Motifs on Kanchipuram Sarees



Mythological creature commonly sculpted on the pillars of Hindu temples, is a combination of parts of Elephant, lion and horses and considered to be more powerful.

Annam or Annapakshi

                Annapakshi is the mythical Swan, is an oft repeated motif in Kanchipuram and Chettinad handlooms and easily mistaken for a peacock. It has the body and beak of a swan and its elegant feathers resemble the peacock. Annapakshi symbolises purity , elegance and divinity and is the Vahana of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and creative arts.


                The Iruthalaipakshi' also known as Gandaberunda is a two headed eagle and embodies with empire, power and dominion from ancient times and is believed to be capable of fighting the forces of destruction. The Gandaberunda was a physical form displayed by Narasimha, Man-Lion incarnation of Vishnu.


                Killi is seen as a symbol of courtship and passion in Indian art. In Tamil Nadu, it is more associated with the Goddess Andal and the colour of parrot is uniquely recognised as “Killi Pachai”.


                Among all the motifs, the peacock motif holds a occupied a significant position in terms of arts and crafts. Symbolizing royalty, beauty and pride the national bird and adorns the crown of Lord Krishna. It is called Mayil in Thamizh and revered noted as the Vahana (Vehicle) of Lord Murugan. The lustrous feathers of the peacock are called Thogai and has reference to ancient texts that suggest that the Hebrew word Tukkiyam that refers to peacock was derived from Thogai.


                Elephant motifs are  the most popular in Indian handlooms since the elephants hold a respectable place in Indian history. The elephant symbolises intelligence, forte and royalty and associated with Vinayagar ( Lord Ganesha). They are woven as individual motifs on the body of the saree or as a row of elephants for the border in Kanchi sarees.


The simha is a common sculpture in the pillars of many South Indian temples. The lion is considered progeny of Goddess Durga and is believed to be dominant. In the Kanchi sarees, the Simham motif is woven both on the body of the saree and for the border.


                The Kuthirai or Horse are revered as the Vahana of temple processions and are a sight of beauty when galloping horse is woven on the saree.

Mayil Kann

                A vintage style design resembling the eye of a peacock, it is woven for the borders of Cotton and Silk Sarees.


                The traditional rangoli patterns that adorn the entrance of houses in Tamil Nadu, the kolam motifs are woven on the body of the saree and for the border.


            Mandala in Sanskrit means circle and it symbolises wholeness. It is a complex abstract circular design derived from ancient Buddhist and Hindu cultures and associated with meditation. Large mandala motifs have found their unique place in contemporary borderless kanchipuram sarees.