The muhurtham of Tamil weddings in the earlier days, saw brides resplendent in colorful chequered sarees from Koorainadu. Adorned with bangles, bindis, and gajras, the Tamil women in these Koorainadu sarees emitted a golden light of love, hope and happiness which marked the auspicious beginning of their married life. These special sarees are also known as Koorai Pattu Pudavai. Here the Koorai represents the place where these sarees are produced i.e. Koorainadu, Mayiladuthurai. The word Pattu means Silk whereas a saree is called Pudavai in Tamil. Thus Koorai Pattu Pudavai means a silk saree from the Koorainadu region. They are still worn by Tamil women during their wedding ceremonies and has immense religious and historic significance in South India. They are one of a kind as only experienced weavers can weave them and thus can make the bride feel special.
The bride enters the sacred place, gleaming with happiness, she catches the eyes of many. The frolicking, melodious duo catches the rhythm again, throwing a mustard spree in the air, her nine-yard yellow Koorainadu sari gets the most attention. The checks, the striped patterns and the contrasting borders, ensembled with gold jewels and floral pleasantries, make everything worth the wait. Wedding rituals begin to bind the bride and groom in an eternal bond. Koorai Pattu Pudavai is claimed to be a sari for the lasting journey of marriages worn by women folk of a few casts of the Hindu community of Tamil Nadu. This saree is considered to be auspicious because of the green and yellow colours used in it. The green relates to the trees and Pasumai, and yellow is for Mangalyam. Today, many other shades such as purples, blues, pinks are also used. These have expanded the Koorainadu saree to include a myriad of colours, touching upon every single aspect of the rainbow. These nine-yard saris are made out of plain cotton as well as combination cotton and silk, and generally have checks or striped patterns, with contrasting borders. These Koorainadu saris with wide borders are called temple saris because they are woven and then offered to temple deities.
Therefore, the Koorainadu sarees are used for wedding and religious purposes and are integral to the culture of Tamil Nadu.
The Koorainadu saree is significant in India because of the functions it serves. This saree is an irreplaceable part of the wedding and religious rituals, therefore making it culturally significant. For years, this saree has been worn by various women during their marriages and has now become an emblem of a South Indian tradition and glory. Due to the auspicious colours, contrasting borders and tireless effort of the weavers, this saree is also called the temple saree and is offered to deities. Thereby attaching an almost spiritual, god-like nature to the Koorainadu weave.
The Koorainadu saree is also significant in terms of its design. One of the most distinctive features of this saree is how the cotton checks are formed, that is, by the interlacing of warp and weft during weaving. This process is so advanced that only a skilled weaver can effectively and gracefully finish it.
The market and demand for this saree have slowly increased. The sarees are available in vibrant multi-colours. The price range of saree varies from Rs.4000–Rs. 11,000 and they fit perfectly in an Indian woman’s closet.
Typically, the Korai Pattu Pudavai worn by the bride is 9 yards long. Madisar drape is the style in which this saree is tied. Here the bottom half of the saree looks like a dhoti and the top half is like a saree. Thus showing a union of male and female forces of the universe, also known as Ardhnareshwara.
Myths & Legends:
The community of weavers engaged in the process of making these Koorainadu sarees are called the Sāliyan weavers. These weavers believe that they are the descendants of one Sāliya Mahā Rishi, a low-caste man, who did service for one Visākar, who was doing penance near Nallādai. Through the grace of the rishi Visākar, Sāliya became a rishi and married two wives. The Sāliyans are said to be descended from the offspring of the first wife and the Mottai Sāliyans from the offspring of the second. In former days, the Sāliyans were not allowed to sell their goods except in a fixed spot called māmaraththumēdu, where they would set out their fabrics on bamboo sticks. High-caste people never touched the cloth, except with a stick. At the present day, the Sāliyans occupy a good position on the social scale.
The history of the Koorainadu sarees is one of several ups and downs,
A part of Mayavaram (Thanjavur District) is today known as Keranad, a word derived from Koorainadu, which means ‘the land of textiles’ or a place where cloth is manufactured. Most of the weavers involved in sari weaving are Sāliyan weavers. They claim to have a Purānam relating to their origin, which is said to be found in the Sthalapurānam of the Nallādai temple.
