The complex ikat weave is a creative statement of the weaving communities of Sambhalpur in Orissa. Done through a complicated process of tying and dying the yarn before fixing it on to the loom, the artisan conducts the entire weaving process following the diktats of the pattern which he carries in his mind's eye. As he begins to weave, the patterns too begin to emerge with faultless synchronisation of the warp and the weft. And parrots and birds take wing, stylised human figures assume form and fish and animals appear in harmony of colour and format so typical of the Sambhalpuri tradition.

No wonder this almost miraculous appearance of animals and humans has earned the ikat weave encomiums in many South East Asian cultures which probably owe their ikat culture to their maritime trade connections with Orissa in ancient times. For State awardee Gadadhar Meher, a paramparic weaver from Sambhalpur, it is the privilege of carrying on a hoary family tradition which is of prime importance. And the challenge of creating a perfect ikat sari all in a day's work!

“Our colours too are special,” says Meher. “Traditionally, we use red, white, blue, yellow and green but these days, we innovate by using other colours as well.” He belongs to the local cooperative society which provides the yarn and takes care of marketing.

The process

Say the artisan, “We begin with tying the yarn in bunches. Then we dip it into dyes of different colours as per the design which we have decided upon. We do not use any graphs or drawings. After the dyeing process is complete, we unravel the threads and dry them. The dried yarn is then put on the loom and weaving begins. The complexity lies in synchronising the tied and dyed yarn on the warp and weft to get the exact design. Both single and double ikats are woven in Sambhalpur.” Earlier, only vegetable and mineral dyes were used in Sambhalpur ikats. Now, Gadadhar uses chemicals as well. The saris are stunning and speak of a rich textile heritage.

A bold red, white and black Passapalli or chessboard check piece harks back to royalty. White saris with typical borders share space with delicately patterned ones.

Diagonal lines intersperse with a profusion of flowers and birds to create striking saris, dupattas and yardage. Gadadhar's collection includes Bomkai and Katki saris.

The Orissa Crafts Utsav also has on view patachitras, palm leaf painted products, pilpi work, dhokra ware and silver filigree jewellery, all available at a discount.

Arts and Crafts Exposition, an NGO from Bhuvaneshwar, has brought the exhibition, on view at Vijaya Raja Kalyana Mandapam, Shastri Nagar, (opp. Telephone Exchange), till March 24.

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