From the time of Rani Ahilyabai during the Holkar rule, and her personal encouragement to weavers who migrated from other places and stayed put in Maheshwar, handloom weaving has become a cottage industry that did see bad times in between, but has now had its glory restored by turning Maheshwar into a booming hub for unique, exceptional handloom weaves that are famous not only in the country but overseas as well.
The Maheshwari Saree, is a regal traditional offering, which despite the odds, has managed to survive the test of time. Emerging a winner, Maheshwari weaves continue to remain as a fine example of the devotion and dedicated efforts to preserve the purity of a traditional art.
Distinctive features of the Maheshwari Saree are its light weight, shiny lustre, and a fine display of colours, with brilliant motifs, an attractive Pallu and a border to match.
The Pallu is particularly noted for the colourful stripes in varied colours such as green, pink, magenta, mauve, violet etc. which lend the fabric a mesmerising look. The border is also adorned by trendy designs and themes such as the Maheshwar fort and similar subjects.
The unique feature of a Maheshwari saree is its reversible border. The border is designed in such a way that both sides of the saree can be worn. This is locally known as ‘Bugdi’.
The designs in the Maheshwari sarees were inspired by the detailing on the walls of the Fort of Maheshwar. The popular designs used in these sarees, were inspired from the designs on the fort walls with ‘Chatai’ or ‘Mat’ pattern, the ‘Chamelikaphool’ or ‘Chameli flower’ pattern, the ‘Eent’ or ‘Brick’ pattern as well as the ‘Heera’ or ‘Diamond’ pattern were initial and found instant popularity. These designs are found on Maheshwari sarees even today. However today there is no dearth of innovative designs, novel designs and patterns, and very much trendy and current in tune with the market taste.
Originally, the Maheshwari saree was made of pure silk. Then in course of time, these sarees began to be made in pure cotton and with a mixture of silk and cotton (silk yarn in the warp and cotton in the weft). Nowadays, wool is also being used in the production of Maheshwari sarees. These sarees are extremely light in weight.
Maheshwari sarees were initially made only in dark shades like red, maroon, black, purple and green. Today, these sarees are also being made in lighter shades and gold and silver zari threads are being made use of liberally. The most popular colors used in Maheshwari sarees are grape green, deep pink, magenta, purple, deep brown, golden, deep pink, green, light purple. Usually, vegetable dyes are used in the preparation of these sarees.
But with so much of experimentation and newer color combinations, no color holds sacrosanct and almost any color finds it way on the Maheshwari Prints.