When we look at the Koorainadu saree, initially, this saree was woven for traditional Tamil marriages. It was adorned by the bride during the ceremony of ‘Muhurtham’ or ‘tying of the mangalsutra.’ Adorning this saree ensured a happy married life and therefore, it became a part of every bride’s trousseau up until the 1950s.
Recorded history suggests that initially, these sarees were only made out of cotton, however, during the medieval period, the weavers included both cotton and silk on the warp and weft. In India, in the absence of the availability of silk yarn which was produced using the saliva of silkworms, the yarns with a high twist that was already dyed were imported from China with the support of the Indian government.
It is also found that a similar kind of saree was weaved during the reign of Hyder Ali in the Anekal and Kollegal regions of the southern Karnataka in the 18th century. They were made out of silk and cotton (yellow & maroon) checked with 16s, the 20s, and 30s count, as cotton was coarser at that time, as well as silk yarn.
These sarees were also mimicked by the weaving clusters of Tamil Nadu. Their borders had zari and checks were done in their body. Koorainadu saree was also woven in Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Arani and Salem. The saree was made out of silk and zari with motifs in the borders and checks in the body. The kornad sarees with wide borders are called temple sarees because they are created and then donated to a temple deity.
The colour palette for these sarees was largely limited to purple, orange, dark pink, turmeric and olive green.
Earlier coarse cotton was used for the weaving process which was later replaced by the fine cotton mercerized yarn and thus the traditional korvai process was also stopped.
However, like many other handicrafts and sarees, the Koorainadu sarees began experiencing a slump in sales in the 1970s due to the arrival of power looms and synthetic sarees. Despite the fine quality of these sarees, the lack of appropriate marketing strategies and patronage led to the decline of these sarees.
It was then in 2014 that the Managing Director of Co-optex decided to revive this saree and its production. His team went out to Koorainadu to gain knowledge about the original designs of the Koorainadu saree and effectively revive them.
The main weavers in Tamil Nadu are kaikolars, also known assengunthar and saliyars (or the Sāliyan) The other major castes are the Saurashtra community who are immigrants from Surat and Devangas who are mainly found in the Coimbatore, Erode, North Arcot and Southern Arcot districts.
Today, these sarees are sold in the market and require our support as patrons of art and customers to bump up the sale and for the achievement of the status they deserve.
The Koorainadu sarees only consist of checks and stripes. A weaver has to approximately move his hands and legs at least 13000 times to complete a single 9-yard saree. Weavers take approximately six to ten days to make one saree.
The Koorainaadu is 2-part silk with 1-part cotton. The sarees are hence stiffer and easier to hold pleats than Kanchipuram silks. The designs are almost always checked with several happy colours. Araku i.e. maroon or red is an auspicious colour and the Korai Pattu Pudavai were widely woven in these colours. Nowadays, the saris are available in multiple colours like Arraku (maroon), maal (yellow), pachai(green), karuppu (black) and Sigappu (red). Various other colours such as purple, orange and pink have been used traditionally. Green and yellow have been significant throughout since these two colours are considered to be extremely auspicious in a Tamil wedding ceremony.
These sarees are usually 9 yards long with a width of 1.33 yards and are either made out of plain cotton or a mix of cotton and silk. The borders of these sarees are plain and include both narrow and broad borders. Historically, a double-sided pallu was used in these sarees, however, in the present, only a single-sided pallu with stripes is available. These sarees only feature checks and stripes. The most unique characteristic of this saree is the formation of the cotton checks by the interlacing of weft and warp during the weaving process that can be only carried out by an experienced weaver.
The distinctive feature of an older Koorainadu saree is the double side pallu which has a contrasting colour to that of the body. These sarees weigh around 7-9 kejams. They are differentiated in different parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka based on the border length, the technique that has been used to weave the border and finally the zari and motifs used. The Koorainadu sarees have big and broad borders and the motifs used are mainly checks. The design of very small multi-coloured as well as single coloured checks are also a speciality of these sarees.
These sarees can be classified into 2 categories based on material and checks.
