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Baluchari saris-- an art in six yards

baluchari, sari, motifs, mythological figures, colour

They are what almost all women from Bengal dream of possessing--- Baluchari saris (six yards of cotton, silk or synthetic textile woven around the body by Indian women). Designed in shimmery silk, depicting scenes from mythology or simple flowers or motifs, woven in contrasting colours--- they are what dreams are made of.

Baluchari saris are popular for their enticing colours and alluring designs in silk threads, done all over the body, woven in the loom while the `aanchal’ or the flowing end depicts romantic scenes or characters from Indian mythology — artistically capturing moments from the past.

But behind these magic lies months of toil and planning as to how to get the design on the pieces with their clever use in the loom.

First the designer makes the design on graph papers, which is then copied on punching cards. These cards are then joined to make the full design. For an average design, 20,000 to 30,000 cards are needed that take five to six months, costing nearly Rs 10,000-15,000.

Two types of silk threads from two different regions of the country—Bangalore and West Bengal are used for the weaving—one set vertically and the order horizontally.

A month before it is put in the loom, the thread is prepared according to the number of Baluchari saris to be woven in that design while the number of shutters to be used depends on the number of times the motifs will be used all over the sari.

The silk threads are put in boiling water and the next day tied with a rope and put into hot colours. Extra colour is then drained out and the threads are put into the spinning wheel.

Weaving these saris is a delicate art, says 60-year old Manikchand, who had started his careerat the age of seven, by helping his father. “If you do not have in your blood, not a single design will come out. The threads are more delicate than woman’s hair. In inexperienced hands, they will get entangled”, he says.

But the saris are increasingly becoming expensive as the art is facing extinction due to lack of infrastructure and abject poverty of the weavers. However, the appeal of Baluchari saris is unquestionable. Its ravishing colour and bewitching designs have made them pieces of art—something to be proudly possessed, flaunted and gifted – and even handed down as an heirloom.
Published: 2006-09-01
Author: Mohua Chakraborty

About the author or the publisher
I am in the profession of editing news and feature articles. Interested in writing, singing, and interior designing. I am passionate about myriad design forms--textile, jewellery, font etc.

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