Probably no other single category of product expresses India’s unity in diversity as exquisitely as Indian handlooms. From the Khandua of Odisha to Muga Silk of Assam, from Phulia cotton of West Bengal to Kota Doria of Rajasthan, from Chanderi of Madhya Pradesh to Pochampally of Telangana, the list is endless. Traditional dresses from the north eastern states, such as the ‘mekhela chador’ of Assam or the ‘phanek mayek naibi’ of Manipur speak volumes about the beauty of Indian handlooms.
Indian handlooms, often representative in nature, are distinguished by their weaving methods, use of symbols and other imagery, colour, etc.
Sambalpur in Odisha, one of the key centres of ‘ikat’ handloom, is also known for its ‘bapta’ weaves, an indigenous method that combine silk and cotton. In fact, Odisha is a shopper’s delight when it comes to handlooms, with several protected under Geographical Indication (GI) tags.
Weavers from Maniabandha and Nuapatna are skilled in weaving the ‘khandua’, predominantly red or orange in colour and known for their glossy finish.
The Pasapali from Bargarh draws inspirations from the ‘pasa’ (an Indian board game which played a leading role in the Indian epic Mahabharata) while the tribal belt of Kalahandi is known for its Habaspuri, adorned with natural motifs such as flowers and fish. Who can resist from trying on a Bomkai or Sonepuri?
To draw attention to India’s handloom products and improve the condition of the weavers, in 2015, the Union government declared August 7 as the National Handloom Day. The significance of August 7 being it was on this day the Swadeshi Movement was launched in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1905, at the city’s Town Hall, as a mark of protest against the Partition of Bengal by the British rulers. (The partition ultimately happened – India retained West Bengal; East Bengal became East Pakistan and then emerged as the independent nation of Bangladesh.
This year, the national day, acquires extra significance as the already beleaguered sector has been dealt a crippling blow by the pandemic situation. So even if you may not be travelling yet, you can always visit SanskritiCuttack’s website to buy a handloom product and celebrate the living legacy of Indian handlooms.