Based on material, the Koorainadu sarees include-
Pure cotton (ancient period)
Combination of cotton and silk (medieval and present)
Based on checks, the Koorainadu sarees include-
Simple checks crossing each other
Solid colour contrasting squares
Solid colour checks are also known as AatuMuzhi (Goat’sEye)
Most prevalent paalumpazhamum with contrast colours
Puliyankottai (Tamarind seed)
Kadalaipattani (Pea-sized check)
Kasakasa (Smallest check of 1mm)
Two-line and three line checks were also common
Along with these, contemporary motifs and patterns are also created to make these sarees appealing to today’s generation. They are patterned and made in such a way that they look opulent and are also fit for any weather, since they are mainly used for weddings.
The design of these sarees is simple yet classy; it gracefully embraces the legacy of our tradition and serves as a reminder of the simplicity and uniqueness of our past!
When we study the history of the Koorainadu saree through the ages, we realize that the period after the 1970s saw the advent of technology, innovation and communication due to which power looms and synthetic fibers took over the consumer markets. This period actively saw the decline of various handicrafts and in particular, the Koorainadu saree. As people drift away from tradition and culture, the beauty of this weave fades away into time.
Despite their fine quality, these weaves are dying as not many take to the family trade of making the sarees. The Koorainadu has been handwoven for generations in Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam, now has only 20-30 weavers left.Poverty had pushed some of these weavers to abandon their craft and sell newspapers.
In old times, Koorainadu weaving centers were brimming with thousands of weavers. The entire village used to buzz with weavers weaving sarees. There are very few weavers left in the community who still weave with hope. Putting all their efforts in the sari to make someone’s day special, someone’s marriage prosperous, someone’s face lit, these weavers work tirelessly for hours on their looms, with fingers pouring happiness in lives-near and far.
“Ulavum nesavum kann enath thagum” which means “Agriculture and weaving are like two eyes” is an important phrase that should be given more significance today. India’s textiles are intimately linked to its culture and Gods. Especially in Tamil Nadu, it was quite a common feature in the past for weavers to function out of temples. Many of the weavers biggest “customers” were temples, which clothed deities in special cloth.
Owing to the technical developments in the textile industry, the Koorai Nadu saree market currently faces a severe slump and suffered heavy income losses. Given this, all the families who are involved in the manufacture of Koorai Nadu sarees have gradually shifted to many other varied professions to earn their day-to-day living and their subsequent generations have also lost interest in this.
These sarees aren’t marketed well and thus they aren’t reaching to people. Though since Co-optex have started to revive these, there is a significant increase in its popularity, though there is still a lot of scope for the same. Also since most of the existing marketing has been done in the local language i.e. Tamil, it becomes essential to use universal language like English for the same.
Since the weavers don’t get enough wages, their children are not continuing the legacy and instead studying and doing some other jobs.
These saris are produced in the quality of pure silk and fine twisted mercerized cotton yarn, in both warp and weft ways in the ratio of 2:1, giving them a silk saris look. It is lightweight due to the presence of silk to the extent of almost 2/3rd of the sari woven in small checked patterns & seer Pallu looking like silk sari rather than cotton, making it unique. These are made out of the finer count, that is, the 40s, 60s and 80s count of cotton and finer count of silk as well. The dye used for silk is synthetic dyes.
Pure Silk – Sourced from Kollegal near Mysore
Fine twisted mercerized cotton yarn – Locally produced
When we look at the waste generated from the saree weaving and production, we come across two noteworthy points, these are- 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. For example, used apparel and home textiles.
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 the fiber. The mix is carded several times in order to clean and mix the fibers before they are spun into new yarns. The resulting staple fiber is shorter than the original fiber length, meaning, it is more difficult to spin. Recycled cotton is, therefore, often blended with virgin cotton fibers 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.
Silk is the basic raw material that is required in the production of the Thirubuvanam silk sarees and the process of seri-culture is carried out to meet the demands for silk saree production. In the process of seri-culture, waste is often generated that must be utilized and disposed of appropriately to ensure zero wastage or pollution. Various techniques can be used for the treatment of these silk wastes such as degumming, boiling, beating and opening, carding, and combing drawing and spinning, to produce various other products like embroidery and knitting silks, ribbons, silk cords, cheap silk dresses and polished goods.
