The designs or motifs on Kanjivaram (or Kanchipuram) silk sarees have always caught the attention of buyers, and each of those motifs have a history to them, a symbolism, and an attachment to the culture of the place of its origin.
Motifs, by definition, are the repeating design or an idea that appears throughout in an artistic piece. Motifs can be any one of these: a recurring imagery, structure, visual components, music, language, contrasts, or physical postures. These play a significant role in conveying the theme or mood of the literature or drama to the audience. Over the years, motifs have become increasingly popular in sarees, dupattas, and other Indian ethnic wear.
India is the land of multitudes of colours, traditions, cultures, and architectures. Each of the different designs or motifs we see now in art, are a representation of the art, culture, and in some cases, the influence of kings of the era. One such motif that has been a part of the tradition since time immemorial is the Annapakshi.
Annapakshi – The saga
Annapakshi, or the divine swan is a mythical bird that is often confused with a dancing peacock. But if one observes closely, its beak and body resembles that of a swan whilst its elegant feathers are inspired by the peacock.
Legend has it that this mythical white bird flew down to the earth from the heaven, the Swarga. According to Rigveda, this bird was so intelligent that it can separate pure milk from a solution of milk and water – which signifies not only intelligence, but the knowledge to choose truth over falsehood.
Annapakshi motif on black Kanjivaram silk saree
Annapakshi is also believed to be the vaahanam, or vehicle, of Goddess Saraswati representing the free spirit of Lord Brahma.
Finding it's place in silk
Over time, the Annapakshi became the most loved motif. In Kanchipuram silk sarees, the Annams graced the rich and grand borders and pallu. The weavers of Kanchipuram viewed the Annapakshi motif as a holy and auspicious symbol that brings wealth and prosperity to both the weaver and the wearer. The Annapakshi often features in the stunning Zari borders, or as a large motif on the body.
A Symbol of Culture
The Annapakshi also prominently features in South Indian culture on brass lamps, called Kuthu Villaku, which are lit to commence any sacred occasion. In temples, the Annapakshi carvings are a common sight. The Annams are seen holding a vine in their beak, where the vine symbolises wealth.
No wonder then, these graceful birds are still woven by weavers and feature prominently on sarees specially woven for brides.
The Annapakshi is truly a timeless motifs, much-loved in history, and still popular.