Sambalpuri Saree is a traditional handwoven IKAT saree. For those unfamiliar, a saree is simply an unstitched cloth, ranging in length from four to nine metres of silk or cotton which is then draped and pleated skillfully, elegantly over the body in various styles, depending on region and occasion - to create one of the most fashionable looks ever for a woman!(see my other post about saree styles)
The most skilled IKAT weavings are produced in Bargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur and nearby districts of Odisha. Most of them have been named after the places of their origin, and are popularly known as PATA. These PATA sarees are known for their traditional motifs, like shankha (shell), chakra (wheel), phula (flower) - all with deep symbolism.
It is believed that this art migrated to Western Orissa along with the Bhulia community who fled Northern India in the year 1192AD after the fall of Chouhan empire at the hands of the Mughals. Since then up to the year 1925 the traditional craft flourished in Western Odisha in a limited number of designs & natural vegetable colorings which represented the identity of different village women. Unfortunately now those natural dyes are an uncommon part of the process, though still in existence for high end cosmopolitan clientele and the cotton versions are still worn by local tribal women who maintain the consistency of this dress. These sarees were originally known as 'Bhulia-Kapta'.
What distinguishes this woven textile of IKAT from others is that both the warp and the weft in the fabrication are tie-dyed before weaving.(warp images below)
The traditional craftsmanship of the 'Bandhakala', the Tie-Dye Art, is integral to the intricate weaves of IKAT. In this meticulous technique, small bundles of the silk/cotton threads are tied/wrapped by hand(called 'Baandha') while fixed on a large horizontal portable frame according to the desired end patterns. The weavers most often work from home setting up on the very porches of their traditional mudhouses. Young boys are often employed to do the "bandha" work as the required skills and the design logic applied must be taught from 10 years on to impart the knowledge to become a prolific weaver.
the frame for "Bandha"This "Bandha" technique ultimately prevents the absorption of dyes into certain areas of the threads which thus creates the IKAT. These same threads go through various color dyes, re-tyings and design processes before being finally fixed on the wooden loom for the hand weaving of the end fabric.
"Bandha" process of tying the yarns before dying
detailed knots of "Bandha"
The unique design feature of this IKAT form is that the motifs and patterns are represented almost identically on both side of the fabric. This versatile technique enables a craftsman to weave the multi colored patterns and images into a fabric which often is done to inspire a thought or convey a story. The entire process sometimes takes a weaver many months thus the costliness of these sarees in silks from $200-$4,000.
a very difficult skill to produce designs in the round and script
such creations can only be done by A MASTER WEAVER-
Sarat Kumar Patra(pictured) and his brother, Sahadev Patra are national awardees for their skill in IKAT.