Free Press Journal

Saree designer Vinay Narkar on wearing black on Makar Sankranti, tradition of Chandrakala sarees and more

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Chandrakala saree

Makar Sankranti brings a festive cheer all over the country. From flying kites to indulging in scrumptious meals, the harvest festival of India is all about family time. Although wearing black is considered inauspicious in Hinduism, Makar Sankranti is the only festival that glories wearing black in Maharashtra. A lost tradition now, it is the day when Maharashtrian women wear a particular pattern of black saree known as ‘Chandrakala’. With Makar Sankranti around the corner, Solapur-based textile and saree designer Vinay Narkar looks at bracing the hand-woven Chandrakala Saree associated with the festival.

“There is a tradition to gift a nine-yard Irkal saree to the new bride on her first Makar Sankranti. The sarees have stars and moon motif and also the motif of halwa (sweet exchanged during Makar Sankranti) in Kasuri embroidery. The weaving tradition was later extended to black Paithani and Chanderi, and now to other sarees,” says Narkar. Though wearing black is considered auspicious and is only encouraged to wear during Makar Sankranti has no religious reason senses Narkar. He feels that it might be related to the transition of the sun’s position. The scientific reason behind it is that the festival comes at the peak of the winter and the colour black helps to keep warm by retaining and absorbing heat.

Vinay Narkar

Designer Vinay Narkar


When asked about his journey on reviving Chandrakala saree, Narkar says, “Last year I revived the Irkal tradition of sarees. During the research, I came across Chandrakala sarees. It is a type of sarees every Maharashtrian knows but very few owns. Before that, I had never seen Chandrakala saree. And with the intent to revive Chandrakala saree I headed to Baroda where I got a photograph of Maharani Chimnabai in a Chandrakala saree. I found the reference to the saree at Kelkar Museum in Pune and in Marathi literature. This is how it all started.”

To get a feel of the Chandrakala sarees head to Artisans’ gallery in Mumbai, where Narkar will display his collection of traditional and contemporary sarees. On display are Chandrakala in Irkali, Chandrakala in Paithani and Chandrakala in Chanderi.

Chandrakala: Traditional and Contemporary sarees by Vinay Narkar
When: January 11 to 13, from 11 am to 5 pm
Where: Artisans’, Dr. V B Gandhi Marg Fort, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai