The Traditional Indian Sarees

By: D. Ghosh

 

The sari is a traditional garment worn by most Indian women. Although at present there is a lot of western influence in the way people dress. Today, sari comprises over 30% of total textile production in India. Apart from large textile mills, the number of sari-manufacturing centers are in hundreds and so the there are innumerable types of fabrics, weaving techniques, methods of dying, printing or embellishing, designing patterns, kind of motifs, color scheme etc.can be found There is something about the sari that makes a woman look dignified, charming and every bit stylish. Over the years, the sari has evolved into a fashion statement, which most fashion designers glorify the look and feel of this traditional garment. In this article an overview of traditional saris that are found in India have been described in brief

 

History of Saris

 

The origins of saris are obscure, in part because there are very few historical records in India. Yet, we know that Indians were wearing saris draped around their bodies long before tailored cloths arrived. The origin of a sari can be dated back in history and there are various references of it during the Indus Valley Civilization. In more recent times, it is believed that the women in most parts of India have been wearing saris for many years.

 

The Indian Sari is more than 5000 years old. It was first mentioned in Rig Veda, the oldest surviving literature of the world, written somewhere around 3000 BC. The Sari, originally intended both for men and women, is probably the longest incessantly worn dress in the history of mankind.

 

One of the earliest depictions of a Sari-like drape covering the entire body dates back to 100 B.C. A North-Indian Terracotta depicts a woman wearing a Sari wound tightly around her entire body in the trouser style.

 

This elaborate sculpture represented in the terracotta may have evolved among India’s temple dancers in ancient times to allow their limbs freedom of movement while at the same time maintaining their standards of modesty.

 

There are many sculptures of Greco-Indian Gandharian civilization which show a variety of different Sari draping styles.

 

Tailored clothes arrived in India with the arrival of Muslims. Hindus believed that any cloth pierced by needles was impure.

 

It is commonly believed in India that petticoat or Ghagra and the blouse or Choli which are worn under the Sari are later additions which started with the coming of British in India. Increasing number of upper class women in the early 20th century did adopt items of European style clothing as the fitted blouse and slim petticoat. This was also adopted due to the fashion of transparent chiffon Saris during that particular period. Some of the wives of Indian Kings draped themselves in Saris that were made by Parsian designers.

 

Draping of Sari

 

A sari can be worn in many ways, each region in India has its own distinct style of draping a sari and this is what makes the sari interesting attire.

 

The most common way to wear a sari i.e. nivi style is by wrapping it around the waist from one side over the petticoat, making clean pleats in the front 6-7 depending on the length of the loose end (pallu / palla) , and then draping it over the shoulder from front to back or back to front.

 

Saris worn in different regions are called by different names and worn differently.

 

The French cultural anthropologist and sari researcher, Chantal Boulanger, categorizes sari drapes in the following families. Each family may contain many, slightly different styles.

 

Andhra Pradesh – besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.

 

North Indian/Gujarati – this style differs from the nivi only in the manner that the loose end is handled: in this style, the loose end is draped over the right shoulder rather than the left, and is also draped back-to-front rather than the other way around. Having formerly lost ground to the nivi, this style now represents a fashionable alternative for non-traditional wearers to use on social occasions.

 

Maharashtrian/Kache – This drape (front and back) is very similar to that of the male Maharashtrian  dhoti. The center of the sari (held lengthwise) is placed at the center back, the ends are brought forward and tied securely, then the two ends are wrapped around the legs. When worn as a sari, an extra-long cloth is used and the ends are then passed up over the shoulders and the upper body. There are many complicated styles based on this wrap. They are primarily worn by Brahmin women of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

 

Dravidian – sari drapes worn in Tamil Nadu; many feature a pinkosu, or pleated rosette, at the waist.

 

Madisaara style – This drape is typical of Brahmin ladies from Tamil Nadu and Kerala

 

Kodagu style – This drape is confined to ladies hailing from the Kodagu district of Karnataka. In this style, the pleats are created in the rear, instead of the front. The loose end of the sari is draped back-to-front over the right shoulder, and is pinned to the rest of the sari.

 

Gond – sari styles found in many parts of Central India. The cloth is first draped over the left shoulder, then arranged to cover the body.

 

Kerala – the two-piece sari, or mundum neryathum are worn here. Usually made of unbleached cotton and decorated with gold or colored stripes and/or borders.

