Harper's Bazaar India
The Handloom Kanjivaram Silk Image Credit: Harper's Bazaar India
The Handloom Kanjivaram Silk Image Credit: Harper's Bazaar India

The Handloom: Kanjivaram Silk

The founder of Advaya from The House of Angadi believes that tradition and innovation are part of the future of the Kanjivaram sari.

Phyllida Jay

In 2018 Bollywood star Deepika Padukone wore two Kanjivarams for her wedding celebrations. One was a breathtaking red sari with the Gandaberunda, a mythical two-headed bird, and the second one had zari in both the warp and weft—it draped like molten gold. Both were by the label Advaya from The House of Angadi in Bengaluru.

Kanjivarams are produced on jacquard looms, a technique introduced in the 1980s, and depend on punched cards with a simple binary of zero and one, in infinite formations. This is the algebra at the heart of one of the most sumptuous textiles within the Indian sari lexicon. The dynamic between aesthetics and mathematics inspired Chennai-born Radharaman Kothandaraman, a Cornell engineering graduate, to apply his skills to textile construction. In 2001, he founded The House of Angadi (with stores in Bengaluru including Angadi Galleria and Angadi Heritage). He also took on the role of designer for its luxury label Advaya. He says, “I’m fascinated by how just these series of numbers can create so much. You can render any form, a lotus, flowers, or a peacock: We express such powerful thoughts through textiles.”

The name Kanjivaram refers to Kanchipuram, the town where many of the weavers of this style live. Innumerable temples soaring far above the small, colourful houses point to Kanchipuram’s ancient origins. The temple architecture is an integral part of the weavers’ lives, its influence visible in th

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