History of Peshwai paithani sarees

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18th century was witness to a cultural euphoria in Deccan region as it was a time when the Brahmin Peshwas ruled the Maratha kingdom. As the book by history professor Dr. Varsha Shirgaonkar ‘Eighteenth Century Deccan: Cultural History of the Peshwas’ describes, it was a period when the Peshwas grew in wealth and power and they nourished old forms of culture, gave rise to new, and aided in the synthesis of the old and the new Mughal and Rajput cultural elements as well as the European entered the region and got assimilated into the Maratha culture during their reign and trickled into various spheres of culture such as the performing art forms, festivals, textiles and ornaments.

On my best knowledge, very few times my mother and my mother-in-law have 100% agreed on something, especially when I am the topic of their discussion. First such agreement both of them had was about which sarees I should wear for my wedding. I am an ardent fan of Tussar and reshim & prefer embroidery over zari. So back then, convincing me to wear a heavy zari saree, such as Kanjeevaram or Banarasi brocade was a challenge in front of them. However, both ladies strongly believed that I need (rather “I must”) wear something a bride typically should be wearing.

Both ladies gently cajoled me, rather negotiated with me, saying I get to choose other two sarees, (one for pre-wedding and one for wedding ceremony) as long as I give my approval for “Paithani” for the wedding reception.  That is how I was first introduced to this timeless beauty. It took me over a decade to appreciate the astonishing design, and pride of owning a graceful Paithani saree.

While researching for this blog in past week, I continued chatting with my mother and my mother-in-law over phone and sharing unique motifs and various Paithani saree images with them over WhatsApp. I am sure both of them are now fully convinced that they have passed down the woven love and care for Paithani to this daughter to pass on to their grand-daughter one day.

Origin/History: The art of weaving peshwai paithani sarees is more than 2000 years old, developed in then splendid city of Pratishthan ruled by the legendary Satavahanas ruler Shalivahana, now Paithan by the Godavari in Marathwada, some 50 km from Aurangabad.

The Nizam of Hyderabad was also an ardent admirer of Paithanis. After decline of Mughal influence, the Peshwas of Pune once again took Paithani under their wings by settling weavers in Yeola, a small town near Shirdi. Here Paithani acquired new dimensions in both design and popularity. Asavali, a motif of flowering vine is credited to the Peshwa period.