The town of Rasipuram dates back to the 1st century AD. A small town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, its name is derived from “Rajapuram” which literally translates to “King’s Town”. And in keeping with its regal name it is well known for pure homemade “ghee” and its resplendent saris.
The chief industry of the town is weaving. Rasipuram handlooms are traditional weaves known for their fine quality and fast colors. The specialty of the saris is that the weavers are able to produce a checkered as well as a temple border on the saris.
The idea of a temple border was learnt from the people of Mangalagiri. These saris, both cotton and silk, with their temple border are considered as classics. These saris are celebrated for their contrast of border to the main body, and the unique choice of motifs inspired by local traditional architecture and temple motifs. Rasipuram saris are much lighter than their Kanchipuram counterparts and are also less elaborate and ornate in the use of zari .
The procedure begins with dyeing the yarn by dipping it in boiling hot water mixed with the desired color. The higher the water temperature, the more durable the color of the yarn. This is then dried in the shade as direct sun exposure can damage the yarn color. After dyeing and drying the yarn is converted into thread and then loaded as the warp. The simple loom used here is made of wood and is fixed on the floor. The weaver has to sit on the floor and operate the pedal in the pit.
Rasipuram handlooms are very well known for the durability of the colors used in the yarn. The counts used in weaving contribute to the final texture of the fabric. 5,600 threads are used in the warp making the width of the sari 51 inches. Each and every thread of the Rasipuram sari is hand woven. It takes around 4 to 8 days to weave a sari depending on the details of the weave. Creating it is a family affair with all members contributing in some way or the other.
There are around 200 weavers creating these specialized saris in the town of Rasipuram. These iconic woven saris and dhotis are created, traded and exported to neighboring countries too.