Paithani gets its name from the place to which this craft belongs- 'Paithan'. Paithan is a town in Maharashtra, located in Aurangabad district. Paithan known as 'Pratishthana' was capital of Satavahana Empire in times of Ruler Shalivahana. This was the time when cotton and textiles were greatly exported from his empire to foreign countries and is also said to be the time when the Paithani saree developed.
Pitambar and Paithani were the two highly treasured textiles of this region, so exclusive that it has reference in Mahabharata describing the love of Krishna for Draupadi. When once Draupadi accidentally cut her finger, Lord Shree Krishna had torn a piece from his precious Pitambar cloth, to tie her bleeding finger!
Major contributors in modern history for Paithani to have flourished are the Peshwas, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and the Nizams.
A major turn in the history of Paithani is the shift in its manufacturing centre from Paithan to Yeola during the Peshwa period. Like other Indian textiles Paithani had a setback with the advent of the industrial revolution and the British rule in India. In late 19th century, a Sardar from Yeola, Raghuji Naik along with a trader Shyamji Walji brought a few weavers from Paithan to Yeola. Since 1980 Paithani weaving took a rebirth in town of Yeola. Before this Yeola Shalu was majorly manufactured in Yeola.
- Traditionally four communities are said to practise the craft of weaving Paithani sarees. 1. Kshatriya, 2.Koshti, 3.Shali, 4.Nagpuri
- Traditionally men handled the task of weaving on loom, while women, children and the elderly helped in the pre and post processes. The main weaver on an average is between the age group of 17 and 45.
- This intricate and tedious skill was and is majorly passed on from one generation to other in a family. Children start helping in small tasks and as time passes by, are seen sitting next to their elders to learn and assist in weaving at the age of ten to eleven years. Though these traditions are still followed there are a number of additions to these traditions for good!
- Now this craft is being taught in various training centers which are affiliated to certain universities, or in an informal way an experienced weaver trains younger men in surroundings and later hires them as weavers. This has helped people across communities to get involved in this wonderful craft.
- Also young men in the villages and around learnt this craft to start their own production later. A trained person then teaches his other family members and enables a sustainable life for himself and his dependents.
- Another addition is that men now do not hesitate to make their wives and sisters their partners in this work. Women are seen weaving on looms as are the men.
- The third addition is that due to training facility the area of manufacturing Paithani sarees is increasing widely across villages and towns. Like the whole apparel market, the major season of rigorous sale for Paithani is summer and late winters as it is the peak time for marriage ceremonies in India.
- All the families involved in this craft are totally dependent on Paithani weaving for their livelihood. Except the ones who are newly learning. This is also because the manufacturing of sarees goes on continuously for the whole year.
- Depending upon the level of difficulty of craft, time taken for production varies from 10 days to 1 or 2 years.