An array of captivating textiles from West Bengal are on view till June 15.

The beauty of Bengal’s textiles woven on special looms to create fabric ‘odes’ to sheer ethereal loveliness have historically been known as ‘vetriventi’ or ‘woven with breeze,’ as capable of passing through a ring or light as dew etc. The description could still pass muster to describe Dhakkai muslins, silks and mulmuls or the delicate checked Phulia weaves being woven in West Bengal today. Adding to this are the iconic, complex and heritage weave of Balucheri, the hand embroidered Kantha, which mesmerised the 17th century Portuguese travellers, the soft and sensuous Murshidabad silks and tussars and a captivating slice of West Bengal’s textile heritage which are on view at the ‘Silk 2013 and Handicrafts Exhibition’ at Valluvar Kottam, Nungambakkam High Road, till June 15.

Benaras silks, exceptional block prints from Rajasthan, Chanderis, Maheshwaris and Kashmiri embroideries are also on display alongside a superb range of Bhagalpuri silk, Eri and Muga.

Many of the spectacular jamdaanis in vibrant colours are on display. The Phulia jamdaanis captivate with their unique weaves and bold motifs. Says weaver Kaushik Biswas, “We make our own yarn, set up specialised looms for the special weave and make our own vegetable dyes. The Phulia has a special woven structure consisting of tiny micro-mini squares.” His collection has, among others, dramatic black and red jamdaanis with huge floral and amri gold motifs, white saris with uneven temple borders, pink green and turquoise with gheecha stripes and pallus and saris with contemporary striped borders.

Unique texture

Kantha embroidery originally done to patch up old discarded pieces of cloths into quilts and now transposed on saris, stoles and dupattas came from Bangladesh with the Hindu artisans relocating in India after partition. Artisan Chandana Aitch who has brought superb Nakshi Kantha embroidered saris and dupattas learnt the craft from her mother “as all the women in my family do this craft.” A montage of animals and traditional circular forms occupied by floral designs define Chandana’s work with the density of her running stitched creating a unique tonality and texture.

Of the few crafts on display the Masland mats of West Bengal mesmerises with its underplayed sophistication and impeccable craftsmanship. Akhil Jaana explains the process of creating the mat: “The mat is made out of madhur grass and cotton thread woven together by hand. I grow the grass and the plants from which I make vegetable dyes used for colouring the mat. The process involves cutting the grass, soaking the stalks in water for 24 hours and drying it in the sun. Then I split the grass with my teeth and soak the split grass in vegetable dyes.” Mats woven with finer splits feature subtle differences in the colours of the split grass. The motifs can celebrate anything from peacocks, birds and animals to plain stripes. Akhil’s mats, runners and wall hangings are also on view at the exhibition.