Baluchari Myths

Vibha Mitra

Tapestry material was made from Baluchar silks which were originally used by nawabs and Muslim aristocrats of the Murshidabad district as";" however Hindu noblemen used the raw silk. Baluchar silk was woven into saris in which the ground scheme of decoration is a very wide pallu with a panel of mango or paisley motifs at the centre surrounded by smaller rectangles depicting different scenes. The sari borders were narrow with floral and foliage motifs and the fall of the sari was covered with small paisley and other floral designs in undemonstrated but bright colour schemes. Another familiar motif for the body of the sari was diagonal butis. Even today similar saris which have smaller anchalas are being woven at Murshidabad and Varanasi to match contemporary tastes. The traditional jala technique is used for this.
The unique feature of Baluchar saris was the combination of animal and bird motifs incorporated in floral and paisley decorations while other motifs included hunters on horses, elephants, and scenes from the nawab's court. The silk yarn used for Baluchar saris was not twisted and so had a soft and heavy texture. Limited ground colours were used which were permanent in nature and retain their freshness even after so many years.
These saris were mostly worn by women from upper class and Zamindar households in Bengal during festive occasions and weddings. The rich silk fabric was woven by nawabs to gift the British and the weaves featured the Sahib smoking the hookah, riding an elephant, all scenes from colonial times. This colony of weavers resided on the banks of the river Baluchar near Murshidabad. However in the 18th century the river disappeared and the weavers reappeared in Bishnupur. The focus moved to Indian mythology, the Ramayan, Mahabharat, Shakuntala, the Swayamvar. This is most prevalent in today’s weaving styles
The Baluchari saree was one of the award winners for the main weaving styles amongst thirty four National Awards for the years 2009 & 2010 present by the Hon. President Pranab Mukherjee.

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