Orissa’s vibrant Sambalpuri saris are on show till Nov 12.

Among the treasures of Orissa’s vibrant craft tradition, the saris of Sambalpur occupy a unique place. In the 1980s and 90s, these saris, characterised by their distinctive weave and motifs, came into the spotlight and attracted an elite clientele, after the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi began wearing them during public occasions.

Crafted in the Baandha style, these saris are woven from yarn dyed in the tie and dye technique, wherein parts of the yarn are tied in accordance with the design to be created, to prevent absorption of dye, and then immersed in colour. This is translated into woven motifs by the weaver on his wooden hand loom.

To add a special dimension to the festive shopping experience for Deepavali, the Orissa Craft Fair features an exclusive collection of Sambalpuri sarees, dress materials, yardage, stoles and dupattas in silk, cotton and silk cotton, coloured in natural and vegetable dyes.

The master weaver Santosh Kumar Das says , “In my village Nuapatna and the neighbouring Maniabandha, Cuttack district, about 5,000 families are exclusively engaged in weaving. I come from a family of weavers who go back several generations. Our women spin the yarn on the charkha, while the men do the weaving. We source high quality cotton and silk fibre. The yarn is spun, washed in hot water to remove impurities and boiled in dye for one and a half hours, to make the colour fast.

Natural dyes

“The natural dyes are derived from leaves, bark and minerals. Black dye comes from a decoction of neem and jackfruit leaves mixed with banyan root ash, red from bark of sheesham wood, blue from indigo, yellow from turmeric and crushed minerals and green from herbs and leaves. While weaving, the yarn is twisted into two-thread thickness in both warp and weft,” explains Das.

“I weave three varieties, Ikkat, Bomkai and Bapta. The two types of Ikkat (Rs. 1,400 onwards) I create are Khandwa, characterised by large flora and fauna motifs and Vichitrapuri, with smaller and sharper motifs. Bomkai (Rs. 2,400-5,200) is very elegant, with a single or two-tone border, rectangular patterns alternating with tiny thread butis scattered all over the body and a rich pallu. It is the lightest cotton weave, with a 160-count fineness which makes it ideal for humid climes. Bapta (Rs. 3,000 onwards) uses silk (warp) and cotton (weft) with ikkat body, threadwork borders and pallu. It takes 7 to 21 days to weave one sari, with two weavers to a loom. Bomkai requires three weavers, as the thread work is intricate.”

The pure silks come in lightweight (Rs. 3,600-7,000) and heavy (Rs. 9,000 onwards) varieties. The piece-de-resistance is a richly worked maroon brocade silk employing five different patterns, one each at the start, pleats, front, pallu and blouse.

Embellished with stately temple borders and typical pasapalli (rolling dice) checks, each sari has a distinct appeal. Used for blouses and kurtis, the running materials are in great demand. A woven or ikkat blouse makes a bold statement when contrasted with a plain sari.

The exhibition, which also offers pattachitra and traditional paintings, dhurries, carpets, semiprecious jewellery, embroidered kurthis and wooden artefacts, is on till November 12 at Sankara Hall, TTK Road, Alwarpet. Timings: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

More In: Arts | Chennai | Crafts | Arts