Patola sarees are the most time-consuming and elaborate sarees created in the western region. These sarees have intricate five-colour designs, resist-dyed into both warp and weft threads before weaving, resulting in a completely reversible fabric. The sarees are created with great exactness and perfection by the artisans of the western region.
The historical evidences determine that Patola sarees have been made since at least the thirteenth century and have always had aristocratic or ritualistic associations. The walls of some south Indian temples, such as at Mattancheri (Kerala) and Padmanabhapuram (southern Tamil Nadu) contain eighteenth-century depictions of Patola designs. Gujarat is believed to have exported Patola sarees to South-East Asia since at least the fourteenth century. Traditionally created by the Hindu Salvi caste and traded to South-East Asia by the Muslim Vohra community, these costly, high-status sarees were worn by the Vohras and well-off Jains and Hindus (Brahmins and Bhatia traders) for weddings and other propitious occasions. The Salvis were migrated from Maharashtra and Karnataka in the 12th century in Patan in the patronage of the Solanki Rajputs. The later development and expansion of Patola weaving is also traced in the historical evidences. This depicts that after the fall of Solanki dynasty, the wealthy Gujarati merchant patronized the Salvis. Gradually the Patola sarees became a status symbol with Gujarati girls and became an essential part of the women closet.
The designs of Patola sarees have a wide range of variations. The designs are repetitive at a great deal and often geometric patterns are noticed in the sarees. The designs of this saree basically fall into three types that include purely geometric forms reminiscent of Islamic architectural embellishments and ajrak (complex geometric print designs of the Sind), such as the navaratna bhat (nine jewels design). Other designs that are incorporated in the Patola sarees are the floral and vegetal patterns. These catered to the needs of the Muslim market which shunned depictions of animals and people, such as the Vohra bhat (Vohra community design), paan bhat (paan leaf or peepal tree leaf design), and chhaabdi bhat (floral basket design). The Patola sarees are also designed with patterns that depict forms as the nari (dancing woman), kiinjar (elephant) and popat (parrot). Among the Vohra Muslims, a version of Patola sarees is used as their wedding sarees. The Maharashtrian Brahmins wear Nari Kunj sarees of plain, dark-color body and the borders of the sarees are embellished with women and bird motifs.
Moreover, the Patola sarees are extensively used in each region for the variations and the designs they manifest. As the tradition exemplifies, the sarees have attained a great position in the list of Indian traditional sarees.