Sarees of Bengal
Bengal and sarees have a long history. So much so that, it has become a part of the culture, be it any event from weddings to festivals, a Bengali woman adorned in saree is the traditional look that we have been passed on by the generations before us. Bengali sarees have been a part of our culture since the time of the Nawabs. They introduced the art of decorative saree weaving to a large section of craftsmen and weavers, who then perfected the craft and slowly sarees of Bengal as we know it today was created. This blog will try to fill in the blanks in history and cultural significance to you so that you can truly understand and appreciate the rich history and the effort of generations that has made saree as our traditional cultural wear for women in Bengal.
Sarees have been a part of Bengal since the very beginning of its existence, although they were sarees weaved from cotton and they were not as ornate as we know. Saree was worn by women then which did not have much differentiation in order of class. The sarees were made to be comfortable rather than the visual aspect of it.
This changed drastically when in the 17th and 18th centuries, the nawab of Bengal brought the art of using the length of the saree for artistic expression and designer embroideries. This drastically changed the way people looked at sarees, and slowly sarees started to become more and more ornate and the sarees became more decorative and there was a clear divide in the sarees of the masses and the royals.
This art form of decorative saree weaving was crushed by the British, but in the late 19th century with the help of some esteemed artists of that time, who introduced the technique of jacquard weaving, that brought down the time required to weave a saree and the art form got a new life again with new beginnings.
Through time the art has evolved and changed a lot but, through its course, it has become an inseparable part of the culture and has made its mark as one of the most refined artwork forms. So that was a generous amount of history. Now we present to you some of the most well-known sarees that originated from Bengal.
Baluchari Sarees: These sarees are nothing less than a canvas painting; these sarees feature mythological stories and epics that are directly woven into the “pallu” of the saree. They are extremely intricate and they take very long to make ranging from months to almost a whole year for one saree. They originate from a small village called Baluchar in Murshidabad. It was brought there from Dhaka by the then Nawab of Bengal, Murshiduli Khan. Later on, during the British period in India, the British did everything in their power to curb the industry as they were not able to match up with the quality produced by the Bengali craftsmen. In the latter half of the 19th century, the industry was rejuvenated again with a new spirit and that continues till today.
Jamdani Saree: Jamdani Sarees are more commonly known as Dhakai Sarees because they originate from Dhaka, Bangladesh. These are sarees that are made of cotton and silk and are very comfortable to wear. These sarees are also highly decorative and feature floral patterns all over their body and are beautiful visually. These sarees are handwoven and take arduous labor and highly skilled crafting to make sure that they are up to the standards. Later on, Jamdani Sarees were produced in Bengal also, and it started to have distinct characteristics which made it different from Dhakai sarees. The main centers of production in Bengal were in Tangail and in Shantipur.
So, that was a look into two of the most brilliant sarees of Bengal that have come out of Bengal. These sarees are extremely labor-intensive and sadly, this art is dying. These labor-intensive handloom sarees are being replaced by machine or loom made sarees with predefined designs that take half the time to produce.
The reason we presented you with the rich history of these sarees is to let you know that these magnificent art forms are on the verge of extinction today. We at The Vama took it upon ourselves to bring to you these rare collections of handmade sarees that are beautiful and glamorous at the same time.
So, when you buy any product of The Vama you are actually buying a piece of Bengali history - something that you can preserve and cherish and pass down through your generations, just like the skill of making these sarees were passed down through the generations.