Katan is a fabric woven with pure silk threads. It is a type of silk that is formed by twisting together filaments resulting in a yarn which is immensely sturdy and high in durability. It is predominantly used for the warp of light fabrics. Katan silk, which is a locally used terminology in Varanasi is handwoven using both a pure silk warp and weft. This fabric of silk is extremely fine, soft and lustrous. The nature of its creation makes it an interesting textured background for any work to be done easily, essentially making the fabric highly unique and easily identifiable.
Katan Silk, as a concept, dates back to Persia. The women belonging to the royal families, were known to wear luxurious and elaborately designed clothes using Katan Silk. They indulged in silk purchased from China, Persia and even parts of India, such as Benares, in order to weave sophisticated and fashionably elegant garments. Furthermore, these women were popular for wearing at least 2-3 different outfits in a day, they would never re wear the same outfit again. The clothes once worn, passed down to their helpers for their use. Through this practice, fabrics such as Katan Silk were filtered down all the way through the empire and became even more popular due to their sturdy and durable nature. Women like Nur Jahan Begum have always been remembered for extracting the best out of Katan Silk which made this fabric all the more desirable amongst other subjects of the empire whilst popularizing new fashions and designs.
Originally, when it came to the kinds of colors and motifs to be used, Mughal women displayed a knack for white along with floral patterns and other light colors such as cream, beige, etc. Another popular color was red along with spots of sundry colors on this background. However, with recent innovations in the fabric and styles of garments, almost any color or motif can be used on Katan Silk.
Creating Katan Silk requires a series of meticulous steps to be followed to ensure that the highest quality of the fabric can be achieved.
To start with, the silk yarns are first prepared. The yarns are initially steamed and treated with certain chemicals to make them resulting in soft and malleable. The treated yarn is then spun together on a spinning wheel and twisted and made ready for the loom. This process of twisting was originally handled by artisans known as Naqqads. Katan silk is created by twisting together two threads only while other forms of silk may require different numbers of yarn.
Once this is done, the weft and warp are dyed. This process is one of the most intricate processes as it requires the designer to visualize the desired pattern and dye the pattern with mathematical precision. These yarns are then arranged in separate frames and are marked with charcoal to indicate the dyeing process. They are then taken to the Pathabanda, the artisan responsible for tying the yarns together, who uses wax to tie the yarns together. Every time the fabric is dyed, it is tied by the Pathabanda, until the desired shades are created. Once that is done, the knots are then opened to create the fabric.
The varieties of Katan silk include:
- Jamdani – this weave is brought alive by using a light and translucent fabric with patterns in the thicker thread for an effect.
- Jangla – As the name suggests, this technique includes heavy and intricate weaving with floral and bird motifs, which represent the jungle. The patterns are woven in gold and silver zari.
- Tanchoi – this is a warp-faced, satin base fabric and always woven using extra weft ornamentation on a silk based of plain, twill or satin weave.
- Kinkhab – this pattern involves extensive use of profuse gold and silver thread, so much that the silk background is hardly visible.
Although it originated in Persia, over time, Banaras has become a hub for Katan Silk. Look no further than Chinaya in Banaras, for the widest range of Katan Silk ensemble. We at Chinaya are ardent admirers of the craft and history behind a fabric like Katan silk. We believe in bringing the best quality of each weave to your table. We are a page taken out of the historical book called Rupdarshi Heritage. You can pick up this six-yard-long piece of beauty at (link). To know more about us and what we do, (link). Check out our other collections here.