Insight into Ikat

Did you know Ikat sarees are also known as Sambalpuri sarees? Sambalpur is the name of a place in Odisha from where the Ikat sarees originate.

Like all traditional fabric woven on handloom, Ikat sarees are also handloom sarees. The most distinguishing feature of these sarees however are the traditional craftsmanship of the tie and dye art, where the threads of the weft and warp are first tie-dyed and later woven into a fabric. Thus the entire process is often labour oriented, meticulous and time consuming.

Knotting the threads of the weft and the warp ensures that the yarns do not absorb the colours. The yarns are tied according to the desired patterns to prevent absorption of dyes, and then dyed. This art is known as Baandha kala meaning art of tying. The common colours or dyes used are black, white, red and yellow. Another very interesting feature of this technique is that the designs obtained from the weaving are almost identical on both sides of the fabric.

Skilled craftsmen in the art of Ikat weave beautiful patterns and images that stand out among others. Most patterns and motifs are adopted from nature but Ikat sarees are particularly noted for their incorporation of traditional motifs like shankha (conch), chakra (wheel), and the flower – probably an association of the symbols of Lord Vishnu who is the presiding deity in Odisha, revered as Lord Jagannath.

Ikat sarees are produced in places such as Bargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Bapta, Pasapali, Bomkai, Bolangir and Kosal in Odisha. Among them, Ikat sarees from Sambalpur and Bomkai are extremely popular.

Next time you wear an Ikat, you will be more aware of its origins. Won’t you!!


The Magic of Jamdani

Certain techniques and designs in weaving never go out of fashion and the Jamdani is one of them. I am a Jamdani saree at the RmKV store in Chennai. Let me tell you about my ancestors and origins.  

Jamdani is a weaving technique that originated in Bengal, traditionally woven around Dhaka (when Bangladesh was part of India).  It is basically an inlay technique woven on hand loom on fabrics that are light weight particularly cotton.  Historically these light weight cottons were referred to as muslins.  Jamdani Muslin saree prides itself for being once produced for the members of the royal family. 

In fact my great great aunt was part of the trousseau of the Maharani of Cooch Behar in West Bengal.  The elaborate and intricate designs in gold and silver threads on her made her so beautiful that she soon became the favourite of the Maharani.  

Due to the pain-staking methods used to create the exquisite designs, only aristocrats and members of the royal families were able to afford us -Jamdani sarees.

I don’t know much about my ancestors and how they were part of history, but I have often heard my grandmother say we reached our zenith particularly during the Mughal Era.

I will tell you how we were created in the past. Weavers used looms that were very basic and used needles made of buffalo horn or tamarind wood. The patterns were drawn from imagination or from the original designs retained in the memory of the weaver, and handed down from one generation to the other.   The expert weavers had no copy of the designs, but instead worked from memory. Wasn’t that a real wonder? Considering we can’t remember our own phone numbers in the present day?

Let me tell you about our relatives and how we were spread out.  Many of my ancestors belonged to Bangladesh like the Dhakai Jamdani.  They were unique creations.   After partition the technique of the Dhakai Jamdani is now practiced in West Bengal. The speciality of this type is that there is an abundant display of floral motifs spread over the entire saree.  The multicoloured designs on a subtle base made these sarees look exquisite.

Some of my relatives are from the Shantipur clan.  They belong to the Shantipur region of Nadia District in West Bengal. Jamdani sarees of this region are distinguished for their fine-grained texture and extreme softness.

A few of us hail from the Tangail region in Bengal-known as the Tangail Jamdani, which is popular for its traditional borders of the sarees which had designs of lamps or the lotus flowers. Dhonekhali Jamdani is yet another clan from Dhonekhali in West Bengal. The speciality of this particular variety is the contrasting borders in dark colours on opaque surfaces.   

Today of course current day fashion designers are trying to adapt the elaborate and intricate designs of Jamdani on other varieties of fabric besides sarees, but let me tell you recreating the magic of the past is still a painstaking effort.    

I have now been picked up by this young friendly girl, as part of her trousseau.  She is going to be a bride in a few days.  She has taken a special liking for me which I can understand from her fond looks. I am sure she will take care good care of me just as the Maharani did to my great aunt.


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