Bichitrapuri Sarees: The Wondrous Weaves of Odisha

Bichitrapuri saree
Bichitrapuri saree

Introduction to Bichitrapuri Sarees

Bichitrapuri sarees, also known as pasapali sarees, are a treasured art form originating from the Bargarh district of Odisha (formerly Orissa), India. Derived from the Odia term “bichitra,” meaning “wondrous,” these sarees captivate with their unique aesthetic and craftsmanship. They are primarily woven from silk and cotton, showcasing rows of chequered patterns resembling a pasa (a traditional board game) in contrasting colors on the main body.

Bichitrapuri sarees are renowned for their intricate designs, precise craftsmanship, and exceptional quality. The combination of silk and cotton creates a luxurious fabric that drapes elegantly and offers comfort to the wearer. These sarees are favored by women for their versatility, as they can be worn on both formal occasions and festive celebrations.

The Double Ikat Technique and Ornate Motifs

What sets Bichitrapuri sarees apart is the ingenious use of the double ikat technique. This intricate method involves dyeing the warp and weft threads separately before weaving them together. Skilled karigars (craftsmen), including designers, tiers, dyers, and weavers, work in harmony to create the mesmerizing designs.

Bichitrapuri sarees boast ornate pallus adorned with traditional motifs. These motifs include rudraksha beads, fish, conch shells, tortoises, swans, ducks, flowers, elephants, deers, and yalis (mythological creatures). These motifs are arranged in rows and separated by thin stripes, adding to the allure of these sarees.

The double ikat technique requires immense precision and skill. The threads are meticulously tied and dyed to achieve the desired pattern. It is a laborious process that demands expertise and attention to detail. The chequered patterns on the main body of the saree feature vibrant combinations of colors, often incorporating white, red, and black squares.

Historical Significance and Cultural Heritage

While the exact origins of Bichitrapuri sarees remain unknown, they gained prominence during the nineteenth century. They have since become an integral part of Odia attire, typically worn on special occasions. These exquisite handwoven textiles hold cultural significance and are highly cherished in the region.

Notably, Bichitrapuri fabrics have been traditionally used to drape idols of deities at the Jagannath Temple, adding to their spiritual and religious importance. The artistry and craftsmanship involved in creating these sarees reflect the rich cultural heritage of Odisha. The motifs found on Bichitrapuri sarees often hold symbolic meanings, representing elements from nature, mythology, and religious beliefs.

The distinct aesthetic of Bichitrapuri sarees has also inspired other forms of art and design in Odisha. The intricate patterns and vibrant color combinations are evident in Odisha’s architecture, paintings, and sculptures. The sarees serve as a tangible expression of the region’s cultural identity and artistic legacy.

Production Process: A Labour-Intensive Art

Producing Bichitrapuri sarees is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that demands meticulous attention to detail. The journey begins with the Odisha ikat, or bandhakala, process of dyeing the warp and weft threads. The threads are meticulously tied according to the design, dyed in vibrant hues, dried, and prepared for weaving.

Using a fly shuttle pit loom, skilled weavers bring the design to life. Bichitrapuri sarees feature extra warp patterning on the main body and extra weft patterning on the pallu. The check designs on the main body incorporate white, red, and black squares, which appear even more vibrant due to the double ikat technique. The colors of the saree weaves are predetermined, resulting in a harmonious blend of hues.

The production of Bichitrapuri sarees involves multiple stages and skilled artisans. Designers conceptualize the patterns and motifs, which are then translated into tying and dyeing instructions for the tiers and dyers. The weavers meticulously weave the threads on the loom, ensuring precision and accuracy in bringing the intricate designs to life.

Revival and Contemporary Appeal

During the British Raj, the production of Bichitrapuri sarees experienced a decline. However, following India’s independence, there was a conscious effort to revive and preserve this ancient art form. Today, the Meher community of weavers from western Odisha carries the legacy forward, ensuring the continuation of this rich tradition.

Bichitrapuri sarees have also gained recognition beyond Odisha’s borders. Their exquisite craftsmanship and unique designs have garnered attention from fashion enthusiasts, designers, and textile enthusiasts worldwide. These sarees are sought after for their elegance, cultural significance, and timeless appeal.

In recent years, Bichitrapuri sarees have undergone a contemporary transformation to cater to evolving fashion trends. While the traditional motifs and techniques remain intact, designers have introduced innovative color combinations, blending traditional and modern elements. This has expanded the appeal of Bichitrapuri sarees, making them a coveted choice for fashion-conscious individuals.


Bichitrapuri sarees represent the epitome of handwoven artistry. Primarily woven from silk and cotton in the Bargarh district of Odisha, these sarees showcase the mastery of the double ikat technique, intricate motifs, and a rich cultural heritage. Preserving the legacy of these wondrous weaves is vital to safeguarding the artistic traditions and craftsmanship of Odisha. Whether worn for special occasions or appreciated as works of art, Bichitrapuri sarees continue to captivate with their timeless beauty and allure.

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