 

Tribal styles – often secured by tying them firmly across the chest, covering the breasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Types of Fabrics for Saris

 

There are distinctive types of Indian sari fabric. Major fabrics used are cotton, crepe, georgette, silk, and chiffon. Cotton sari is light in weight and cool to wear. It is easily washable and no hassles in ironing. They come up in multiple shades and are preferred by all. Georgette sari is often made up of nylon and polyester. It is the most graceful fabric. It is a very soft and delicate texture that is comfortable, at the same time gives a gorgeous look. It is a party wear which has the most intricate designs.

 

Chiffon saris are a symbol of elegance and firmness. It is a very fine fabric usually in nylon and silk. It consists of varieties of prints and embroideries like block prints, bandhani style, resham work and  gold embroidery looks fabulous. It is little difficult to carry because of its bumpiness. Crepe fabric is used in saris. Its major attraction lies in its simplicity and sobriety. It is very fashionable, fine, light fabric woven in silk.

 

Mysore crepe silk finds its place in almost all festive occasions. Silk is an evergreen  fashion fabric. There is an exquisite range in silk sari from Kanjeevaram to Patola, Banarasi and Mysore silk. This fabric needs extra care. Steam press is recommended for silk. Silk saris with zari work are found in abundance. It has a glamour element attached to it. Other categories of fabric include Linen, Velvet, Satin, Organza, Lizi-Bizi, Crush and many other cool fabrics.

 

Saris from different regions of India

 

A range of gorgeous saris come from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Western Madhya Pradesh. The dominant characteristic of the sari of these regions is obtained by dyeing rather than weaving techniques. In fact, the three major forms of Indian resist-dyeing block printing, tie & dye and ikkat have evolved here.

 

Playing with colour, fabric, weave and embellishments can create an exquisite look to the trousseau wardrobe.

 

When it comes to wearing saris, the choice is unlimited. Each style of sari is specific to the state it comes from and is easily identifiable by those who wear them.

 

Saris from West India:

 

Rajasthan

 

  1. Bandhani

 

Jaipur and Sikar are the notable centers. Sikar produces one of the finest Bandhanis. Another form of tie & die in Rajasthan is the Lehriya and Mothra. Here the opposite ends of the length of the cloth arte pulled and rolled together. They are then tied and dyed in different colours producing multicolour lines.

 

These are saris created by dyeing the cloth in such a manner that many small resist-dyed spots produce elaborate patterns over the fabric. The traditional bandhani market has shrunk however,

 

because of the rise of low-cost silk-screened imitations and most modern bandhani saris are made with larger designs and fewer ties than in the past. There are varieties available in two contrasting colours, with borders, end-pieces and one or more large central medallion called a pomcha or padma (lotus flower). Red and black is the most common colour combination but other pairs of colours are also found.

 

The production of Bandhani fabric is very tedious but appealing. Dyeing is accomplished by the tie-resist method as in Bandhani and Leheria where the patterns are made up of innumerable dots and weaves respectively. The manufacture of the Bandhani work is usually performed both by men and women. Men do the dying while women do the tying, which is done very intricately, each dot is as tiny as pin head. The cloth is first washed and bleached. After this, it is then sent to the Bandhani, the women who does the tying, lifts a small portion of the fabric and tightly ties a thread around it. The tied textile is then dipped in the light colour first while the tied areas retain the original ground colour. If a second dye is required, the areas to be retained in the first dye are tied for resist and the cloth dipped in a darker dye. This process is repeated is repeated if several colours are to be combined.

  1. Kota Doria

Kota in Rajasthan, India is the home of the famous Kota Doria saris made in small villages around the Kota city. Kota Doria is a super transparent yet stable cotton or cotton/silk weave consisting of varied guages of yarn, creating an almost graph like pattern called khats (squares formed between the different thicknesses of fibers). The intermittent heavier guage yarns give the fabric enough weight and lateral stability to fall very gracefully, yet it is incredibly airy and transparent. Generally, these pieces are worn in the heat of summer.

 

The chequered weave of a Kota sari is a prized possession of many women. The gossamer-fine fabric Kota dorias are the

 

finest weaves in India – so fine that they are almost weightless. The spinning, dyeing and weaving are done by skilled artisans and it takes many men hours to do so. The Kota region’s craft is exquisite in its perfection. The Kota Doria weave is very special; the warp and the weft use a combination of threads creating a fine chequered pattern where the cotton provides firmness while the silk lends the gossamer finish to the fabric.

