Beautiful Baluchari from Bengal
Decades ago, Hubby Dear got me a Baluchari Sari . It was a beautiful pink sari from Khazana , the shop in the newly opened Taj Bengal. In those days, I only knew about the fine cotton Calcutta saris worn by sultry actresses in the new age movies of the late 70’s . So rather warily I opened up the 6 yards of deep pink, to reveal the most amazing sari I had seen. This was a Balucheri . It had paisley bootis on the inside, a border of Arjuna and Shrikrishna in the chariot and a 1 m paloo with scenes from the Mahabharat.
The beauty of the Baluchari lies in the intricately woven scenes. Originally the scenes depicted life in the Nawab’s court and even had some British soldiers woven into the story. Today, however, scenes from Indian myths and legends inspired by the carvings in the temples around this area are. This ancient craft of handwoven silk was introduced to Baluchar village by an 18th Century Nawab of Bengal. Nawab Murshidkuli Khan brought in weavers from Dhaka in East Bengal. Thanks to his patronage this industry flourished . However, the village and the weavers constantly had to move according to the flow of the river that changed its course every now and then. Finally, the village was submerged in a heavy flood and the weavers moved to Bishnupur in Murshidabad district.
Decline and revival
The tradition remained in Bishnupur, though it declined during the British Raj . It was hard for the traditional weavers to make textiles comparable to the machine made fabrics. The industry was in danger of fading into oblivion but for the efforts of an early 20th Century artist Subho Thakur who revived this art. He not only revived it but also innovated and tweaked the traditional weaving method by introducing Jaquard looms. This made the manufacture of the sari that much faster and therefore, more affordable.
Today the saree is available in two variants – One with a design in pure mono colour silk thread like mine; or in multi coloured thread to resemble enamel work.
Stunning Brocade of Benares
The brocade is a rich fabric, more often than not in silk with an elaborate shuttle woven design. Normally the thread used is gold which adds to the luxuriousness of this fabric. Undoubtedly, brocade saris occupied pride of place in a trousseau and old brocade saris are valued not only for their skilled craftsmanship but also for the value of the gold. Unfortunately, while the gold thread added to its glittering beauty, it also weighed down the fabric and often one had no option but to sell the gold in these saris rather than have it shred. Oftentimes, the gold was sold for much more than what the sari was bought for!!!
Today, however, the brocade tradition is carried on with artificial gold thread or dull gold coloured silk thread that can pass off as gold. This is to make the saris more affordable though there are some who still weave with gold thread.
Different parts of India practice different kinds of brocade but the most famous are those of Benares Silk. With their fine booties and elaborate palloos made of leaves, flowers and other traditional motifs, a Benares silk sari was a family heirloom to be passed on from generation to generation.
Disclaimer : I am neither a textile manufacturer nor a historian . I am just passionate about textiles and fabrics. I have gathered all my information from the Internet. Please excuse any errors and omissions.
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