Sarees of Orissa
Orissa sarees have a close relation with the Jagannath culture. Originally, the four basic colors which are found on Lord Jagannath—black, white, red and yellow—are extensively used in Oriya saris. Even the motifs such as the temple border, lotus, conch and wheel, signify the affinity with the reigning deity. The traditional Orissa sarees have undergone vast changes as weavers try to adapt the designs to popular taste. Orissa handloom sarees can be broadly classified into the following categories:
Traditionally the Ikat sarees have been produced in Orissa since time immemorial. The discovery of Ikat woven cloth found in a Pharaoh’s tomb pointing to 5,000-year-old trade connections with India. The Ikat tradition of Orissa is the intricate process of Tie and Dye i.e. knotting selections of yarn before dipping them in separate colours one at a time and finally weaving them to produce one of the most delightful designs in multi-hued tones, in motifs drawn from the richness of nature, in threads both silken and gold. The Ikat technique is commonly known as BANDHA in Orissa and the traditional Ikkat sarees called as patan patola.
In general terms, Ikat is a form of weaving these wonderful textiles. The weft or the warp or both are tie-dyed before weaving to create designs on fabric in this method. The making of the Ikat sarees is so meticulous that it takes nearly seven months to make them. The various color combinations add grace to the Ikat sarees. Traditionally, the women of Orissa dress in sarees of blue, red and magenta and other deep colors, with Ikat patterning. These beautiful and eye catching saris are made within the state, mainly at Nuapatna, near Cuttack on the coastal plain, or in the weaving centers inland around Sambalpur, Bargarh and Sonepur and Boudh districts.
A traditional figured sari from southern Orissa the Bomkai saree is named after the village where the craft is practiced. These saris, woven traditionally for the local aristocracy use a heavy low count cotton yarn that is dyed in bright colours mostly black and red along with silk fabrics.
Using a time consuming weaving technique the field warp threads are cut and then retied to different colored warps to create the unusually large pallu. This technique is locally called muhajorhi (or pallu with joined threads).
There are Bomkai sarees with elegant designs, enchanting colors for the exclusive women. Some Bomkai sarees have small fishes woven onto the border. Fish symbolizes prosperity and good health. Bomkai sarees feature threadwork ornament borders and pallu. These sarees are much in demand owing to their traditional look as well as their understated and elegant color palette.
Caligraphy Textiles/Phetas of Orissa
Historical records available at the Jagannath Temple in Puri dating back to 1719 indicate that verses (shlokas) from the Geeta Govinda were woven into cloth donated to the temple. This unique Orissa tradition continues to this day with weavers from the Patra community in Nuapatna weaving these textiles.
The tribal saris, scarves, and woven fabric lengths of the Koraput-Bastar region are woven in heavy count cotton ranging from 10 to 20. The weaver uses a three-shuttle interlock patterning, which makes available innumerable combinations in scale and volume. The characteristic natural dye coloring used is derived from the deep red aal or madder dye which is extracted from the root of the Indian Madder tree. The powerful and vibrant deep maroon that is obtained is often darkened to brown with the addition of harikari or sulphate of iron. These colors combined with the natural unbleached off-white color of the yarn produce dramatic results.The designs used have an underlying symbolism and are largely inspired by nature or by significant objects of daily use.
Peculiar to Orissa are the pictorial saris that are woven for the rural market. Unappealing to their urban counter parts these saris are woven with architectural building patterns, religious temple outlines, landscapes and often objects that figure large in the mindscape of the weaver including aero planes.
Apart from the afore mentioned categories, Orissa handloom products can also be categorized into the following categories:
1. ‘Bandha’ or tie-and-dye from Sambalpur is one of the finest examples of double ikat; ‘Khandua pata’ from Nuapatna in Cuttack district is relatively cheaper than Sambalpuri because the yarn used is the cheaper Malda variety;
2. The Bandha or tie-and-dye technique used in Orissa is much different from that of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Here, the yarn is first tied in portions, and each section is dyed in a different color according to the design. When woven, the designs emerge, and the special feature is that the design is prominent on both sides of the fabric. This is a very complicated process and it is rather amazing to find that the traditional weavers do not use any graphic designs on paper. The common motifs are borrowed from nature. Flowers, creepers, birds, animals are abundantly woven in myriad colors, all lending a distinct feature to the nine yards of woven wonder.
3. The Pasapalli saree with its distinctive black-and-white squares is a replica of the chessboard. Equally fascinating are the names—Vichitrapuri, Chandrika, Nabagunja, Asman Tara and Krishnapriya. The earlier yarns of coarse cotton have been replaced with fine cotton, silks, tussar and a cotton-silk mix called ‘bapta’. Gold thread and tissues are also used to enhance the patterns.
The other typical varieties of Orissa saris, in silk and cotton, include the glossy Khanduas having elaborate designs, the rich red Jotai Ikat with rows of stylized trees and temple spires on the borders, the unbleached cotton Kotpad from Koraput offset by a vibrant red dyed border, the Taraballi and the Bichitrapuri. The tribal people of the State also excel in producing textiles of myriad hues using vegetable dyes.
Most of the handloom textiles of Orissa are woven in bright and strong colors. Vegetable dyed textiles have given way to chemical dyes, and the former command a premium wherever available.