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Article: Little Rituals : Aarambam - Part II

Little Rituals : Aarambam - Part II

This wedding season, Kanakavalli follows the kalyana podavai, the bridal kanjivaram, as it journeys across two parallel timelines - its creation in the hands of the weaver and its role in a bride's preparation for her wedding ceremony. In Aarambam, the second volume of Little Rituals, we view this journey from the perspective of the sari, as it is brought to life by the weaver and then draped in all its splendour on a bride.

The two worlds are juxtaposed against one another, merging in the final visuals that depict the beginning of the bride's journey - the wedding ceremony. In Part I, the silk yarn was dyed and spun, as the bride and her family began the elaborate preparations for the muhurtham. Every aspect of both these processes is a little ritual in its own way, a celebration of tradition.

In this, the second and concluding part of the photo essay, the stage shifts; the yarn transforming into the bridal sari upon the loom, the bride and the kanjivaram becoming one as she steps into a new chapter of her life. 

The story of the kalyana podavai continues in Aarambam.

The parallel journeys of the bridal kanjivaram in Aarambam play out within a single frame, as though the bride and the weaver were in the same room. There is a dreamlike quality to these visuals, though they are rooted in the familiar, as disparate worlds and timelines are brought together.

Preparations for the wedding include setting up the pandal on which the ceremony will take place. The sumangalis follow age-old customs as they draw the auspicious kolam, arrange the thamboolam offerings and place the bricks and materials for the homam, a votive fire ritual performed by a priest to honour Agni, the god of fire.
The symbolic loom set-up provides the backdrop as the little rituals of a South Indian wedding unfold; a reminder of the bridal kanjivaram’s parallel journey of creation.


Here, the two timelines of the Aarambam story momentarily converge with the drawing of the kolam, a marker of auspicious beginnings. As the sumangalis arrange the pandal for the muhurtham, the sari begins to take shape on the loom, beneath the deft movements of the weavers’ hands. The geometry of the kolams is echoed in the layering of warp and weft threads on the loom.

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As the kalyana podavai comes off the symbolic loom, yarn and shimmering zari are transformed into a crafted tapestry that tells a story of time and tradition, skill and beauty. Like the tuning of a string instrument before a performance, weavers must finely adjust the tension of the warp yarns to match that of the weft threads. Together, the visual effect is orchestral: a cascade of fine silk, complex yet delicate, fragile yet powerful.

When the bridal kanjivaram is complete, shimmering like a river of silk and gold, two weavers follow a traditional technique to fold the drape, using a pair of wooden sticks. 

The folds come together with geometric precision, creating the perfect symmetry that reflects the inherent geometry of the weave.

As the ritual folding of the kanjivaram takes place, the parallel timeline brings together the final touches to the pandal in preparation for the muhurtham: the ceremonial lighting of the lamp, and the arrangement of auspicious elements that are rich in cultural and symbolic significance. 

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The lighting of the kuthu villakku lamps adorned with annapakshis represents the beginning of something auspicious: the ‘Aarambam’. The mukkali is a three-legged stool with a thambalam containing grains of rice. A brass kalasam is placed atop it, containing a coconut surrounded by mango leaves dotted with turmeric and kumkum, a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Every little element of a South Indian wedding is infused with tradition and meaning, and the sumangalis follow customs handed down over generations.  

Finally, the two worlds of Kanakavalli’s Little Rituals: Aarambam campaign come together. The frames merge as the bride begins to drape herself in her wedding kanjivaram. The two timelines become one with this auspicious union of the bride and the weave.

In our visuals, a six-yard bridal kanjivaram is draped in the traditional madisar style. The adornment of the bride is complete with the traditional pieces of jewellery she wears – jhumkis in her ears, a kasu malai and manga malai (coin and paisley necklace), colourful glass bangles, vanki armlets, a mookuthi in her nose, and the traditional ottiyanam around the waist.

The bridal kanjivaram is the object around which the narratives revolve; it is the beautiful, unifying thread that ties together the parallel worlds of the weaver and the bride. Here, the loom construct in the background signifies the profound connection between the two parallel narratives – yarn to sari, weaver to wearer.

  Click to watch 

The kanjivaram and its legacy – its origins or the birth that we witness in the frames – lie at the heart of this story. The cast of characters – the weavers, the bride, her mother, the sumangalis, the priest and the groom – all interact with the sari in different ways, coming together in the ceremony of the wedding.

Here the bride wears a stunning bridal kanjivaram in hot pink silk shot with red, overlaid with a twill pattern in bright yellow executed in a complex technique on the four-pedal ettu kol loom. Diamond-shaped kuyilkann patterns in rich zari lend the drape the visual effect of a river of molten gold. The borders, in the same colour as the base fabric of the sari, appear as though they are woven in the korvai technique, and are adorned with classic motifs in zari and hot pink, amid hints of leaf green. Classic motifs of yaanai (elephants) and kuthirai (horses) in rich zari adorn the pallu.

We hope you enjoyed the Aarambam volume of Little Rituals.

Discover Kanakavalli’s Valli Muhurtham range of exquisitely embellished bridal and trousseau kanjivaram saris, as well as our Anga Vastra line of wedding wear crafted in kanjivaram silk for men in stores, at our travelling exhibits and online.


Little Rituals : Aarambam - Part I
Little Rituals

Little Rituals : Aarambam - Part I

Kanakavalli celebrates the wedding season with another volume of Little Rituals - Aarambam - which traces auspicious bridal beginnings through the unique lens of the kalyana podavai (the bridal sar...

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