Paithani: Is it a Saree or Shalu ?
'9 yard vs 6 yard'
I have extensive write-up in my other blog about paithani ( Paithani Blog) and (here). I came across another blog (Link) which sort of confused reader about Shalu and Paithani and 6 yard vs 9 yard. With the same line of thought I am writing few details that will help understand these 2 questions.
1) Saree: It is essentially a saree or a textile that is draped around waist in India by women. In olden days which we link to our culture and tradition, it used to be whole 9 yards even 11 yards. Many people ask me and give me various reasons for its length. A simple question I put forward to you that will answer it.Q: What was the role of women in India before 20th Century ?
A: Housewife-household work, Farm work and work related to care taking and raising family.
Elaboration: Imagine, for ladies, wear a shorts or jeans or salwar kurti and try running, going to well to fetch water, sitting in farm to pluck produce or sow seed, handling your kids and rest of work that a well organised family needs such as washing cloths and utensils in sitting position, cooking and feeding your baby. Now compare this with wearing a 6 yard saree that is used today.
For men, just compare it by wearing a Dhoti (essentially with the same style of 9 yard or Nauary) with your formal wear or even tight jeans.
In short, 9 yards saree and more importantly the way it was draped is more of a Science and utility than tradition. Go back to small towns or villages and you will see how comfortable and quick women there in all daily work in their 9 yard draping. We are humans who can collect memory and pass them forward and in doing so we name them according to the purpose. Saree is tradition but with reference to the living style of our previous generations.
Irrespective of geographical variation, it was more of less draped similarly. Few variation were again of its utility such as in coastal area, they were folded at knees and in Gujarat, draped around chest more appropriately. Details of each region will be discussed in my next post.
So, understanding the reason of 9 yard drape, its transition to 6 yard can be easily connected to dramatic changes in our civil society, more importantly in British ruled India. Domestic help, life in rather developed towns, concrete or stone houses, cooking gas, kerosene stoves, British style kitchens (standing) and table-chair-sofa culture changed many references to women of India. The role of women shrank to family life and social presence and thus the 9 yard drape quickly became inappropriate socially. A western influence of blouse or top and drape converted 9 yard into 6 yard simply because it was comfortable, appropriate-decent and yet very much Indian. Length was just matter of how much it required to drape accordingly. The distinction (even 50%+ India) is untouched by such transition which can been seen in our villages even today.
2) SHALU: Shalu was a famous version of Paithani that became popular form of saree in late 17th Century (date may vary as I am using it from my research reference). Shalu has its origin from Varanasi or Banaras and even today Shalu is more referred to Banarasi. It is believed that Peshwa of Pune during their travel to Varanasi (mainly for expansion of Maratha Rule under Chhatrapati Shahu of Satara) brought this version to Maharashtra. Yeola which was prosperous weaving center of Paithani set up by Peshwa, assigned the job of weaving Shalu. It is probable origin of Shalu in Maharashtrian form of Paithani.
One prominent distinction between Paithani Saree and Shalu is its texture. While Paithani was weaved in thick silk or cotton, Shalu was weaved in very fine thin silk. Paithani is essentially a border and plain jari pallu with butti on base, Shalu had some motifs on border and more designed pallu. In contrast to Banarasi shalu, which had all base embellished with jari motifs. It was therefore not exactly shalu for which the term was commonly used. Till 1950's Paithani was mainly weaved in Paithan and Shalu were in Yeola. As liking of Shalu declined due to its simple non evolved form while other regional textile advanced and available across India, Yeola stopped making Shalu and switched to Paithani.
In appropriate terms, Paithani Shalu were nothing but fine Saree with design and not really comparable to the Shalu term which was used for Banarasi.
Since economic levels of society was determined from mainly 3 parameters, Money, Lifestyle and Social respect, Shalu was used by riches and those of economically strong section. It was the reason that made this version of Paithani popular and termed as Shalu.
In summary, Paithani shalu was rich version of Paithani Saree and not really a shalu which essentially has fully embellished base.
Example of Simplest Paithani Saree with Peacock Pallu and Traditional Coconut Border.