Bichitrapuri Sarees: An Ode to Odisha’s Handloom Heritage

Bichitrapuri Saree

Bichitrapuri sarees, born in the looms of the Bargarh district in Odisha, are an enchanting blend of silk and cotton threads. This exquisite attire draws its name from the Odia term “bichitra,” which translates to “wondrous.” Also known as pasapali sarees, they boast intricate rows of chequered patterns, reminiscent of a pasa, skillfully woven in vibrant contrasting colors across the main body. These intricate sarees are created using the double ikat technique, featuring ornate pallus adorned with traditional motifs such as rudraksha beads, fish, conch shells, tortoises, swans, ducks, flowers, elephants, deers, and yalis, separated by thin stripes. Though their exact origins are unknown, they seem to have gained prominence during the nineteenth century and have since become a vital part of Odia attire, typically worn on special occasions. The age-old tradition involves the use of Bichitrapuri fabrics to elegantly drape idols of deities at the revered Jagannath Temple.

The Enchanting Tale of Bichitrapuri Sarees

The history of Bichitrapuri sarees intertwines with the rich cultural heritage of Odisha. Traditionally, the sarees were available in four basic colors representing Lord Jagannath. The origin of these sarees is not explicitly recorded, but the Bandhkala technique, a complex tied-dye weaving art, which originated in Odisha during the early 19th century, likely played a role in their development. The embroidery along the fabrics reflects the influence of Lord Jagannath, inspiring the saree’s colors and patterns.

The Art of Crafting Bichitrapuri Sarees

Producing Bichitrapuri sarees is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, involving various skilled artisans like designers, tiers, dyers, and weavers. The Odisha ikat, or bandhakala, process is used to dye the warp and weft threads, creating the design for the border and pallu on a fly shuttle pit loom before weaving. The yarns are tied according to the design, dyed, dried, and then woven on the loom. The sarees typically feature extra warp patterning on the main body with extra weft patterning on the pallu, while the check designs on the main body display vibrant white, red, and black squares due to the double ikat technique.

Revival and Resurgence: Bichitrapuri Sarees Post-Independence

During the British Raj, the production of Bichitrapuri sarees experienced a decline, but post-Independence, there was a conscious effort to revive the weaving technique. Today, the Meher community of weavers from western Odisha continues to create ikat textiles, including the iconic Bichitrapuri sarees.

The Timeless Beauty of Bichitrapuri Sarees – A Unique Handwoven Tradition

As a traditional Odisha handloom saree, Bichitrapuri sarees showcase exquisite craftsmanship through the “Bandhakala” technique, evident in their intricate weaves. Throughout the ages, these sarees have remained adored and cherished, holding the distinction of being the most sought-after traditional Odisha handloom silk sarees. Their speciality lies in the geometric designs on the body and motifs such as Shankha (Shell), Chakra (Wheel), phulla (flower), and animals, each carrying deep symbolism. The broad border adorned with silk thread work and motif patterns, along with the traditional aanchal or pallu, add to the saree’s unique appeal.

Adorning Bichitrapuri Sarees for Special Occasions

Bichitrapuri sarees have transcended their original purpose as marriage fabric and are now worn on various occasions, including parties and festivals. The saree’s elegance and charm have caught the attention of stars, making it a popular choice for award functions too. When donning a Bichitrapuri saree, one can accessorize with gold or silver jewelry to complement the saree’s rich fabric woven from gold and silk threads. Additionally, pearl or jade sets can be paired with sarees featuring different colors, further enhancing their beauty.

Bichitrapuri Sarees: From Odisha to the World

The popularity of Bichitrapuri sarees has transcended borders, reaching the West as well. Ambassadors and politicians proudly wear these sarees when representing the country abroad, contributing to their increasing popularity. The demand for Bichitrapuri sarees has led to innovations in textile production, offering them in multi-colored varieties to cater to diverse preferences.

Bichitrapuri vs. Sambalpuri: Unraveling the Differences

Although both Bichitrapuri and Sambalpuri sarees involve the same ikat dyeing technique, they exhibit distinct patterns and pallus. The fish border is a prominent feature of most Bichitrapuri sarees, while the Sambalpuri variety showcases unique designs specific to its heritage. Despite the similarities, each type possesses its own charm and cultural significance.


  1.  What are Bichitrapuri sarees, and what makes them unique in Odisha’s handloom tradition?

  • Answer: Bichitrapuri sarees are exquisitely handwoven textiles primarily crafted from silk and cotton in Odisha’s Bargarh district. Their uniqueness lies in the intricate use of the double ikat technique, creating rows of chequered patterns resembling a pasa, woven in contrasting colors on the main body. They are also known as pasapali sarees and derive their name from the Odia term “bichitra,” meaning “wondrous.”
  1. How are Bichitrapuri sarees crafted? Can you explain the intricate process of using the double ikat technique?

  • Answer: The crafting of Bichitrapuri sarees is a labor-intensive process involving skilled artisans. The double ikat technique is employed, where the warp and weft threads are tied and dyed according to the design. These threads are then woven on a fly shuttle pit loom to create the captivating patterns, resulting in a stunning blend of colors and motifs.
  1.  What are the traditional motifs featured on Bichitrapuri sarees, and do they hold any cultural significance in Odisha?
  • Answer: Bichitrapuri sarees boast ornate pallus featuring traditional motifs such as rudraksha beads, fish, conch shells, tortoises, swans, ducks, flowers, elephants, deers, and yalis, separated by thin stripes. These motifs carry deep cultural significance and are representative of Odia heritage and spirituality.
  1. Where can one purchase authentic Bichitrapuri sarees? Are there specific regions or stores known for offering these exquisite handwoven textiles?

  • Authentic Bichitrapuri sarees can be found in specialty stores and boutiques that focus on traditional handloom textiles. These sarees are predominantly available in Odisha, particularly in regions like Bargarh and other cities known for their handloom craftsmanship.
  1. Can Bichitrapuri sarees be worn on occasions other than weddings? What styling tips can you offer to complement these sarees for various events?

  • While Bichitrapuri sarees are historically associated with weddings and special occasions, their versatility allows them to be worn on various festivities, parties, and cultural events. To complement these sarees, opt for traditional jewelry like gold or silver sets, or choose modern accessories to add a contemporary touch. Experiment with different blouse styles and draping techniques to enhance the overall look.

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Conclusion : A Timeless Legacy: Bichitrapuri Sarees Continue to Captivate Hearts

Bichitrapuri Saree

In the realms of Odisha’s handloom tradition, Bichitrapuri sarees stand tall as an embodiment of artistry and cultural heritage. Their unique designs and rich symbolism make them not only an aesthetic delight but also an integral part of Odia identity. As these sarees continue to captivate hearts and gain popularity beyond borders, their timeless legacy remains a testament to the skill and creativity of the Meher community weavers who keep this exquisite tradition alive.

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