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The allure of the Indian Saree

Balarampuram Sarees

Kerala's best kept secret

It took saying it about twenty times in a row before I could get it right, but this long long name is a small village on the outskirts of Trivandrum. As the rickshaw brought us deeper and deeper into what looked like a residential neighborhood, the signs started appearing and you could see into the houses where cabinets of neatly stacked sarees and dhotis stood, and hear the clack clack of handlooms and the humming of bobbin winders.

Meticulously ordered goods in Somasundaram's weaving center store, which had a hushed and quiet atmosphere, almost like a temple.

These sarees are woven of a very special soft and very durable cotton, with a finish that's only able to be created here in this climate. If you go a bit north to Madras where the weather is hotter and drier you won't get such smooth finishing on the yarn. This is what makes Balarampuram sarees so wonderfully soft and durable.

sundaram.jpgThe style of these saris is very simple and classic. Mostly they are woven in undyed natural cotton, with very simple borders and sometimes geometrical bhutties woven in the field to match the border color. The special finish and strength of the yarn is important for blending with the heavy zari work the the village is famous for. Which you can see in the bottom of this photo on the left. To the right the brothers of Somasundaram and Sons.

A woman weaving dhoties in a pit loom. She operates the shuttle by a spring action mechanism, and the heddles are lifted by foot pedals. She sits in pit dug into the earth, and the warp threads stretch out to anchors which suspend it just above the earth floor.

Sarees with zari borders being woven in Somasundaram's weaving center. It takes about 3 days to weave one sari. Here in these looms the weavers pass the shuttle through by hand. The zari yarn itself is the biggest cost factor in the price of these pieces.

What exactly is zari?

Real zari thread is made by coiling gold plated silver wire around a cotton core. High quality zari thread keeps its golden finish for years, whereas cheaper quality or artificial zari will turn black after a few washings. Each spool of zari thread costs about $7 - some of the fancy sarees they weave here go for almost a thousand dollars wholesale! The fancy Balarampuram sarees are so heavy with zari work, you wonder how the bride could stand up for hours wearing it! You can feel the coolness of real zari immediately when you touch it. Artificial zari does not feel cool and metallic.

melsabuchai.jpgKerala is also the perfect place to relax

Escaping the grit of big city India and bathing for a week in the magic of ayurveda and the fresh air of this immaculate place the sariwalli comes back to a healthy state. I/P>

Shop for Balarampuram sarees.


What an intense face! This fisherman had a long night with the bottle and a bad catch that morning.


While it is cold and foggy in New Delhi right now, these ladies are shielding themselves against the very very hot equatorial sun. The Kerala aesthetic is so beautiful and timeless.

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