Posted in Sarees and Textiles
Donning a blue Kanjeevaram sari and glistening diamonds, the legendary icon MS Amma, along with Smt Radha, performed the “Mummoorthigal Vizha” at Tiruvarur in 1986 -mesmerising the audience in her signature voice. There seemed to be a divine intervention to make the time stop that day.The Signature Style
MS Subbulakshmi, fondly known as MS Amma, the doyen of Carnatic Music was and is still admired for her divine voice and style. From puffed sleeves and casual sarees to double bordered vibrantly coloured Kanchivaram silks often gifted by her rasikas, her style and grace have left many in awe of her. Music lovers from all parts of India thronged to her concerts to not just hear but also to see her in all her glory. One such day, long before her performance in 1986 mentioned above, MS Amma graced her ‘kutcheris’ in her signature Kanjeevaram but in a never to be seen before colour. Her diamonds, her blue saree and her voice seemed to weave an aura around her. After this first public appearance of this unique blue, everyone waited in anticipation to learn more about this mysterious new colour!
The famous ‘Blue’ colour was a vibrant blue created for the first time in India, by the Silken Genius, Mr. RK Raman at the backyards of Angadi’s Weaving facility in the 1950’s using foreign dyes that were licenced exclusively to The House of Angadi.
Mr. Raman gave the colour the name ‘MS Blue’ in honour of his elite client as the ‘new blue’ was recognised most that day when MS Amma donned it. The House of Angadi feels honoured to have crafted the perfect ‘Blue’, that will stay as legendary as the musician herself. With notable appreciations for Angadi’s craft, MS Amma, was a fond patron of the Angadi family products.The man behind the MS Blue
With over 600 years of legacy of traditional silk weaving, established foothold of manufacturing facilities and exquisite clientele such as Late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, The Maharani of Mysore – Ms. Pramoda Devi , actress Nargis and many VIPs from around the world,The House of Angadi today stands for one of the oldest thriving silk weaving families in India.
The Angadi Family, under the guidance of the legendary RK Raman, was the first to set up an integrated handloom weaving facility as far back as the 1950s. Incidentally, the dyeing master of the Angadi weaving facility still holds the credit to this day, for introducing silk sarees colours of various kinds that connoisseurs had never seen before.
As old time sari connoisseurs would know, prior to the advent of chemical dyes most dyeing was carried out using natural dye stuffs thus limiting the range of colors that were possible. The famous Late Shri RK Radhakrishnan Chettiar, father of the Legendary Mr. RK Raman, refers to some of these colors and the raw materials used to create these colors in his video interview of 2000.
The family introduced the most modern Chemical dyes (Acid and VAT Dyes) to dyeing of silk which were imported specially from Switzerland. Since the company also exported ,apart from manufacturing and retailing textiles, the family had the capacity to import raw materials free of duty against their export performance.This was an advantage no other handloom manufacturer or sari manufacturer had and was especially valuable in those times when imports were tightly regulated and foreign exchange was scarce unlike today.
This led to the creation of many new shades – all of which were creatively marketed each Deepavali Season under various names (R.K Raman and his uncle R.K Saranatha Chettiar were said to have jointly coined many of these names over free wheeled business discussions at their favored hangout at the Marina Beach in the city of Madras) .New colors such as Saraswati, Neeladri, Coral Pink, Krishna Mega Varnam (Color of Krishna), and others were introduced as special ‘Deepavali’ colors.
Reference to the family’s abilities in this regard can be found in an old article in THE HINDU, Madras edition, authored by Kamala Ramakrishnan.
Mr.Radharaman, Design Head and CEO of The House of Angadi, explains “The Angadi family’s roots as manufacturers,exporters and innovators in the textile trade has given us an unique advantage that clearly no other retailer or seller of silk saris of that time could claim to possess.”
Busting the commonly spread idea towards myths and claims associated with the ownership of MS Blue by many modern day brands, fact to be considered is that silk weaving in India has historically been a decentralized cottage industry. Meaning, the dyeing of silk in the handloom industry through much of India was, and still remains, a manual activity done by small decentralized ‘dyeing units’ – by hand in large tubs of water that were heated by open burning of coal or firewood. *
While much of the handloom weaving and dyeing process continues in this fashion in India till the present day – the Angadi integrated handloom weaving facilities in the nondescript hamlet of Tirucherai were organized on an industrial scale as far back as the 1950s.** It is a known fact that most ‘weavers’ possess only little or no knowledge of dyeing yarns/textiles. Dyeing requires knowledge of the various chemical processes (dye chemistry) required to create the colors. Back in the day only a weaving setup with a Dye House of its own (such as the one at the Angadi weaving facility at Tirucherai) could pioneer new colors. Any new colour created can only be credited to the dyeing master at the decentralized dyeing unit of the cluster and not to any retailer.
With claims to the ownership Legendary MS Blue, The House of Angadi takes pride to have created the exotic ‘MS Blue’ colour at its facilities in Thirucherai, which acquired fame by the patronage of MS Subbulakshmi Amma, a patron of the Angadi family products.
*Even to today, like in olden days, much of the raw material was produced and procured from independent sellers in the silk rearing centres of Karnataka (Siddalaghata, Chikballapur, Ramnagaram etc…). The yarn would then be processed at semi mechanized twisting units clustered around the rearing centres and then sold to individual weavers, masterweavers or wholesalers. The raw material would then be dyed in small decentralized ‘dyeing units’ – by hand in large tubs of water that were heated by open burning of coal or firewood. The dyed material would then be converted into weft packages by hand (pirn winding) and into warps often in the open air on the narrow village bylanes that offered the extra room needed to create the warps.
**With an eye for quality, all of the processes involved in the conversion of raw material into fine silk fabrics were centralized under one roof. Twisting was carried out in fully mechanized twisting machines and the twisted material was dyed in the most modern Mezarra hank dyeing machines imported from Italy(in 1950’s !). It is important to note that the Mezarra Hank Dyeing machine remains the standard bearer for silk dyeing in the world till today; more than half a century after it was introduced into the Handloom Industry by the Angadi Family.