Another form of wastage that takes place during the production of cotton sarees is that of the water left after the dyeing of the yarn. Most of the time, chemical dyes are used for dyeing the yarn, the water then left is polluted and harmful since it contains chemicals. A lack of proper waste disposal techniques makes it worst and contributes to environmental pollution and water wastage.
Tools & Tech:
A Two Peddle
single shuttle (Nada)
Raised Pit Loom
When we look closely at the process of making these Koorainadu sarees in the first place, one can say that the process is a ritual in itself. It is believed that hand loom weaving is a form of sadhana or meditation since one requires an almost meditative state of mind to achieve the rhythm and become one with the loom. This is why hand-looms are a precious part of India’s textile heritage.
Chandan or sandalwood has a prime significance in this weaving process. Owing to its auspicious properties, Chandan is smeared onto the looms of the weavers since, in Tamil Nadu, Chandan is known to bring abundance, wealth and prosperity. Therefore, all looms of the Dindigul weavers feature marks of Chandan and sometimes even photographs of deities or popular political leaders. The weavers seek the blessings of these individuals, touch the Chandan and only then begin their weaving process. These rituals attach an element of sacredness to the entire weaving process.
Moreover, the saree itself is adorned by women during their wedding ceremonies and rituals since it is considered to be auspicious and it is offered to deities in temples due to which it has earned the title of being a temple saree.
The process of production of the Koorainadu sarees is as follows-
Design Development– Under this, the designs for the sarees are developed by the Co-Optex design studio.
Yarn Procurement– Both cotton and silk yarns are provided by the Tanjore Co-Optex and the silk is obtained in raw form. Dyeing of silk alone is undertaken in the kooraitex society by local dyers.
Loom– One of these three different types of looms are used in the making of these sarees, namely pit loom, raised pit loom and frame loom. Here the first two types are commonly used by the weavers. Setting up the looms for weaving the saree takes one week and if the weaver wants to create the same design for the next saree he keeps the same loom setup. Based on the demand the weaver can keep the same loop for six months at a time.
Warping and Knotting– The warp beam is prepared based on the design card provided and then the knotting process is carried out. The borders have similar yarn strands and the colour of the yarn changes on the body.
Weaving– For making every saree, the weavers have to move their legs and hands about 13000 times and this process takes approximately a week to complete. The shuttle is inserted by hand whenever the checked effect is required. Thus the magnificent Koorainadu sarees are created.
Mayiladuthurai, formerly known as Mayavaram or Mayuram, is a major town in Mayiladuthurai district in Tamil Nadu, India. It is also the headquarters of the district. This beautiful town has a significant amount of antiquity and religious significance attached to it and is the birthing ground for the beautiful handwoven Koorainadu sarees or the Koorai Pattu Pudavai.
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The name of this town is derived from the word, ‘Mayura’ or ‘Mayil,’meaning ‘peacock.’ This is a form in which the Hindu goddess Parvati is worshiped. Earlier this town was known as ‘Mayuram,’meaning‘peacock town.’ However recently, a petition was filed by the municipality of this town to de-Sanskritize this name and change it to its Tamil translation, ‘Mayiladuthurai.’ This was done in the wake of the Dravidian movement.
Mayiladuthurai is an age old town and has some of the oldest temples in the country that date back to the medieval Chola period. It is said that this region had been inhabited since 3rd Century B.C. In 2006, various artifacts dating back to the Indus Valley period (2000-1500 BC) were found in the nearby village of Sembiyankandiyur, giving us a hint of the antiquity of this town. Various references to Mayiladuthurai have also been made in the works of Sambandar in the 7th century. According to the local folklore, Mayiladuthurai is associated with ‘Siddhars’ or ‘holy Hindu men.’
Mayiladuthurai was ruled by the Early Cholas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire, Thanjavur Nayaks and the Thanjavur Marathas. During the 17th and 18th centuries, this town was ruled over by Thanjavur Marathas. Then in 1799, this town was ceded by the East India company alongside the rest of the Thanjavur Maratha Kingdom. This town greatly prospered under the British rule and emerged as an important town center. Various famous Carnatic musicians such as Madurai Mani Iyer and Gopalakrishna Bharathi are associated with this town.
Only recently in March of 2020, Mayiladuthurai was declared as a new district by the Chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
The town of Mayiladuthurai is located at 11.10°N 79.65°E.