 

Besides the chequered pattern, there are other weaves in complicated designs in a combination of silk and cotton. The standard Kota doria yardage, in sari width, is always woven in white and later dyed in different colours. Some of the weaves also have a narrow border edged with Zari. In the case of saris with designs, the threads are dyed prior to weaving. Ideal for hot summer, this is a muslin fabric woven with alternating threads of silk and cotton in both warp and weft in an open weave.

 

Maharashtra

 

  1. Paithani

 

This saree is named after a village near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Now also woven in the town of Yeola, these sarees use an enormous amount of labour, skill and sheer expanse of material in their creation.

Paithani saris are handmade, from the finest quality of silk, and are considered to be one of the richest saris in the state. The art of making these sarees goes back to more than 2000 years ago. Zari threads, drawn from pure gold, are used to adorn the sari with intricate designs. The intricate thread work results in the saree being finished in a long time.

 

 

 

A heavily brocaded Paithani sari will take anywhere from six months to one and a half years to get fully ready. Infact, even a plain and simple sari takes atleast one month for being completed. This is the main reason

 

why the saree commands such a high price in the market. The pallu as well as the border of the saree is especially heavily embellished, with the help of the gold thread.

 

Since the Patithan region is quite close to the Ajanta caves, one can find the influence of the Buddhist paintings in the motifs used on the Paithani sarees. For the body of the sari, some very common motifs are Kamal or lotus flower, Hans, Ashraffi, Asawalli (flowering vines), Bangadi Mor (peacock), Tota-Maina (male & female parrot), Humarparinda (peasant bird), Amar Vell and Narali. One can also see motifs like Circles, Stars, Kuyri, Kalas Pakhhli, Chandrakor, Leaves Cluster, etc.

 

For the pallu, the common motifs are Muniya (a kind of parrot), Panja (geometrical flower -like motif), Barwa (12 strands of a ladder), Laher, Muthada (geometrical design), Asawali (flower pot) and Mor. The colors usually used for making a Pathani saree are yellow, red, lavender, purple, sky blue, magenta, peach pink, purple, pearl pink, peacock blue/green, yellowish green, violet red, black and white, black and red, red and green, etc.

 

There are different types of Paithani saris, classified on the basis of three criteria – motif, weaving and color.

 

Classification by Motif

 

  • Bangadi Mor (Peacock in a bangle or in a bangle shape, woven in pallu)

 

  • Munia brocade (Parrots woven on the pallu as well as in border)

 

  • Lotus brocade (Lotus motifs used in pallu and maybe border)

 

Classification by Weaving

 

  • Kadiyal border sari (Warp and weft of the border are of the same color, body has different colors for warp and weft)
  • Kad/Ekdhoti (Single shuttle used for weaving of weft and colors of warp yarn different from that of weft yarn) Classification by Color

 

  • Kalichandrakala (Black sari with red border)

 

  • Raghu (Parrot green sari)

 

  • Shirodak (Pure white sari)

 

Gujarat

 

  1. Patola

 

The most time consuming and elaborate sari created by the western region is the potole (plural patola) which has intricate five colour designs resist-dyed into

both      warp    and    weft    threads    before    weaving.

 

 

The making of a Patola is a difficult and complicated process. Its unique quality is that the threads of the warp and weft are separately dyed in portions in such a way that the patterns in finished products emerge in weaving. The methods of weaving in the Ikkats of Orissa, Pochampalli and Patola are somewhat similar but the Patola weaver has retained the geometric design. Whatever patterns or floral motifs they use in the materials they prefer to set them in geometric order. The riot of colour in Patola makes it gorgeous. The interesting point in these textile is the fact that the yarn in the warp is first dyed or block printed

 

according to the requirement of the motif. The design in the fabric is achieved in the fabric almost with miraculous effect with a simple operation of the wool.

 

Double Ikat patola sari is a rare and expensive investment. A cheaper alternative to double ikat patola is the silk ikat sari developed in Rajkot (Gujarat) that creates patola and other geometric designs in the weft threads only.

