Bichitrapuri saree, also known as Pasapali saree, are a beautiful and unique type of handwoven saree primarily made from silk and cotton in the Bargarh district of Odisha, India. These sarees are renowned for their rows of chequered patterns resembling a “pasa” and woven in contrasting colours on the main body, which are created using the double ikat technique. The ornate pallus featuring rows of traditional motifs such as rudraksha beads, fish, conch shells, tortoises, swans, ducks, flowers, elephants, deers, and yalis, separated by thin stripes, add to their timeless elegance. In this article, we explore the history, production process, and significance of Bichitrapuri saree.
History and Significance
While the exact origins of Bichitrapuri saree remain a mystery, they are thought to have become popular during the nineteenth century. They are an integral part of Odia attire and are typically worn on special occasions. Bichitrapuri fabric, like many other handwoven textiles from Odisha, have a rich tradition of being used to drape idols of deities at the Jagannath Temple. However, in recent times, they have also been creatively woven into a variety of other products such as dupattas, bedspreads, and sarees.
The name of Bichitrapuri saree is derived from the Odia word “bichitra,” which translates to “wondrous.”. The sarees are characterized by their intricate patterns and vibrant colours. They are often worn as a symbol of cultural heritage and pride.
The creation of Bichitrapuri saree involves a meticulous and time-consuming process that requires various skilled artisans, including designers, tiers, dyers, and weavers. To create the design for the border and pallu, the “Odisha ikat” or “bandhakala‘ process is used to dye the warp and weft threads 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 saree often feature additional warp patterning on the main body and extra weft patterning on the pallu, with rows of chequered patterns woven in contrasting colors. The check designs on the main body contain white, red, and black squares that appear more vivid due to the double ikat technique. The colors of the saree are predetermined, and the dyed threads are then woven together to produce the final textile.
The art of creating Bichitrapuri saree is passed down through generations and takes years of training and practice to perfect. Despite the arduous process, Bichitrapuri saree are highly valued for their intricate designs and vibrant colors, making them a popular choice for special occasions not only in Odisha but also beyond.
Popularity Bichitrapuri Saree
The art of handloom weaving has been kept alive by the Meher community of weavers from western Odisha, who produce ikat textiles including the highly popular Bichitrapuri saree. To ensure the continuation of this traditional craft, the weavers have received training from the government and non-governmental organizations.
With their intricate designs and vibrant colours, Bichitrapuri saree have gained widespread recognition in India and beyond. These exquisite sarees have been showcased in various fashion shows and exhibitions, attracting the attention of fashion designers who have incorporated them into their collections.
The Bichitrapuri saree’s distinctive features, including the rows of traditional motifs and the chequered patterns on the main body, make them a highly sought-after item of clothing for special occasions. Their popularity has led to an increase in demand for these sarees, and efforts have been made to promote their production and sale.
These sarees are not only known for their aesthetic appeal but also for their sustainable production methods, making them an environmentally conscious choice. The continued production of Bichitrapuri saree by the Meher community of weavers is not only a testament to their skill and dedication but also to the importance of preserving India’s rich cultural heritage.
Bichitrapuri saree are an exquisite and cherished part of Odisha’s rich cultural heritage. Their unique and intricate designs, created using the traditional Odisha ikat process, showcase the skill and artistry of the Meher community of weavers from western Odisha. These sarees have stood the test of time and continue to be worn on special occasions, not only in Odisha but also across India and beyond. By preserving and promoting the production of Bichitrapuri saree, we can celebrate the beauty and diversity of India’s textile traditions while also supporting the livelihoods of these skilled artisans.