Tanchoi is an elaborate and comprehensive weaving technique practiced in parts of Northern India to create beautiful Tanchoi textiles. Originally, this art instigated in China and was brought to India by three brothers with the last name ‘choi.’ The technique therefore came to be known as ‘Tanchoi’, which literally means ‘three chois’ (tan – three, Choi – brothers). They introduced the art to the Indian weavers in Surat (Gujarat) and later the Varanasi weavers started making less expensive versions. Since then the amalgamation of Chinese technique with Indian style of weaving was created to form the Indianised version of Tanchoi sarees.
The tanchoi weavers initially wove yard age and sarees, which were mostly used by the Parsi community. But today, Tanchoi has remarkably gained popularity throughout India.
Tanchoi textiles are fabricated in vibrant colours and the weaving technique employs several silk yarns. Like Brocades, Tanchois are also constructed using an extra set of colorful weft silk yarn covering the satin ground thus creating unusually distinctive patterns. Tanchoi weaving is one of the technical and complex weaving techniques as it involves one or two warp and two to five weft colours often in the same shed.
A densely patterned, heavy fabric is thus created without any floats on the reverse. Sometimes, the ‘unused’ threads are woven into the ‘foundation’ at the back. As per the tradition of creating these sarees, the weavers create the face of the fabric with a satin weave ground (warp threads) with small patterns made by the weft threads repeated over the entire surface. Based on this fact, traditionally Tanchoi textiles are Amru brocades that originated in China, but in the 1940s and 1950s, Banaras took over the market and began to incorporate zari.
In Tanchoi sarees the designs are always floral with interspersing of birds. Figures of flying birds, paired cocks amidst floral sprays are worked all over the body surrounded by flowers and baskets containing flowers. Sometimes the pallu is done more solidly with peacocks, baskets or bunches of flowers or hunting scenes. Tanchoi silk sarees are also ornamented in dazzling floral, geometrical and paisley designs. Most of the times the designs are of Chinese origin but weavers also integrate Indian motifs to create unique pieces of art.
The saree ground is usually bright coloured in blue, purple, green or red with areas patterned in tabby weave. The weavers also use tone-on-tone colors as well as multiple color combinations in jacquard weaving.
Tanchoi sarees from the state of Gujarat, Surat:
Tanchoi from Gujarat creates an extra weft layer to produce the effect of embossing on silk. There are also combinations of brocaded gold butis and borders in a background of self patterned Tanchoi. Some Tanchoi sarees have a rich gold border and two gold bands on the pallu. The more exclusive ones have gold checks with lotus roundels all over which are known as butis.
Figures of birds, trees and flowers are commonly used in these sarees. Sometimes, the pallu is richly decorated with large figures of peacocks, flower baskets and hunting scenes.
Tanchoi from Uttar Pradesh,Varanasi:
Like the banarasi sarees, Tanchoi sarees are also produced by Varanasi weavers but are not constructed as heavy like Banarasi sarees. They are meant to suit and be worn on all types of occasions.
In Varanasi, Tanchoi is produced in zari decorated all over using different motifs and designs and not just Moghul motifs.
Another interpretation of the term here is ‘tan-chhai’, meaning evoking a pattern which covers the field or the body.