Patola is possibly derived from the Sanskrit word "Pattakula-, meaning a silk fabric. It is a legendary heritage of Indian textiles from North Gujarat. A single ikat silk fabric in which, the weft threads are dyed into a complicated pattern, belongs to one of the most complex textile-weaving techniques in the world and highly priced fabric.

Usage

The oldest known historical evidence of the existence of Patola can be found in the Ajanta frescoes then in Kerala in the wall paintings of the Mattancheri and Padmanabhapurum palaces dated 17th and 18th centuries. It is recorded in the religious books like Ramayan & Narsinha Puran that Patola were used in great ceremony and in the marriage as a holy charm dressing. In the period of Ram-Rajya, king Janak had presented Patola to Sitaji (Wife of God Ram). Also in the period of great Lord Krishna, Narsinha Mehta (great devotee of Lord Krishna) had presented Patola to Kunvarbai.
Legend says that over seven hundred Patola weavers came to the palace of Raja Kumarapala. At that time the ruler used to dress in Patola silk himself on special occasions. After the decline of the Solanki Empire, the Salvis founded a rich trade in Gujarat. Patola saris quickly became a sign of social status among Gujarati women and girls, especially as part of stridhan, items that a woman can claim as her own property within a marital household.

Historically atleast several centuries old it is recorded in the religious books like Ramayan and Narsinha Puran that Patola were used in great ceremony and in the marriage as a holy charm dressing. In the period of Ram-Rajya, king Jank had presented Patola to Sitaji (wife of God Ram). Also in the period of great Lord Krishan, Narsinha Mehta (great devotee of Lord Krishna) had presented Patola to Kunvarbai. It is believed that this tradition art received great patronage during the Chalukya period of King Kumarpul reign as before 800 (approx.) years. During the period of King Kumarpul, the queen used to wear a new Patola (sari) every day. This is also recorded in the autobiography of Kumarpal. The art of Patola weaving is an ancient one. According to some historians, the art of Patola weaving was known also in the 7th Century in 'Ajanta' caves (near Mumbai, India) which resembles the tie-dyes technique of Patola.
Patola was considered a holy cloth in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. They believe that it had magical powers that could protect them from evil.

Significance

Considered to bring in luck and prosperity, a Patola Sari is often passed on as an heirloom or worn during baby showers.
Both the sides of Patola sari display the same design. Each sari can survive over a century without losing colour. On a Patola, the square represents security in every aspect of life. The elephant, parrot, peacock and 'kalash' are considered 'saubhagya' (good luck).
What also makes this craft unique is its technique of tie dyeing the weft in the character of the motifs and then weaving it through plain coloured warp bringing out the beauty of the motifs in the process.

Myths & Legends

The oldest known historical evidence of the existence of Patola can be found in the Ajanta frescoes then in Kerala in the wall paintings of the Mattancheri and Padmanabhapurum palaces dated 17th and 18th centuries. It is recorded in the religious books like Ramayan & Narsinha Puran that Patola were used in great ceremony and in the marriage as a holy charm dressing. In the period of Ram-Rajya, king Janak had presented Patola to Sitaji (Wife of God Ram). Also in the period of great Lord Krishna, Narsinha Mehta (great devotee of Lord Krishna) had presented Patola to Kunvarbai.
Legend says that over seven hundred Patola weavers came to the palace of Raja Kumarapala. At that time the ruler used to dress in Patola silk himself on special occasions. After the decline of the Solanki Empire, the Salvis founded a rich trade in Gujarat. Patola saris quickly became a sign of social status among Gujarati women and girls, especially as part of stridhan, items that a woman can claim as her own property within a marital household.

Historically atleast several centuries old it is recorded in the religious books like Ramayan and Narsinha Puran that Patola were used in great ceremony and in the marriage as a holy charm dressing. In the period of Ram-Rajya, king Jank had presented Patola to Sitaji (wife of God Ram). Also in the period of great Lord Krishan, Narsinha Mehta (great devotee of Lord Krishna) had presented Patola to Kunvarbai. It is believed that this tradition art received great patronage during the Chalukya period of King Kumarpul reign as before 800 (approx.) years. During the period of King Kumarpul, the queen used to wear a new Patola (sari) every day. This is also recorded in the autobiography of Kumarpal. The art of Patola weaving is an ancient one. According to some historians, the art of Patola weaving was known also in the 7th Century in "Ajanta- caves (near Mumbai, India) which resembles the tie-dyes technique of Patola.
Patola was considered a holy cloth in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. They believe that it had magical powers that could protect them from evil.

History

Patola has a royal history. Silk weavers of the Salvi caste from the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra chose Gujarat as the home for their renowned Patola fabric. It is believed that Salvis went to Gujarat in the 12th century with the intention of acquiring the patronage of the Solanki Rajputs, who ruled all of Gujarat and parts of Malva and south Rajasthan at the time, with Anahiwad Patan as the capital. In Gujarat literature the earliest mention of patolas appears around the eleventh century. Patolas are also frequently mentioned in the Kunvar-bai-nu-Mameru of Narasimha Mehta, a fifteenth century court poet, by Premchand, a seventeenth century poet, and several others. The Salvi weavers came and settled in Patan and have been practicing the craft of double ikat Patola weaving for several generations. However, in the later half of the twentieth century, the craft start disseminating and more and more weavers started giving it up for occupations, which gave them a better livelihood. But, this dissemination gave birth to the craft of single ikat patola weaving, which separated from Patan to spread over the region, primarily thriving in Surendranagar and Rajkot.

Design

The Patola was traditionally woven in a sari length of 5 to 9 yards by 45 to 54 width. The range now extends to include tablecloth borders scarves, handkerchiefs.

Design Elements: Essentially the design in a Patola is based on traditional motifs called 'Bhat'. These designs include 'narikunj', 'paan', 'phulwadi', 'chowkdi', 'raas', 'chhabdi', 'choktha', 'navratana', 'paanchphul', 'sarvariya', 'laheriya' etc., which are all made on graph paper and then taken forward.
Flowers, animals, birds and human figures form the basic designs. New geometrical designs using vegetable dyes were developed and displayed at the Festival of India held in Paris, London, Tokyo, Washington and Moscow. The designs are first drawn on papers to achieve accuracy in tie & knots, and then transferred to looms, with great care and cautiousness. A craftsman (Weaver) can weave only five to six inches within a day. After working for 10 to 12 hours, no Sunday holiday and whole family working together, it takes one and half year to complete a Patola saree.
The single ikat patola sari has motifs, which are less densely woven as compared to the double Ikat patola. The colours are different as well, with not more than three colours in a sari in varied shades. They also use zari threads, giving certain sheen to the sari, which also increases its price.
The body of the sari is mostly plain with bold stripes of the same colour in different shades and borders lined with animal or plant motifs. The saris of a higher range have motifs on the body as well.

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Challenges

This craft faces the challenge of not extinction but the loss of originality in the process of fitting and existing in a machine oriented world, giving up its originality of colour and motifs to a large extent, picking up design elements from machine made saris to go hand in hand with the market.

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