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An essential part of the Maharashtrian wedding, paithani textile derives its name from Paithan (old Pratishthan) in Aurangabad, Maharashtra state, which is the centre of its production even today. It is a typical creation of the weavers of Maharashtra and its peculiarity lies in the use of an interlocking technique to create borders and designs in highly contrasting colours.

Like several other regional styles of weaving, Paithani is also a family-based craft passing from generation to generation. Minute minakari designs in the pallu using various colours is woven with the help of multiple spindles (tillies) , which makes it a very laborious and complicated task. Paithani textiles mainly consist of sari, pugdi piece, dhoti and dupatta, out of which, the sari of course is the most elaborate. The sari generally has brocade borders and a big golden pallu with colourful floral and other designs. Occasionally, the ground is decorated with fine butis in gold. The pallu is richly decorated with a variety of motifs like asavali, akroti, bangdimor, Ajanta lotus and huma parinda. Some of the saris have a coin motif known as ashrafi spread all over the fabric.

The ruling families of the Peshwas particularly patronised Paithani. Their fondness for Paithani is reflected in many of the letters ordering dhotis, dupattas, turbans etc. in different varieties and colours. Documents show their preference for plain dhoti with silver and gold thread work, turbans in green and dupatta having asavali or narali work in red, pink, orange and green. Besides Paithan, many other regional centres began to weave Paithani. Yeola, one such centre became famous for its mango designs.

Paithani was not only popular with the Marathas but it also attracted the Nizam of Hyderabad and his family who had visited the Paithani centre several times. His daughter-in-law Begum Nilofar even introduced new motifs to the border as well as pallu designs.

Traditionally known as Jambhul Rang Paithani, this purple Paithani originally belonged to the Nizam family as reported by the collector herself. It has neatly woven Jai phul (jasmine) jari butis all over which are closely spaced near the pallu. The broad borders are done in narali pattern. On the ground near the pallu there are eight guldasta butis in the shape of mango and a diaper of cartouches containing flowers done in a silver jari. A beautiful interplay of gold and silver is seen in the silver mango motifs on the golden pallu. The pallu also has a band of vine pattern border running all around.

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  • Title: Painthani Sari
  • Date Created: 19th century CE
  • Location: India
  • Provenance: Gift of Shri Bansi Mehta from his wife Sushila Asher’s Collection
  • Type: Sari
  • Medium: Silk with brocade
  • Region: Paithan, Maharashtra
  • Dimensions: 542 x 102 cms
  • Accession Number: 97.12/4

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