 

 

  1. Tanchoi Saree

 

The Tanchoi silks are among the traditional Surat saris. It is one of most popular variety of silk saris from Gujarat.

 

The Indian state of Gujarat was famous for silk and brocade weaving from the very early days. The technique of weaving Tanchoi saris was brought to India form the country of China. This variety of woven silk saris got its name from the three Choi brothers who brought the technique to this country. But they started to make the sari in a way that was a combination of the Chinese and Indian styles of weaving.

These silk saris come in subtle and elusive colors. Several silk threads are used together while weaving. The work is convoluted

 

and refined. Some extra threads are added to give the saris an appearance of being embroidered.

 

 

The Tanchoi silks are one of the most favored varieties of wedding saris preferred by the women of various regions of India. These are generally of the heavy silk type. Thus they appear gorgeous when worn during the weddings and on other festive occasions.

 

The Tanchoi silk saris of various color and designs are exported from Surat to different locations around the world every year. These saris form an important part of the traditional wear of the people of Gujrat.

 

Madhya Pradesh

 

  1. Chanderi

 

The Chanderi saree from Madhya Pradesh is light and meant for Indian summers. It is made in silk or fine cotton with patterns taken from the Chanderi temples.

Chanderi is primarily a weavers town. It produces fine shimmering cottons with pale delicate zari borders and motifs of the utmost delicacy. The characteristic feature of the  Chanderi sari is the quality of the gold thread that is used.

 

In Chanderi, traditional craftspersons used silk as warp and fine cotton

 

as weft. The Chanderi cotton sarees are ideal summer wear. Usually in subtle hues, they have sophistication hard to match. In the silk Zari sarees, craft influences of the Varanasi style are visible. The Chanderi saris generally have a rich gold border and two gold bands on the pallav. The more expensive sarees have gold checks with lotus roundels all over which are known as butis.

 

  1. Maheshwari

 

The carvings on the ghats of Narmada influence the border and pallu designs of Maheshwari saris. There are different checks which are known as Gungi, Pakhi, Pupli, Dowra and Chandtara etc. The material used for weaving is 80s count cotton yarn and 20/22

denier twisted silk.

 

Maheshwar, the Tehsil headquarter of Khargone district on the banks of Narmada, is an important centre for its traditional handloom weaving. The Maheshwari saree, mostly in cotton and silk, is characterised by its simplicity. The body is either chequered, plain or has stripes, combined with complementary colours. The reversible border of the saree which can be worn either side, is a speciality. It has a variety of leaves and flowers on the border, in karnphool pattern, which is quite popular. The pallav of Maheshwari

 

saree is also distinctive with five stripes, three coloured and two white alternating. Nowadays these sarees are made in natural and artificial silk as well.

 

Sarees from North India:

 

Uttar Pradesh

 

  1. Banaras Brocade

 

 

One of the most famous saris amongst all the Indian traditional saris is Banaras brocade. Banaras produces different types of saris. These saris are known as Tanchoi, Tishu, Jangla, Butidar, Cutwork etc. The antiquity of Banaras silk can be traced back to the writings of Kautilya and Patanjali who mentioned Kashika or Varanasi fabric as a precious item. Even while the town prospered in the 12th century under Garharwar rulers, the Banaras brocade became immensely popular.

 

During the regime of Mohammed Tughlaq in the 14th century, the famous naqshalands came to India. In Akbar’s reign the art of brocade flourished. Foreign travellers and writers Ralph Fitch, Peter Mundy, Taverneir and Munucci mentioned the prospecting trade of Benarasi brocade.

 

Brocade refer to those textiles where in patterns are created in weaving by transfixing or thrusting the pattern-thread between the warp. In regular weaving the weft thread passes over and under the warp thread regularly. But when brocade designs in gold, silver silk or cotton threads are to be woven, special threads are transfixed in between by skipping the passage of the regular weft over a certain number of warp threads (depending upon the pattern) and by regularizing the skipping by means of pre- arranged heddles for each type of patterning. There may be several sets of heddles so arranged that on different occasions, they raise and depress irregular number of threads in turn, as required by the exigencies of the pattern.

 

Zari-brocades-When gold and silver threads are use along with or without silk-threads, thrust either as special weft or warp to create glittering raised ornamentation. We have the Zari brocade kind of fabrics. When we talk of gold or silver threads, it is to be under stood that the gold, threads are actually only silver threads with gold polish and that these threads are obtained by closely winding extremely fine gold or silver wire around a silk thread.

