India is a mine of fascinating sarees from different states, each with its own unique technique and cultural significance. The Patan Patola is an inimitable creation of the communities that reside in Patan, Gujarat. The spinning, weaving and dyeing of the exquisite sarees in pure silk is an art form. Manufactured by the resist dyeing process using the warp & weft technique, Patolas are double ikat sarees. The craft of weaving them rests exclusively with the Salvi family in Patan. Once an exclusive inheritance of royalty and aristocracy, patola sarees were and still are a prized possession.
What makes it so unique?
Since its creation and advent more than 700 years ago, Patan Patolas today take form in the shape of handmade saris, stoles, scarves and handkerchiefs. Patola sarees are eco-friendly and the tie and dye process uses natural dyes like indigo, turmeric, madder roots, pomegranate skin, henna, marigold flower, etc to display vibrant colours in the silk sari or fabric. Alum, copper sulphate, ferrous sulphate, tin chloride and potassium dichromate are also used in the tedious dyeing process.
The sarees are painted with motifs and patterns inspired from animals and other elements of nature. Both sides of the Patola have the same look and feel. The art of hand weaving Patan Patolas is so taxing and complicated that it takes 3 to 4 artisans more than 5-6 months to bring out a unique silk saree depending upon the intricacies
Current state of the craft form:
Sadly, the artisans who contribute to this art today are only a fistful in number. There are only 4 families in Patan who are involved in the creation of Patolas. . This highly prized craft is a closely guarded secret that is taught to just the sons of the family. Issues of investment, time and disinterest of the younger generation makes the survival of the craft very difficult. Coupled with cheaper, single ikat Patola imitations flooding the market and jarring chemical dyes that are replacing natural dyes, genuine Patola is dying out. The mark of a genuine Patola is that even after heavy wear and tear the colour never fades, making it ideal heirloom material. The colours are said to last upto 300 years and the cost of a Patola saree is anywhere north of Rs.1 lakh.