Sambalpuri Saree: Gem of Odisha

Sambalpuri saree (locally called shadhi) defies a popular saying ‘What’s in a name?’ The craft got a cult status after late Prime Minister Indira was adorned by her to an extent that it still finds a key place in the wardrobes of the most powerful political family of the country. Back then it was so famous that it became the unofficial uniform of the of television anchors at Doordarshan.

Bandha (meaning ‘tied’) fabric (as Sambalpuri fabric was called originally) is an Ikat weave cloth in which the yarn is tied and before it is set on the loom for weaving. This means, the color and design is decided before the weaving process starts. It is due to pre dying of the yarn hank that these fabrics have an excellent color fastness (the tendency of color to wash away with time). It was because of this technique that this form of weaving was called Bandhakala (the art of tying). Moreover, it has a deeper connotation. According to the folklores, the color signifies soul and fabric signifies the body of a person. Till date it is guaranteed by the makers, that a Bandha fabric might wear out but not fade away with time.

According to Historians, this art came to Odisha with the Bhulia community who fled Northern India in the 1192AD.Till, 1925 it flourished in Western Odisha in a limited number of designs and in vegetable colours. The sarees were used by the women of the Kosal region and were known as ’Bhulia-Kapta’.

Odisha Ikat is one form which is still untouched by the contemporary fashion trends. The motifs are traditional like shankha (conch), chakra (spinning wheel) phul (flower) with a strong symbolic significance. What adds exclusivity to the fabric is the way it is made. Yarns are tied and dyed manually. It is an arduous process which requires not only patience but fine skills. The state is known for their national award winning master weavers because of whom the Bandha cloth became the present day Sambalpuri saree. It recently acquired a geographical indication as ‘Odisha Ikat’. This Ikat is woven in cotton and silk and is identical on both sides of fabric.

The reversible pochampally now finds its place in Apparel and Home Furnishing sector as well, but how it has retained the element of typically Pochampally craft is worth commenting upon. Nevertheless, Pochampally was the first traditional craft sector to be awarded a geographical indication. It might be pointed that technique of ikat weaving is same for Odisha ikat as well. But what brings a difference is the feel of Pochampally fabric. It is smoother and lighter in comparison to the ikats of Odisha.