The Saree is one of the world’s traditional and perhaps the only surviving unstitched garment from the history. Over the utopias, it has not only become a sensuous, charismatic all-time-wear for women, but also the ‘canvas’ for weavers and artisans to create exquisite weaves, prints, and jeweled or gold-silver embellishments! The Saree has people enchanted over years and even today as well it rules the fashion scene all over the globe.
Banarasi Silk Sarees, Chanderi Sarees, Tant Sarees, Kanjeevaram Sarees, Dhakai Jamdani Sarees, Pattu Sarees are just a few honorable mentions. One kind, traditional to be precise, that caught our fascination is Gharchola Saree.
Gharchola (also kenned as Ghatchola and Gharcholu) from Gujarat is woven on Cotton or Silk material in comprehensive checks using Silk and Zari threads. This is further flushed in Bandhani or tie & dye technique. These checkered designs are filled with miniature golden motifs of peacocks, lotus, floral designs, and human figures. A regular Gharchola is made in Red color, decked with yellow and white dots, and is 5.5 meters in length & 46 inches in width. This Saree makes a wedding or any other ceremony for that matter, a breathtaking and arresting occasion.
Ghar+Chola – is composed of two words ‘Ghar’ (home) and ‘chola’ (cape/clothing)– the term gharchola accurately translates to ‘home apparel’ or the outfit worn at home. However, the contextual meaning of the word is more complicated. Here ‘Ghar’ suggests the bride’s new home, her husband’s home. And, ‘Chola’ contextually means her wedding ensemble. The new bride sets foot in her marital home carrying a Gharchola on her head and shoulders – signifying that she comes with everyone’s invocations and good wishes.
Arising from the Khambat(Cambay) region of Gujarat, Gharcholas have been adorned since ages in Gujarati weddings. Khambat was a very famous port and heart of trade in India, till about 16th century. Traders from all over the world revisited this significant trading center that was also famous for silk production. The weaving of Gharcholas is sketched back to this port city.
A sub-set of Bandhani (Indian tie and dye art), Gharchola was earlier made by ancestral weavers and Bandhani workers. The dying process of Gharchola is historically affiliated with Jamnagar, as it’s believed that the water character of Jamnagar is best for producing the vibrant red colors of Gharcholas
Many incorrectly think that Gharcholas are forever made in absolute Silk. In actuality, the ‘authentic’ traditional Gharcholas are seldom made in sheer Silk. Venkatgiri Cotton is typically used by manufacturers to fabricate Gharchola. This heavy cotton variety has a certain silk-like quality and finish. This permeable and springy handloom fabric is procured from Southern India, especially Andhra Pradesh. Some creators also use a rich Silk-Cotton amalgam. Other fabrics are shunned, as rich kinds of cotton and cotton blends assimilate the natural dyes the best, which were originally used to craft these Bandhani Sarees.
Pure mulberry silk is quite vulnerable and thus would not resist the multiple tying and dyeing method. Despite this, a few of Gharcholas are made in silk too, but in such sarees, embroidered embellishments are the point of attraction (and not Bandhani). In modern times, a silk-blend variant named Gaji Silk is commonly used as a base for euphuistic Gharcholas. The silky finish and fluidness of Gaji silk are pretty sought after. Elaborate embroidery with intricate motifs and a pallu in the contrasting color (generally green) is a distinct hallmark of Gaji Silk Gharcholas.
Gharcholas have a distinctive chequered pattern. These patterns are formed in many alterations. However, the most prevalent ones are 9, 12 and 52 squares’ patterns. While 12 squared grids are famously called –bar bhag, the 52 squared ones are identified as - bavan bhag. Each check or box in the Gharchola is tied and dyed to produce Bandhani patterns. The same dot Bandhani pattern that is used in one check is often reiterated in every single block, through the Gharchola! Or the repetition is strategic. This is then dyed in color red/ maroon/scarlet.
In unconventional Gharcholas, there is no separate colored pallu or border. There is Zari, but the whole saree remains in one color. In contemporary Gharcholas, though, Pallus, generally in various shades of greens, are constructed and appended separately. Once the Gharchola is made, the embellishments and embroideries are arranged on grids, borders, and palav.
It is prudent to dry clean a Gharchola for its durability and keep it away from direct sunlight. Since it’s made of silk with some complex detailing on it, a little care will go a long way in keeping the textile in excellent shape for an extended time.
A saree that has a brilliant traditional importance and looks beautiful too will automatically enhance the beauty of whoever wears it. Gharchola is not a garment but a cultural practice and religious/ ritualistic symbol associated with this essential aspect of Indian society.
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