When colours & shapes combine...

Chequered weaves

When the fashion-conscious intend to flaunt the trendiest sari among the saris of Odisha, Vichitrapuri sari of Sambalpur is the preferred choice. 

Inspired by the game of dice during the times of the Mahabharata, these saris are hand woven using silk threads and have replicas of chess board arranged in geometric pattern. Made using the exclusive handloom-weave fabric called pata, Vichitrapuri silk saris are an integral part of the wedding ensemble in Odisha and mostly appear in traditional black and grey, reflecting bandhakala or tie-and-dye craftsmanship of weavers of the Sambalpur region.

These are passapalli saris that are replete with chequers and enjoy a traditional craftsmanship dating back 200 years. Sambalpuri saris belong to pasapalli variety, full of designs resembling chess board. The saris are brilliantly crafted by the weavers of Sonpur in Suvarnapur district of Odisha and are locally popular as bichitrapuri.

 Vichitrapuri saris are also crafted in Sambalpur and Bargarh towns of Odisha.It was our late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who had admired the impressive weaves of these saris that soon joined her prized collection of saris in the ’80s and thereafter gained popularity outside Odisha. 

The name suggests that the saris are uniquely crafted and have wide double borders, hand woven in silk threads of different colours. The saris have a traditional border in the middle that sets them apart from the other saris. 

The raw materials, including silk threads, are outsourced from Bangalore, while vegetable dyes are procured from Kolkata. 

The process involves tying and dyeing of both warp and weft before weaving them into a fabric, and the gum is made from rice bran and tendu leaves. These days, around 4,000 families of weavers in Sonpur, in the vicinity of Bolangir, are involved in the weaving of Vichitrapuri saris. It takes a few weeks to weave a single Vichitrapuri sari.

The Odisha government offers some kind of subsidy to weavers in procuring silk threads at nomial rates. In a bid to provide protection to the craftsmen engaged in weaving, the handloom saris of Sambalpur have been brought in the purview of Central government’s geographical indications.

The most popular Vichitrapuri saris come in maroon-and-black combination. The saris have a base with chess board weaves in prominent orange-and-white small squares with alternating black-and-maroon squares of a bigger size. The double borders are richly woven with motifs and the aanchal or the falling edge of the sari comprises traditional motifs of the land like conch shells, wheels, flowers and animals that convey a profound symbolic message.

Vichitrapuri silk saris come in prices that won’t break your bank. They start at Rs 5,000, and depending on the intricacy of weaves can rise up to Rs 30,000. The use of double silk thread in weaving makes the saris modestly priced. If you are on a shoestring budget, then look for cotton saris priced between Rs 500 and Rs 5,000.

The preferred shopping destinations for Vichitrapuri saris are the retail outlets of Utkalika and Boyanika, which are established in all the leading metros of India. These showrooms are run by an apex body — Odisha State Co-operative Handicrafts Corporation Limited.

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