The whole six yards from Bengal

Traditional weaves
Last Updated 21 February 2013, 14:26 IST

India is known for its handloom work and foremost amongst the creations are sarees, which are spun on a wooden hulk, in different and most exquisite patterns.

Different weaves emerge from different parts of India, one of them being Bengal, which actually claims to be the motherland of a number of traditional weaves like Taanth, Baluchari, Jamdani, Dhone-kaali and more.

Bengal’s bright cotton sarees are spun in many ways giving rise to simple and yet elegant six yards ensemble. On the other hand, the region’s famous silk is woven with various designs, making for nothing less than royal drapes.

Over the years, many actresses and well-known figures have also patronised Bengali sarees leading to a spurt in general interest in Bengal’s weaves. Here, Metrolife gets you the finer details of Bengal’s weaves to choose and enjoy from.

Shukla Sarkar of West Bengal Emporium, Delhi, informs us, “Those fabrics which most suit a region’s climate develop there. In Bengal’s hot and humid weather, cotton sarees known as Taanth, have emerged as a favourite. Accordingly, various styles of weaving them have emerged in different parts of Bengal.”

“The most famous are Shantipur’s Taanth sarees. The Shantipur village of Nadia district weaves cotton sarees of a powder fine texture and simple motifs like flowers, leaves and peacocks etc. They are colourful and yet look very sophisticated when worn.”

Then there is Dhonekaali of Hooghly district - a stitch which resembles a dhan ki kali or a wheat bud, hence so named. It is famously done on men’s dhotis and plain sarees. These sarees have contrasting borders in reds, blacks, purples, yellows and oranges. The borders are quite broad and used along with zari. These are priced lower and are generally brighter than other Bengali sarees.

Another weave of cottons, is Tangail originally from Bangladesh. The traditional Tangail saree borders have a lotus or lamp pattern. The weavers combine two to three colours to make a border. These sarees are exclusive and very popular locally.
Dhakai Jamdani - another weave from Bangladesh - uses fine Egyptian cotton. The traditional Dhakai Jamdani is very labour intensive and can take even up to a year to weave. ‘Jam’ means flower and ‘Dani’ means vase. Understandably, Dhakai Jamdani is fabulously rich in floral motifs.

When it comes to silk, there are more stunning weaves to choose from. Prominent among them is Baluchari. Neeti Das of Utsav sarees says, “Baluchari is a village in Murshidabad. Baluchar brocade is known as the famous silk saree of Bengal. It is usually in flaming reds, purples or deep blues, golds coupled with black. This saree is considered exclusive for recreating episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharata and raas-leela between Radha and Krishna.”

Kantha sarees are known by their stitch. The kantha is nothing but a running stitch which is worked through the fabric (both cottons and silks) to create a variety of designs.

Last but not the least, there is Korial - the typical white saree-red border combination which most Bengali women wear during Durga Puja and Garad - the same as Korial but sporting small floral motifs throughout.

(Published 21 February 2013, 14:26 IST)

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