According to Sir George Watt, the gold and silver threads were used so densely that the ground was hardly visible, the material was kinkhab proper and was too heavy for clothing, it was therefore used for trappings, hangings and furnishing. Only that material in which the Zari patterns were scattered was true brocade. This was used for clothing.

 

This saree from Banaras is virtually mandatory during wedding. These sarees vary tremendously as weavers create different products to suit different regional markets and changing fashions.

 

Most brocade usually has strong Mughal influences in the design, such as intricate intertwining floral and foliate

 

motifs, kalga and bel. A characteristic found along the inner, and sometimes outer, edge of borders is a narrow fringe like pattern that often looks like a string of upright leaves called jhallar.

 

  1. Chickan Saris

 

 

 

The chikan work of Lucknow is perhaps one of the most popular embroidery works in India. It has a certain grace and elegance, which ensures that it never goes out of style. The word chikan literally means embroidery. It is said to have been originally introduced by Nur Jahan, the beautiful wife of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir. It has since evolved and attained its glory and perfection in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The work became popular in a number of important cities of the Indo-Gangetic plain such as Delhi, Agra, Rampur, Banaras, Patna and Gaya. But the supremacy of Lucknow remained unchallenged.

The designs depend for its effect on the variety of stitches used and different grades of threads used to form the patterns which include, the lace like jali, the opaque fillings and the delicacy or boldness of outline and details. The most beautiful part of chikan work is the open work ground, an effect of drawn thread work is achieved without drawing out any. Tiny raised flowers done in what seem to be French knots are balanced by the flat stem stitch and large areas of open work to prevent either a crowded or too scattered appearance.

 

A variation of the chikan work is the bakhia or shadow work. Here the work is done from the back, the stitches completely covering the design in herringbone style. The shadow of the thread is seen through the cloth on the right side. To give a richer appearance, the designs are produced with tiny backstitches on the right side over the shadow. A similar effect is created by cutting out tiny flowers and leaves in the same material as the basic fabric and then applying them on the wrong side. The work is done so dexterously that the turned in edges of the cut pieces are scarcely visible from the front of the work.

 

Sarees from South India:

 

Tamil Nadu

 

Kanjeevaram Saree

Kanjeewaram saris are characterized by gold-dipped silver thread that is woven onto brilliant silk. Kanchipuram is a town in Tamilnadu with more than 150 years of weaving tradition completely untouched by fashion fads.

 

Kanjeewarams are favoured for their durability. Kanjeevaram silk is thicker than almost all other silks, and is therefore more expensive. The heavier the silk, the better the quality. Peacock and parrot are the most common motifs. Though lightweight kanjeevaram sarees are popular as they are easy to wear and cost very little, the traditional weavers do not like to compromise. While Korean and Chinese silk is suitable for light-weight sarees (machine

 

woven), only mulberry silk produced in Karnataka and few parts of Tamil Nadu, is right for the classic Kanjeewaram.

 

Andhra Pradesh

 

Gadwal Saree

 

Gadwal Saree is a famous textile product of  Gadwal, a small town situated in  Andhra Pradesh. The striking feature of this saree is that, while the body is made from cotton, the borders and the pallu, the falling edge of the saree, are made from silk. These sarees are worn by the local women during religious or festive occasions.

Gadwal saree is woven using an interlocked -weft technique, locally known as kupadam or tippadamu. The silk that is employed for making the borders is either tussar or mulberry silk. The body of the saree, woven from unbleached cotton yarn, contains patterns made using colored cotton or silk thread. The embroidery is done using threads coated with gold or copper. Traditional motifs are the norm. Most popular is the mango motif, used mostly in adorning the borders. Colors usually used are yellow, parrot-green, pink and beige.

 

 

Sarees from East India:

 

 

Orissa

 

Orissa saris have a close relation with Lord Jagannath. Originally, the four basic colours which are found on Lord Jagannath—black, white, red and yellow—is extensively used in oriya saris. Even the motifs such as the temple border, lotus, conch and wheel, signify the affinity with the reigning deity. The traditional orissa saris have undergone vast changes as weavers try to adapt the designs to popular taste. Orissa handloom sarees can be broadly classified into four groups: ikat sari, orissa bomkai sari, Bandha, Pasapalli.

