Beautiful Baluchari and Benarasi Brocades #AtoZChallenge 2017

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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.

Acknowledgements :





Stunning Brocade of Benares

[Tweet “Did you know that the word Brocade originates from the Italian word broccato which means embossed cloth?”]

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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.

Benares Silk

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.

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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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Author: Bellybytes

Proud Mumbai gal who always sees the humour in life. The mum who made banana fritters when all the other mums made cupcakes.

26 Comments on “Beautiful Baluchari and Benarasi Brocades #AtoZChallenge 2017

  1. I am personally a saree girl so I liked reading your article a lot. And got to know about Subho Thakur for the first time through your write up only. Thanks for sharing such nice pictures.

  2. I absolutely love the royal look of the brocades and Banarasis. I have a few of them but i dread wearing them because of their weight. My mom’s wedding saree is a pure brocade saree – you can hardly see the red silk color and it is so heavy that i could keep it on me for just an hour!

    1. Thanks Parul. I just love saris and without sounding boastful really look best in them ( According to my grandma ) . And thanks for the exact shade of pink. I just couldn’t identify it 🙂

  3. Love your Baluchari sari.
    Banarasi silk looks so elegant and rich. I had a few of them in my wedding trousseau. It’s been ages since I have worn them, though.

  4. Sunita you do have quite an enviable collection of sarees, I must say!
    Your posts are so wonderful to read! I have read about it all ages ago..and this feels.like brushing up my knowledge!
    I love sarees though I don’t wear them.as often as I would like to. But, it’s my dream since long to own a saree from every region of our coutry! Hopefully a Balucheri will.make it to my list! Brocade…I don’t know if I will be able to carry it with an elan most suited to its royal nature!
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…Let’s bring a smile to her face.My Profile

    1. How lovely to get such an enthusiastic response. Alas ! My dream of a sari from each state remains unfulfilled as I too wear them infrequently and my own daughters even more rarely! This series has made me more aware of what’s in my cupboard and hopefully inspire me to wear them again . Thanks for stopping by

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