West Bengal has a rich weaving tradition dating back to many centuries. In India, it is considered one of the premier destinations for gorgeous and beautiful textiles, sarees and a variety of arts and handicrafts. The best part of the handicrafts and textile industry here is that the sophisticated and coveted products are created by rural artisans and weavers. Though they have been modernized and updated to a great extent, the artisans and master weavers here continue to practice the ancient techniques of handloom weaving that makes their products absolutely unique. One such unique and beautiful garment from this region is the Baluchari saree. This is a type of silk saree made with dyed silk threads that is known for its attractive, lustrous look and artistically decorated pallu.
Baluchari sarees was inspired by the fine art of Jamdani weaving technique that was practiced in neighboring villages. Due to the patronage of a rich Nawab, this type of weaving was introduced in the Baluchar village of Murshidabad district in Bengal. The weavers here made this style their own and produced the unique Baluchari saree. Eventually, the production of these sarees was shifted to Bishnupur. Baluchari sarees’ history is deeply tied in with the rich and multicultural history of Bengal and is a prime example of the diversity of India. The saree design reflects influences from different religions and aesthetics, including typical Hindu designs to distinctive Persian patterns. The ethnic revival trend of the 2000s has brought this type of saree to the forefront and today, it is appreciated across India.
Baluchari sarees have a very fine and attractive look that is achieved through a very time and labor consuming process of production. First, raw silk fibers are extracted from the finest mulberry silkworms and treated by dipping them in soda and hot water; this makes them smooth and shiny. They are then dipped in various colors to get a bright look. The colored thread is then stretched to make it tight; this is what gives the Baluchari saree its distinctively soft yet heavy drape. Once the silk threads are prepared, they are woven into the saree. The designs on the borders and pallu of the sarees are first drawn on paper and then punched into the saree. Through a complex and intricate process of weaving, the designs are embroidered into the saree using gold and silver threads. Finally, the saree is polished to give it a fine sheen. The final product is a fine, soft, heavy and lustrous saree with hypnotically beautiful designs displayed all over the pallu.
The Baluchari saree design is distinguished by many different aspects. As mentioned above, the intricate process of weaving, which can take over a week, produces a very fine silk fabric woven with gold threads. This saree also comes with pallus covered in mythology inspired drawings and designs. Other themes such as village life, wedding ceremonies and nature designs might also be seen but mythological depictions of scenes from the Hindu epics remain the predominant type of work on Baluchari sarees. The intricate and aesthetically dazzling appearance of these designs is essentially what sets the Baluchari saree apart and makes it truly unique. Scenes such as triumph of Rama and Krishna speaking the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna at the eve of battle are amongst the most popular designs seen on such sarees. These, combined with the intricate and attractive floral and leaf motifs displayed along the thin borders of the Baluchari saree is what makes it such a regal and stately garment. In fact, Baluchari sarees have always had a very aristocratic appeal and have been status symbol sarees for noble women in West Bengal for many years. A more modern and designer Baluchari saree might make use of different types of designs inspired by western art, while retaining the traditional style of weaving and embroidery which gives the saree its unique look.
Baluchari sarees typically come in very bright and beautiful colors which suit the intricate and artistic designs displayed on it. From light and feminine shades of green, blue and pink to deep and luxurious looking purples, yellows and reds, women have a plethora of options to choose from.
Trends in Baluchari Sarees
Baluchari sarees have benefitted greatly from the ethnic revival trend in India. They had become a somewhat obscure regional garment but today, they are highly coveted for their fine look by saree connoisseurs as well as fashionistas. They have even been spotted on the red carpet. A designer Baluchari saree can definitely be worn for a special occasion or party but the traditional varieties are actually best suited to a festive occasion or a religious ceremony because of the mythological depictions which are such a crucial part of their look. They can be styled by adding traditional golden necklaces and ornate Indian earrings which will complete the luxurious, traditional look.