 

Orissa has a rich tradition in handloms and the products, especially Ikat or tie and dye fabrics, known as bandhas in Orissa are recognized all over the country and abroad for their highly artistic designs, colour combinations and durability. The art of weaving in the state is highly evolved and its fabrics bear testimony to the unique and artistic ability and tradition of the weavers of this state. The Ikkat saris of Orissa are having one of the most beautiful designs. The traditional Ikkat sarees of Orissa are also referred to as double Patan Patola. The Ikkat sarees are a part of the vast collection of the traditional Indian fashion.

Ikkat is a type of weaving in general terms. The weft or the warp or both are tie-dyed before weaving to create designs on fabric in this method. The making of the Ikkat sarees is so meticulous that it takes nearly seven months to make them. The various color combinations are the adding grace to the Ikkat sarees. The designs on the Ikkat sarees have are incompatible.

 

Traditionally the women of Orissa dress in sarees of blue, red and magenta and other deep colours, with ikat (known as bandha in Orissa) patterning. These beautiful and eye catching saris are made within the state, mainly at Nuapatna, near Cuttack on the coastal plain, or in the weaving centers inland around Sambalpur, Bargarh and Sonepur and Boudh districts. Of late, however, there has

 

been a diversification in designs and products and new centres of production have gained popularity and the acceptance of the consumer. Notable amongst these are Bomkai and Habaspuri saris and also cotton sarees produced in Berhampur and Jagatsingpur Districts.

 

The charm of silk and cotton handloom fabrics and sarees of Orissa is well known. Sambalpur and Cuttack Sarees are unique. Fabrics for dresses, furnishings, bedspreads and table-cloth are also available. Orissan paintings are also done on tussar silk.The Sambalpur, Bomkai, Katki and tussar saris and yardage are eye-catching. The ikat sarees have typical motifs and borders in striking combinations.

 

Exquisite sarees, painstakingly woven on looms, in earthy shades of cream, maroon, brown, rust and white reflect the rich cultural heritage of Orissa. The intricate motifs that unfold through a complex process of tie-and-dye give a distinct character to the Orissa saris

 

The orissa bomkai sari have undergone vast changes as weavers try to adapt the designs to popular taste. Vegetable dyes have been replaced by chemical dyes, though the former is still available, but the prices are significantly higher. New shades and patterns have also been added. Although handloom sarees are woven in different parts of the State, somehow the adage Cuttacki sarees has remained with people outside Orissa, especially in West Bengal. Orissa handloom saris can be broadly classified into four groups. Bandha or tie-and-dye from Sambalpur is one of the finest examples of double ikat; Khandua pata from Nuapatna in Cuttack district is relatively cheaper than Sambalpuri because the yarn used is the cheaper Malda variety; Bomkai is a recent adaptation from tribal saris and is named after a tribal village in southern Orissa and has an embroidery-like work on the border and pallav; Berhampuri silks which are usually heavy with narrow borders are slightly plain, without the intricate designs generally found in Sambalpuri sarees. The bandha or tie-and-dye technique used in Orissa is much different from that of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Here, the yarn is first tied in portions, and each section is dyed in a different colour according to the design. When woven, the designs emerge, and the special feature is that the design is prominent on both sides of the fabric. This is a very complicated process and it is rather amazing to find that the traditional weavers do not use any graphic designs on paper. The common motifs are borrowed from nature. Flowers, creepers, birds, animals are abundantly woven in myriad colours, all lending a distinct feature to the nine yards of woven wonder. The Pasapalli sari with its distinctive black-and-white squares is a replica of the chessboard. Equally fascinating are the names—Vichitrapuri, Chandrika, Nabagunja, Asman Tara and Krishnapriya. The earlier yarns of coarse cotton have been replaced with fine cotton, silks, tussar and a cotton-silk mix called bapta. Gold thread and tissues are also used to enhance the patterns.

 

West Bengal

 

Eastern states of India hold a pride in producing the most wanted sari among the women folk. Tant, Tangail, Baluchari, Dhonekhali, Katha, Ikat are among some of them. Bankura, Birbhum districts in West Bengal produce tant, dhonekhali and tangail saris. These are basically pure cotton based sari with either checks, or motifs on the body whereas the border is of a contrast color with little or more zari work. Women especially of Bengal, Assam and Tripura are very fond of these saris.

