From scrumptious food and delectable sweets to a legacy of art and literature, West Bengal is a cultural goldmine. Rich with tradition and sense of community in the day and age of the Social Network, it is no wonder that the region’s contribution to our natural heritage is a sizeable chunk even today. If you are a gourmand, you already know of the merits of the regional cuisine but, just this once, let’s turn the focus towards the traditional textiles of Bengal. Here’s a primer in the many weaves and saris originating from the region.
Beginning with the Puja special, the Korial sari is a staple in every Bengali girl’s wardrobe. Woven from undyed silk, it’s spotless white body and characteristic solid red border represent the colours of goddess Shakti and is therefore worn by married women on auspicious occasions like Puja or other festivals.
A close cousin to the Korial, the Garad is a white or ivory silk sari with a broad red border. The difference between the two is that the Garad also features all-over butis woven in gold and a striped pallav.
Soft and light, as if weaved out of clouds, this cotton sari is distinguished by its light pastel colours, distinctive border, elaborate pallu and all over paisley or buti pattern.
To call Baluchari saris a work of art would in no way qualify as hyperbole. Originating in the Mulshidabad district of West Bengal, Baluchari saris are woven out of jewel toned silks, with tiny flower motifs running all over the fabric. What’s truly remarkable about it is the pallav–which serves as somewhat of a scroll depicting mythological stories in complex panels.
Known simply as Bangladeshi sari after the partition, the handwoven Dhakai cotton sari is weightless with intricate patterns running all over it. Motifs usually include flowers and vines or geometric shapes, culminating in a detailed pallu.
Perhaps the most famous and coveted of the lot, Jamdani saris is the most popular Bengali textiles because of its fine muslin and complex pattern. Woven on brocade looms, each sari pattern is first charted on a graph before the weavers begin to weave it. It’s use of weft threads in varying thickness results in the gossamer end product that is worth every bit of its value.
Also called Begum Bahar, the Tangail sari originated in what is now Bangladesh. Charaterised by its silk warp and cotton weft, the Tangail is similar to Jamdani in terms of the weaving technique and the sari features detailed work with motifs of flowers and butis all over its body.
Check out more of these gorgeous weaves here.