Kanchipuram and I go back a long way… As a child, I remember being besotted by the richness of the silk sari; my paternal grandmother dressed in the choicest of Kanjivarams and the grandeur of it continues to fascinate me.
You know but Kanchipuram for me, is not always about the sari; it is equally about the temple culture that is ingrained in the very ethos of this noisy little temple and sari paradise, housed in Tamil Nadu, a hundred-odd kilometres from Chennai. As a child, I was smitten by the beauty of the Kamakshi Amman (the presiding deity of Kanchipuram and whose precincts people from across the country throng to). Visits to this temple were part of our annual summer calendar; we’d visit my paternal grandparents and we’d all head off to pay obeisance to this gorgeous goddess.
Kanchipuram was also a go-to town for all relatives who visited from outside Chennai. A wedding or an auspicious occasion in the family also warranted a day trip and I remember the colours and the motifs of the Kanchipuram capturing my imagination and almost enveloping my entire being.
Many years later, as an adult and an entrepreneur when I decided to marry my deep passion and appreciation for the Kanjivaram with my natural leaning for financial astuteness, I re-discovered how that relationship I had forged on as a child, had only blossomed with the passing of time. Everything about the Kanjivaram - its very fineness and texture, the varied motifs that define every sari and lend it character and a personality, the colours of the silk, the process of the zari being rolled on to the spindle, the entire experience of how these elements come together to create an incredible sari that goes into a woman’s wardrobe and travels through time, earning for itself a status worth tradition and legacy - are among the very reasons I continue to engage with the Kanjivaram.
As a curator of the Kanjivaram today, with my own label, Kanakavalli, my visits to this town have acquired the nature of a ritual. Fortnightly visits to collabrate with weavers and master weavers that dot this town’s landscape, are opportunities to not only appreciate the lineage of the Kanjivaram but also to draw inspiration and consciously curate a collection that is relevant and meaningful in the worlds that we women inhabit - worlds where we juggle many roles, wear many hats, traverse an array of spaces, blend in and yet retain our roots.
Early morning breakfast en route Kanchipuram is something I love and never miss. For those familiar with this highway, I recommed The Highway Motel, just outside Chennai, where the quality and taste of the ghee roast has altered neither with time nor a change of kitchen staff.