Apparel, Fashion & Retail | Fashion

Brief History of Chanderi Sarees

Published: May 29, 2023
Author: Exotic

Chanderi sarees have a rich history that dates back to the Vedic period, where they are believed to have originated in the town of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh, India. The earliest references to Chanderi fabric can be traced back to the 7th century, where it was mentioned in the writings of the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang. The fabric gained popularity during the Mughal era when it became a favorite of the royal court and was favored by the nobility for its delicate weave, fine texture, and intricate designs. During the 19th century, Chanderi sarees became popular among the upper-class women of India and were often worn during formal occasions and weddings. The Chanderi weaving tradition has been passed down from generation to generation, with weavers using traditional handloom techniques to create intricate designs and patterns.

An interesting aspect of the history of Chanderi sarees is that they are mentioned in the Vedas, with the fabric being introduced by Krishna’s cousin Shishupal. Hazrat Wajihuddin, a Sufi saint, arrived in Chanderi in 1305 AD and it’s believed that a large number of people from the Lakhnauti region in Bengal followed him to settle in Chanderi. Lakhnauti was formerly known as the Gaur region in Bengal, which was famous for producing fine muslin fabric, particularly in Dhaka. It’s possible that the migrants who came to Chanderi started producing this fabric. At first, the majority of weavers in Chanderi were from the Muslim community. However, after the 1350s, Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to Chanderi and contributed to the reputation of the fabric. During the Mughal period, Chanderi weaving experienced its golden era, with a karkhana dedicated to the craft being established in the town in the 17th century. There are stories about the Mughal King Akbar being surprised by the size of a Chanderi fabric, which was big enough to cover an elephant. However, the craft declined after the decline of the Mughal Empire. It was only in 1910, when the Scindia royal family extended its patronage, that Chanderi weaves were revived, with the introduction of mesmerizing gold thread motifs that gave it its royal look.

In modern times, Chanderi Silk sarees have gained global recognition for their timeless beauty and exquisite craftsmanship. They have become a symbol of India’s rich textile heritage and are highly sought after by fashion enthusiasts and textile aficionados around the world. Despite the changes in fashion trends and the advent of modern machinery, the traditional art of handloom weaving continues to thrive in Chanderi, making it a living testament to the enduring legacy of this treasured textile tradition.

Symbolism of Chanderi Patterns

Chanderi sarees are known for their intricate designs and patterns, each with its own symbolism and significance. Here are a few:

  • Peacock design: The peacock is a symbol of beauty, grace, and love. The design is often used to represent femininity and is a common motif on Chanderi sarees.
  • Lotus design: The lotus is a symbol of purity and spirituality. It is often used in Chanderi sarees to represent a woman’s inner beauty and strength.
  • Buti design: Buti refers to small floral or geometric patterns that are scattered all over the saree. These patterns are often used to add texture and depth to the fabric.
  • Asharfi design: The Asharfi design is a pattern of gold coins that are woven into the fabric. It represents wealth and prosperity.
  • Nalferma design: Nalferma refers to a design that is made up of diagonal lines. It is said to represent the path of life, with the ups and downs that one may encounter along the way.
  • Dandidar design: Dandidar refers to a design that features vertical lines. It is said to represent the strength and resilience of a woman.

Making of the Chanderi

The process of making Chanderi fabric involves several intricate steps that require skill and precision. Here’s a brief overview of the process:

  1. Preparing the yarn: The process begins with the selection of high-quality cotton or silk yarn, which is then treated with starch to make it stiff and easy to handle. The yarn is then dyed in different colors, depending on the design and pattern of the fabric.
  2. Weaving the fabric: The Chanderi fabric is woven on a handloom, with each strand of yarn carefully interlaced to create the desired pattern. The weaving process is slow and labor-intensive, and it can take several days or even weeks to complete a single saree.
  3. Adding the zari: After the fabric has been woven, the next step is to add the zari or gold and silver threads. The zari is carefully woven into the fabric to create intricate designs and patterns, adding a touch of elegance and opulence to the fabric.
  4. Finishing the fabric: Once the weaving and zari work are complete, the fabric is washed and dried to remove any starch or impurities. It is then ironed to give it a smooth and glossy finish.
  5. Embellishments: Depending on the design and pattern of the fabric, additional embellishments such as sequins, beads, and stones may be added to enhance its beauty and glamour.

In 2008, the Chanderi saree was granted a Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the government of India. This tag ensures that only sarees made in the Chanderi region, using traditional techniques and materials, can be sold under the Chanderi name. This has helped to protect the authenticity and quality of Chanderi sarees, and has boosted their reputation among consumers.


Chanderi sarees are a true masterpiece of Indian textile heritage, and are highly regarded for their beauty, elegance, and quality. The unique weaving techniques used to create these sarees have been passed down through generations of skilled weavers, resulting in a product that is both traditional and contemporary in its appeal. The use of high-quality materials such as cotton, silk, and zari give Chanderi sarees a luxurious and elegant look, making them a favorite among saree enthusiasts in India and around the world. With the support of the Indian government and various non-governmental organizations, the Chanderi saree industry is thriving, providing livelihoods to weavers and sustaining traditional weaving techniques for future generations. The popularity and appeal of Chanderi sarees are only set to grow in the future, cementing their status as one of India’s most iconic and beautiful textile products.

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