Gharchola Saree for Gujarati Wedding
Gharchola is a traditional Indian wedding saree that is popular in Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. These lovely Bridal Sarees also find adulation in many other parts of the country, thanks to their vibrance and auspicious symbolism.
When literally translated, the word Gharchola refers to a garment worn at home. Gujarat’s famed Gharcholas, however, are not just worn at home. In fact, they are too pretty to be limited within the home boundaries. However, the name refers to the context of a new bride becoming a part of a new home, after her wedding, where she goes dressed in a Gharchola.
Originating from the Khambat region of the West Indian state of Gujarat, Gharcholas are traditional wedding staples in Gujarat and Rajasthan,amidst Hindu and Jain communities, and are used as Odhanis (Dupattas draped over shoulders and head) and sarees.These opulent silk creations are also used avidly in other states of India, during marriages, festivities and auspicious occasions.
Distinguished for their special grid pattern, Gharcholas are also known as Ghatchola or Gharcholu. Traditionally, Gharcholas are crafted in silk fabric. However, cotton-silk blend and art silk gharcholas are also made.
The Gift of Love
In Gujarati communities, the Gharchola-Panetar duo is a wedding must. While Panetar, the red and white wedding Saree/ Lehenga/ Chaniya decorated with Bandhani and Zari, is a gift from bride’s maternal uncle, the vibrant and ornate Gharchola is a gift from the mother-in-law.
That is why, many brides wear Panetar as their bridal attire, but once the ceremonies begin, they drape the gifted Gharchola over their head and shoulders, as an Odhani.
In Indian culture, a marriage is not just the meeting of two people. It is also about the bonding of two families. The bride or the daughter-in-law is considered as the honour of the groom’s family. And, once she is married off, the groom and his family vow to take care of the bride – in every way, caring for her security, needs and life.
Draping a Dupatta or Odhani on the shoulders and head of a girl is a symbol of a promise that comes with the traditional Indian marriage. The gesture is beautiful and profound, as it symbolizes that the family, particularly the mother-in-law, has taken the young bride under her wings.
The Chequered Wonder
Gharcholas are hand-woven wonders. They have a typical checked/ grid pattern, made with gold Zari. The zari may be a gleaming gold or an understated, antique gold. The well-known patterns of 12 squares called –bar bhagor 52 squares called - bavan bhag are typically formed on a gharchola. Other variations and permutations in checks, like 9 checks - are also used by weavers.
Each check is then tied and dyed to create wonderful bandhani patterns, which repeat themselves through the entire length of the saree.
The same small pattern or motif that’s used in one square is often repeated in every single block, through the Gharchola! Or the repetition is strategic – while a few blocks have bandhni dots, others have embroidered motifs.
Precious Handloom Weaves
Gharcholas were first woven in the Cambay or Khambat region in Gujarat. Woven using silk (fabric blend) and zari threads, they take a lot of time to be made. That is why this is an art that needs care and revival.
In the first step, the base fabric is woven using silk/ silk blend threads and Zari. The base of Gharchola that takes anywhere between a week to 12 days for weaving, depending upon the grid pattern/ size, is then processed further, as per the design to be used in each grid. Then either the zari motifs are woven, or bandhni process is carried out or the hand-embroidery is done.
The Resplendent Reds and Gorgeous Greens
Gharcholas are typically made in the sacred colours of red and green. While red is closely associated with weddings among Hindus, the color green signifies new life, growth fertility and prosperity.
You will find all possible shades of red in Gharcholas, ranging from deepest maroons to stark, sizzling reds. Sames goes with greens, though the deeper greens, bottle green and leaf green are the most used varieties.
Apart from these traditional colors, nowadays Gharcholas are also crafted in chic color combinations like pink and red, pink and green, pink and purple, green and yellow, red and yellow, red and mustard yellow, tangerine and red etc.
Apart from Bandhej, woven gold motifs, diamond and cut-dana embroidery and zari are also used to embellish the squares on a Gharchola.
To begin with, individual squares in Gharchola are decorated with dainty bandhani dots in vibrant reds and lovely whites. Post this, embroidery is done on the sarees. Semi-precious stones, sequins and shells are also used to embellish the border and pallu motifs.
Zari borders and Zari Pallus too are routinely used to embellish opulent and lustrous gharcholas.
Hand-made motifs of lotus, parrots, other birds, peacocks, elephants, human figurines, dots etc. are also made in these squares, on the borders and in the pallu of a Gharchola.
Phulawari – When the flora motifs - trees, leaves, flowers - pre-dominate the gharchola, the design is known as a Phulwari (Garden).
Shikari – Predominant fauna motifs on the Gharchola checks give the name Shikari(hunter) to the design. These designs depict jungles and hunting scenes. Human figures also appear in these patterns.
Apart from Khambat, Gharcholas are often made in the Jamnagar area of Gujarat. The water quality is considered suitable for the dying process of these silks, as reds are said to emerge extra vibrant in this water. Surat, Rajkot and Surendranagar district are other popular locations for Gharchola manufacturing.
Two kinds of silk threads are used for making these intricate weaves. The raw materials are procured from Banagalore (for silk) and Surat (for Zari).