Paithani -   A poem in Silk and Gold

History of Paithani


The Paithani saree tells a tale. A tale that is laid deep in history. A tale of silk, of zari. A tale of beauty, elegance and grandeur. A tale of tradition.

Born in Maharashtra, the Paithani saree dates back to times as early as the Rigveda. In the 18th century the Paithani thrived under the patronage of the Peshwas. It is believed that Madhavrao Peshwa had a special love for Paithani textiles. Legend also has it that the Paithani caught the fancy of the Nizam of Hyderabad too and that it was his daughter in law Nilofer who introduced new motifs to the border and pallav designs. So later new motifs were introduced by the Mughals.

In ancient times, Paithan was a prosperous trade center called 'Pratisthan' and exported rich fabrics and precious stones to far of lands.Historians have noted fine paithani sarees with delicate gold and silver thread-work being sold in Greece in exchange for gold between 200 and 400 BC.

What is Paithani?

The Paithani is more than just a silk saree. It speaks of art, of culture. It is a legacy, an heirloom!

It is essentially a silk saree with an ornamented zari pallav and border and traditional motifs. The saree is often known by the motif that dominates its border or pallav.


So what is it about the Paithani that is so enticing? Is it the silk, the colours, the designs, the zari? Perhaps its just the sheer richness of it as a whole. Its fabric is woven entirely on handlooms. It is a confluence of gorgeous colours and intricate designs. A simple tabby weave brings together two different coloured threads to achieve a dhoop-chhav effect. The otherwise plain Paithani is given its grandeur by its ornamental zari border and pallav. In the olden times the zari was drawn from gold.

A special feature of Paithani is that no mechanical means are used to produce the designs. Skilled weavers count the threads of the wrap for each part of the design and using tiny cloth pins or 'tillies', interlock the silk or gold yarn on the weft with them. The progress is slow. Sometimes only half an inch came be woven in a 12 hours. The price of such painstaking workmanship is bound to be high. It takes at least a month and a half to weave the simplest Paithani and from five to nine months to make the brocade one.


Normally Paithani is woven using silk yarn and the zari is drawn from pure gold. But nowadays, an economically viable saree may be woven substituting silver for gold and cotton for silk.


Sari Due to proximity to the Ajanta caves, the influence of the Buddhist paintings can be seen in the woven Paithani motifs:

The Kamal or lotus flower on which Buddha sits or stands

The Hans motif

 The Ashraffi motif

 The Asawalli (flowering vines), became very popular during the Peshwa's period

 The Bangadi Mor, peacock in bangle

 The Tota-Maina The Humarparinda, peasant bird

The Amar Vell

 The Narali motif,

Very common Small motifs like circles, stars, kuyri, rui phool, kalas pakhhli, chandrakor, clusters of 3 leaves, were very common for the body of the sari.


 Muniya, a kind of parrot used in borders and always found in green colour with an occasional red touch at the mouth

Panja, a geometrical flower-like motif, most often outlined in red Barwa, 12 strands of a ladder; 3 strands on each side

Laher, design is done in the centre to strengthen the zari Muthada, a geometrical design Asawali, a flower pot with a flowering plant
Mor, a peacock


Kalichandrakala: pure black sari with red border.

Raghu: parrot green coloured sari.

Shirodak: pure white sari.

Paithani Weaving: