa
      English, Hindi, Konkani
      Best time to visit
      any time
      Stay at
      Many good hotels & home stay
      How to reach
      It is located 30 KM towards North from District head quarters Panaji. Panaji is well connected by road and Air
      Local travel
      Taxi, Bike
      Must eat
      sea food, Solkadi


      Very little information is available on the history of Paliem. According to one source, Pernem that is located close to Paliem was under occupation of Sawantwdi kings. Later, Sunda kings and Marathas also occupied the region. In the 18th century, Paliem came under the rule of the Portuguese who continued to administer the region until 1961. In 1961, the government of India became the sovereign ruler of the region. In 1965, Goa, Daman and Diu became a single union territory. At this time, Goa comprised an entire district. In 1987, Goa was separated from Daman and Diu to form a different state.


      Paliem is located 7m above sea level between Arambol, Corago and Querim villages. It is located in the north-west direction of Goa. The total area of Paliem is 999.64 hectares. Of this area, 601.77 hectares are agricultural land and 251.29 hectares is non-agricultural land.


      Goa experiences a tropical climate and the weather remains warm round the year. Summers are especially hot and humid and during monsoons, heavy rainfall is experienced. Winters are cooler although temperatures do not drop too low.
      Goa’s topography is punctuated with greenery, palm groves and tropical flora and fauna. While beaches are the main tourist attraction, the rural areas in Goa are quite picturesque too.


      The town can be accessed by road via National Highway 17. The town of Pernem which has a railway station is the nearest railway line. Paliem can also be accessed via Karmali railway station. Public bus services run to and fro the town.


      The use of laterite stone is characteristic of many constructions in Goa. Laterite stone is reddish-brown in colour and is used to build walls, bases and even in carvings. Laterite stone has good durability and helps regulate temperatures within the house.
      The roofs of houses in Goa also possess a distinctive feature. They are made with red clay tiles that provide protection against heavy rains. These aesthetically pleasing red tiles were a characteristic feature of Portuguese architecture.
      In rural Goa, however, roofs are made from different materials. Bamboos or coconut thatch is used to construct roofs. These materials too help in regulating temperature and keeping the interiors cool and pleasant.
      Some old rural houses have huge courtyards known as hondos. These honods have wells which are used to draw water.
      Urban housing in Goa is a perfect blend of Indian architectural styles and Portuguese designs. The motifs, types of constructions and design styles are indicative of this beautiful fusion.


      Since Goa has a long history of Portuguese colonisation, its culture fuses elements of Indian traditions and European practices. The region is popular for its seafood cuisine and love for music, dance and revelry. Goan music is particularly delightful to hear and indicates the zest and enthusiasm that Goans live their lives with. Festivals such as Carnival and Shigmo are celebrated on a grand scale in Goa. During these times, throngs of people crowd the street and sing and dance merrily.


      2776 people live in Paliem in 609 households. Of the total population, 47.91% are women and 52.09% are men. The Scheduled Caste community comprises 2.95% of the total population.

      Famous For:

      Paliem is famous for Kalacha beach which is located 2 kms away from the heart of the village


      List of craftsmen.

      Documentation by:

      Team Gaatha
      Sculpture images – Big Foot Museum

      Process Reference:

      Cluster Reference: