Patolas of Patan – Double Ikkat most Complex Textile

As being Gujarati, from childhood  I am hearing  folk song ‘Chhelaji Re Mare Hatu Patan thi Patola Mongha Lavjo’ means ‘O my dear, Do Bring the Precious Patola Sari from Patan for me’!. As like this song, charm and fame of hand-woven Patan Patola Saree is also same today. 

India has rich ancient heritage in textiles. The double Ikkat Patola Sarees of Patan also glorifies the heritage in terms of gorgeous colors, design and durability. Each and every thread is individually colored and put together to obtain beautiful design, so that not a single piece can be reproduced due to intricacy of work. It is not just an ordinary Sari after all; it tops the handicraft in the world. It is epitome of luxury as tremendous hard work and skills goes in making it.

History behind Patan Patola:

A double Ikat weave, Patola saree originated in the town of Patan in Gujarat; former capital of Gujarat. It is believed that the 12th century ruler, King Kumarpal of solanki dynasty used to wear Patola silk for his daily worship. He was wearing new Patola silk as Dhoti everyday which was supplied from the parts of Mahrashtra to Patan. The silk weavers of the salvi caste from the Maharashtra were involved in weaving it.

After that when the King conquered the parts of Maharashtra, he had invited all 700 silk weavers living in Jalna, Maharshtra to come and settle down in Patan, Gujarat. From that time onward Patolas are made in Patan only. The King Kumar Pal popularized  Patolas by donning them for all festivities and significant occasions. After the decline of Solanki Empire, Patola silk became popular among Gujarati women as a sign of rich social status.Today only three Salvi families are involved in this precious Patola weaving art.

As I moved from Rani ki Vav towards Main cross-road, modern building grabbed my attention. The building named as ‘Patola Museum’; unfortunately it was closed at that time and I inquired for Patola weaving workshop. The museum is dedicated to familiarize the tourists for Patola making process.

The road beside the Patola museum led towards the workshop of one of the Salvi family. I was keen to understand how they do this complex process.

Difficult Weaving Process:

As I saw, it was about forming and arranging threads, tyeing and dyeing and then adjusting it on yarn to weave majestic Patola. As it looks simple; but it is the most complicated process I ever seen.

First of all, design graph is made as per the requirement of customer or designer. Then comes to choose the thread. Mostly Patolas are made using silk thread as cotton fade away with the time. They are generally imported from Bangalore or china.

These threads are set in particular number like six threads or eight threads to make weft. After that knots of cotton thread are made on warp and weft as per the pattern decided. The tying is done by experienced master artist as it involves intricate complex process. The pre calculation of where the dye should come on the warp/weft, for it to accurately form an overlap with the same or different colored stretch on the second weft/warp to weave a majestic textile called double Ikkat fabric. What a genius mind the artists have!!

After making knots on warp and weft, it undergoes multiple processes of dye and tie following specific orders of colors. The tied portion is meant to remain unexposed to the color while dyeing. United portion, which has absorbed one color, may be tied while dyeing in another color. Tying, untying, re-tying and dyeing in different shades are the main features of this process.

After completion of dyeing work,it put together in a sequence on the loom and threads are separated using needle so that the design becomes visible. The process is highly laborious, time-consuming and requires a high amount of skills, precision and patience. Even a smallest mistake will make design unfinished.

The unique feature of the sari is that three differently skilled craftsmen work on one sari; they can weave just about 8 to 9 inch in a day. It can take six months to a year depending on the length and intricacy of design to make one Patola Saree.

Patan Patola Saree Colors:

The person at workshop led us towards a room where dyes were stored. He informed that natural colors are made out of natural resources and plants like indigo, kesudo, pomegranate skin, turmeric, henna, marigold flower etc. Today modern chemical dyes are also used to make rich vibrant colours like red, dark green etc due to cost and efficiency concerns.

Patola Saree Designs:

A Gujarati folk song “Padi Patola Bhat,Fatey Pan Fite Nai’ (means Patola can tear off but its design will not); that shows the richness of the colour and design that is used in Patola. Each saree can survive over century without losing color and grandeur!!!

The Patola Saree designs that were used during King Kumarpal are still alive today in making Patolas. Be it the Jains, Hindus or Muslims, every community added its own value to the Patola silk. While the Jains prefer geometric patterns, the Bohra Muslims prefer the Vohra Gaji Bhaat and Gujarati Hindu women prefer the elephant, flower, parrot and Paan designs.

Speciality of Patola:

Both the warp and the weft thread are dyed in double ikat Patolas. Because of the unique technique, Patola sarees are reversible and look exactly the same on both sides. Both the sides have same colour and design; you can wear it on either way. Hence it is said to be most complicated textile design in the world.

Patola Sarees and Art Today:

This precious Patola saree is priced at INR 100000-150000 and up which makes it favorite among celebrities and their designers. Designer Gaurang Shah Showcase this art at many of his shows. This declining art form has transcribed to shawls, scarves, dupattas and handkerchief to introduce among wider audience.