 

  1. Tangail and Tant Saris

 

The Tant and Tangail saris of Bengal hold a place of pride the sari scenario of our country. Both are woven in handloom. Tant saris are available in a wide range of colours. Usually the lower border and the pallu are made of zari work. The body of the sari may be plain or dotted or motif’d. The hajar buti (thousand dots on the body) tant is very famous in Bengal. No festival in Bengal is complete without the purchase of a tant sari. Tangail too is another kind of cotton-based sari preferably in light earth colors. The borders are not as broad as the as the tant saris and may or may not have zari work. Some have double colored border also keeping the sultry climate in these

 

regions in mind these saris are a piece of comfort for the women to wear. Tangail saris are not as expensive as tant ones.

Tangail Saree is a renowned handicraft product of  West Bengal. It is woven mostly in  Shantipur,  Dhaniakhali, Bagampur and Farasdanga. This  saree is known for its comfort and elegance.

 

Tangail Saree contains tiny repeating patterns, giving the feel of an embroidery work. Its borders are adorned with designs depicting temples and the patterns seen on the rudraksha (a bead used for religious purposes). This saree basically comes in two varieties; one is a made from cotton while

 

the other from silk. The cotton saree is light colored and is worn mostly in summer. The silk saree features dark shades and is mostly preferred during special occasions

 

  1. Baluchari Sari

In the history of textile in Bengal, Baluchari came much after Muslin. Two hundred years ago Baluchari was used to be practised in a small village called Baluchar in Murshidabad district, from where it got the name Baluchari. In the eighteenth century, Murshidkuli Khan, Nawab of Bengal patronized its rich weaving tradition and Baluchari flourished from that time onwards. But this flourishing trend later declined, specially during British rule, due to political and financial reasons and it became a dying craft as most of the weavers were compelled to give up the profession.

 

Later in the first half of twentieth century, Subho Thakur, a famous artist, felt the need of recultivating the rich tradition of Baluchari craft. Though

 

Bishnupur was always famous for its silk, he invited Akshay Kumar Das, a master weaver of Bishnupur to his center to learn the technique of jacquard weaving. Sri Das then went back to Bishnupur and worked hard to weave Baluchari on their looms.

 

Once Bishnupur was the capital of Malla dynasty and different kinds of crafts flourished during their period under the patronage of Malla kings. Temples made of terracotta bricks were one achievement of these rulers. A major influence of these temples can be seen in Baluchari sarees. Mythological stories taken from the walls of temples and woven on Baluchari sarees, is a common feature in Bishnupur.

 

Inspired from Jamdanis of Dhaka, these figured silk sarees have large floral designs combined with those of flowering shrubs and the Kalka design (cone design) on these sarees is often surrounded with floral borders. The most popular colors used are red, blue, yellow, green and scarlet. Conventionally the Muslim community produces these sarees with figured patterns portraying court scenes, horse with a rider or women smoking hookah.

 

Balucharis are handloom made saris with silk base and block prints on it. The fine quality of silk used here adds a luster to it. Being made in the small villages of Bankura and Birbhum districts, the designs on these saris depict the cultural richness of these places. The image of the clay horse for which Bankura is known worldwide is a special feature of the baluchari saris. Usually the design on the saris is made with threadwork with contrast to color of the base. The body of the sari has blocks or square patterns of horse, or any animal or bird and the pallu is full of these designs. Nowadays baluchari saris are available in cotton base and kora silk base also. Women who do not like wearing heavy saris opt wearing baluchari saris as they are light weight and glamorous too.

 

  1. Dhonekhali sari

Usually dhonekhali saris are worn here by the women for regular use. The base of these saris comprise of horizontal or vertical checks. Patterns of birds, animals or even nature are generally seen here. These are made in the villages of Shantipur, Fulia where the handloom is used. The whole area wakes up with sound of the loom each day. These saris are of regular use and are worn in the normal fashion or some ladies even followed the old days style of wearing where the sari does not have any pleats it is generally tucked around the waist, and the pallu is thrown on the left

 

shoulder with the keys of the household tied on it. This was the traditional style of wearing sari of our grandmothers. Apart from this women wear tant and dhonekhali saris for small occasions, or even at home. These are very soothing for the body as per the sultry climate here.

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