It covers a total area of 11.27 square kilometres and is placed at an elevation of 54.25 metres. The town is located at a distance of 281 kilometres from Chennai and 24 metres from the coast of Bay of Bengal.
The Kaveri River runs through the town bisecting it into Uttara Mayuram and Mayuram proper.
Most of the town lies to the south of the river and the Mayuranathaswami Temple lies a mile to its south. There is a bathing ghat on the Cauvery river. The proximity with the river is the reason for agriculture to be the most widely practiced occupation here.
The infrastructure of Mayiladuthurai is well developed.
The Kollidam river is the main source of water for the city. Water and electricity is in place, alongside various other infrastructure such as a proper drainage and sewage system.
The town also has five government hospitals that include a maternity and a veterinary hospital and seventeen private hospitals and clinics that take care of the healthcare needs of the citizens.
There are several government and private schools and colleges in the town as well to fulfill the educational needs of the citizens.
The municipality also operates four markets, namely a vegetable market, weekly market, farmer's market and fish market that cater to the needs of the town and the rural areas around it.
The town is also well connected through road and rail.
The temple architecture of this town is the most significant since it gives us a glimpse into the rich historic past of Mayiladuthurai. The most popular temples of this town are the Mayuranathaswami and Dakshinamoorthi temples, which are built in the Dravidian style of architecture.
The Mayuranathaswami Temple was built during the time of the Medieval Cholas and is 719 feet long and 52 feet wide. The idol of the Hindu goddess Durga in the temple is considered to be one of the best in India. The oldest inscriptions in the shrine date to the reign of Kulothunga Chola I. The Dakshinamoorthi shrine houses an idol of the God Dakshinamoorthi mounted on a Nandhi.There is another idol of Nandhi at the bathing ghat on the Cauvery River.
The Punukeeswarar Temple at Kornad and Sri Kasi Viswanathaswami Temple are the other important Hindu temples in Mayiladuthurai.
Despite being a small town, the culture of Mayiladuthurai beautifully encapsulates the culture of the whole country. Since there is a great religious significance attached to this town, a lot of importance is given to the temple culture and festivals here. Moreover, the Koorainadu saree itself is seen as an integral part of the wedding ceremony and is offered to the deities here due to which it has adopted the title of a temple saree.
The most famous temples of this town are the Mayuranathaswami and Dakshinamoorthi temples. Mayuranathaswami temple tank filled with water from the Kaveri River
All the Hindu holy rivers in India are believe to converge in Mayiladuthurai every year on New moon day in the Tamil month of Aippasi, that is, during the months of November-December. A bathe at the bathing ghats on the banks of the Cauvery on this day, according to Hindu belief, relieves a man of all his sins and misdeeds as the waters of the holy Ganges river mix with the Cavery on this day. As a result of this belief, many people flock to the tank in Mayuranathaswami temple during Aippasi. Other important festivals celebrated at the temple are Navarathri, Adi Pooram, AvaniMoolam, KarthigaiDeepam and VaikashiBrahmavotsavam.
A yearly dance festival called the MayuraNatyanjali is conducted within the precints of the Mayuranathaswami Temple during Maha Shivaratri on the pattern of the Chidambaram Natyanjali festival.
According to 2011 census, Mayiladuthurai has a population of 85,632 with a sex-ratio of 1,045 females for every 1,000 males, much above the national average of 929.The average literacy of the town was 83.55%, compared to the national average of 72.99%.
The proximity to the river Kaveri is the reason why majority of the people in this town are engaged in agriculture, especially that involving paddy. This town is also home for the community of Saliyan weavers who weave the traditional Koorainadu sarees that are an integral part of the wedding ceremonies of the South. Therefore, the economy of this town is primarily agro-based. Confectioneries, printing presses, vehicle manufacturing units and rice mills are the major industries found in Mayiladuthurai.
The population of this small town is quite diverse. Hinduism is followed by the majority of the people, however, people from other religions such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Jains can also be found living together in a peaceful co-existence. Tamil is the major spoken language by the people here.
Apart from the Koorainadu sarees, the state of Tamil Nadu is also famous for paintings, musical instruments, jewelry, metalware, pottery, woodcraft, stone carving and other textiles including cotton and silk sarees from different districts.