Bomkai or Sonepuri is an exceptional fabric that emerges from the amalgamation of two of the most popular components of Orissa’s textile industry. The fabric is created by weaving the extra weft technique on a pit loom. Bomkai sarees are a combination of Ikat and embroidery that interweave with each other, and the borders are often in contrasting colors, with intricate threadwork marking the pallus. These sarees are available in both cotton and silk fabrics.
Bomkai is considered one of the traditional faces of Orissa’s designer industry and showcases the adept works of artisans. The saree originated in the southern coastal parts of Orissa, where it was first crafted. Bomkai or Sonepuri is an auspicious attire that was traditionally worn by Brahmins of the South during rituals. Today, Bomkai is one of the most highly regarded attires in Orissa and other parts of the country.
Bomkai’s designs are inspired by mythology and the folklore that spring from the roots of Orissan culture. The motifs include offerings from the environment, such as bitter gourd, atasi flower, small flower, fly, carp-fish, tortoise, lotus, peacock, and bird. Borders and pallavs are a significant part of the finishing in Bomkai sarees, and some sarees feature border motifs inspired by tribal art. Bomkai sarees are double shaded, reflecting a royal luster, and have lattice work that creates small diamond-like shapes on the border.
Bomkai sarees are woven with a low count of Cotton yarn, and both the weft and warp techniques are used. Dyeing, dressing the loom, and weaving are the primary steps in their manufacturing. The industry uses pit loom, dye vats, thread, cotton/silk, or dyes. Although Orissa still uses the Jaala technique to create unique pieces of Bomkai and retain the craft’s original flavor, modern-day mechanization has influenced the industry.
Bomkai has numerous varieties, including Sonepuri, Pasapali, Barpali, and Bapta saris. One of the most exciting innovations in the history of Bomkai was the introduction of zari thread work in its weaving. Bomkai is popularly worn by Kathak dancers worldwide and is one of the major attractions in world fairs on fabrics, textiles, and attires.