As Patola saree being a precious piece, ordinary people cannot afford to buy it. Today single ikkat Patola imitations are flooded in market with chemicals dyes that is replacing natural dyes which is threatening to genuine Patola weaving art. There aren’t many weavers who are expert at this art and few numbers of weavers make the weaving process tedious and long. The younger generations has to be trained in preservation of such beautiful and heritage crafts.

But despite of so many facts, till today Patola remains priced possession in women’s wardrobe.

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      1. Thanks for taking me back to my Gujarat days when I would work as a communication consultant in Government of Gujarat and edit the Gujarat magazine. One of the articles was on Patan ka patola and the intricacies in making it! I remember the process and I’m glad you laid out the details so well in the blog post. However, I feel we all need to preserve our intangible cultural heritage of which patan ka patola is a part by popularizing and spreading blog posts about them and talking about them.

  1. That is one of my fav garbas! I love Patola saree and how rich it looks no matter which age and when! I have semi patola obviously because of the cost but someday I’ll have the real deal, hopefully 🙂

  2. This is so interesting. I had no idea weaving could be so intricate! I suppose it explains why the textiles are all so beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  3. These designs are gorgeous! I have so much respect for someone who can do this. I wouldn’t have the skills or the patience!

  4. incredible the amount of work that goes into this. I could never have imagined how long it would take to make these pieces. It means to much more that any one piece could never be duplicated.

  5. I totally agree with the previous commenters! This is much more like art than something to wear…but that makes it more awesome, as you’d be a walking work of art when dressed in this!!

    I love that you got to see how these materials are woven. What a cool experience!!

  6. Wow!!! I’m a sucker for good textile. I would have spent ALL my money there lol. I spent soo much when I was in Mexico too. I just love seeing other cultures through fabric.

  7. This is the most amazing textile I have ever learnt about. It was an incredible visit to the Salvi House of Patola making. You have described the details and experiences quite well. Thanks for making me relive the memory.

  8. hi
    Truly India is definitely unique and enriched when it comes to traditions, customs and handicrafts. One year it takes to make one saree and the mind is boggled by this information. The cost is definitely justified I would say and I am sure the really unique collections would be priced astronomically. I had never heard of this particular saree but now the unique features of cost, complexity and time will make this to be remembered by me for along time to come.

  9. Weaving is such a complex process. We spend part of the year in Turkey, and they’re famous for their carpets, and it’s more or less the same process of defining the pattern and then loading up the machine with the right threads. You can’t beat something that’s hand made vs. mass produced.

  10. Sorry to hear the Patola Museum was closed. I hope younger generations can learn and preserve this art, as intricate as it is. The fact that they can survive over a century is amazing, it’s well worth the expensive price.

  11. wow interesting post! I never realised how much detail and work went into these. What stunning textiles, I would love to learn so much more now! you have done such a good job of describing i feel i was there with you !

  12. Such intricate weaving and so beautiful to the eyes. Some of the pieces that you have displayed here are just mind blowing. After reading I felt a sense of pride too that India is such a powerhouse when it comes to textile creations not only now but for generations together.Really feel proud of the artisans. The only sad part though that not everyone can afford Patolas

  13. 6 months to a year to make!? That is some dedicated craftmanship. Thank you for sharing the process, it was very interesting to read how these sarees are made. Seems more like art than clothing!

  14. Wherever I travel, I always look for artisanal shops to learn more about local traditions and this article will go straight to my saved files 🙂 This ancient weaving art from Patan looks marvelous. These weavers are real artists!

  15. Wow! These are great pieces. Unfortunately, they’re expensive that we did not buy some during our trip. Will try to get one next time. With the craftsmanship, it’s worth it. I just have to prepare a budget for it.

  16. I love traditional patterns, this one looks like one I would surely love to have on some of my clothes, the saree must look amazing also. The textile is so complexed and I am happy that the tradition is still kept. When I travel I love to support local handcrafters, even though it’s expensive but absolutely worth it.

  17. It is always good to learn how our local fabrics are being made. We also have traditional weavers in the Philippines, and takes a month or so to finish 1 meter of fabric, thus it is so expensive. NO wonder that traditional weave fabric like this is considered a good heirloom.

  18. I liked your explanation of Patola Saree. I wanted to visit the workshops during my trip to Gujarat but due to time constraints, I couldn’t go. The textile is simple gorgeous and the precision of human hands make it simply elegant.

  19. Truly the Patola sarees are an art. I have already fallen for it and will love to have one some day but they are quite expensive too. Their procedure to arrange, tying, dying is quite complex and making a single piece is hell lot of work. Loved their bright colours too. Thanks for sharing all info about the Patola sarees in this post.

  20. Oh wow this is something my GF would salivate all over if she would see it in the bazaar. I know it takes a lot of time to make it thus it is more the precious thing.

  21. What incredible pieces of art are these Patola sarees and their making process is very fascinating indeed! I had no idea that they can be wearable on both sides!

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