Tant sarees are one of the most popular styles of sarees that are worn by Bengali women and other saree wearing population of the country. They are immensely popular because they are light and airy and because of that they are ideal for the hot and humid weather of Bengal. Thus for that reason Tant sarees are worn as a part of everyday wear as well as festive wear in Bengal. These sarees due to its everyday use are available at a cheaper price point than other sarees. They are also known as the most comfortable saree in the South East Asia region.
Tant sarees feature a beautiful handcrafted thick border and a beautifully embroidered pallu. They use different types of floral, artistic, geometric motifs.
Tant has a very rich history in Bengal as the word was historically used to describe handlooms where dhotis and other Indian ethnic wear were produced. The earliest records of Bengali handloom can be traced back to the 15th Century in Shantipur which is in the district of Nadia in West Bengal. The art was supported and nurtured by the Mughal Empire during the 16th and the 17th century along with other handloom industries such as the muslin and Jamdani sarees. The expensive silk sarees were adorned by the ruling class while the cotton and Tant sarees were used by the ordinary citizens of the country during that time.
The Tant saree industry was one of the only handloom industries that was not destroyed completely by the British and hence they continued to carry on their own trade during the British period. In the modern era of the late 20th century there was the re-emergence of the handloom industry in Bengal post Independence and that was featured by new weaving techniques and handloom skills such as the jacquard weaving technique.
This was welcomed and instilled in the Tant saree industry as well and is carried on still today which has made the work easier for the weavers as well as reducing the time required for the production of one saree.
There was another important addition to the Tant saree industry post-independence which was the immigration of many Hindu weavers to different sections of West Bengal from Bangladesh. The main sections of immigration were Fulia, Hoogly and Burdwan districts. These artisans came with their own set of skills and knowledge and made different variations of Tant sarees which exist till today.
The weaving of Tant sarees starts when the cotton threads for the weaving are imported from the mills and washed to clean them and then dried under the sun. The threads are then bleached and then again sun dried. Next they are dyed by dipping them in boiling water, starched and further processed to make them finer and stronger. The sarees are then weaved by placing these threads on large bamboo drums and fed to the loom.
The Tant sarees have a signature of their own which is they feature a unique design on their pallu and body. These designs are done by the artist and are unique to the different origin spots of the sarees. These sarees take around 10-12 hours to weave for the simpler designed ones and around 1 week for the ones that are intricately designed.
Types of Tant Sarees
The different types of Tant sarees are characterized by their place of origin, the different types of design motifs that are depicted on the saree.
- Fulia and Shantipur: These can be called the original Tant sarees and feature very high levels of craftsmanship which is also a meeting point of different cultures as they are made by East and West Bengal weavers together. They feature bright vibrant colors are soft and they have intricately woven designs.
- Dhaniakhali: These sarees are characterized by their base colors of the pastel shade which feature large striped patterns and less artistic motifs. These are also of great quality just as much as Fulia-Tangail Tant Sarees.
- Begampur: These sarees are loosely woven and are very light and that makes it very easy to carry around. They also come in bright vibrant as well as dark colors.
- Kalna: These sarees are based around the Tangail style of weaving and they are also of very high quality with very bright and vibrant colors.
- Atpur: These sarees are coarser than the others and are a cheaper variant of Tant sarees used for everyday wear by a majority of the population.
Tant sarees are characterized by identifiable designs and motifs on the pallu and the body of the saree. Some of the more popular designs used are: tabij (amulet), rajmahal (royal palace), hathi (elephant), ansh (fish scale), chandmala (garland of moons), phool (flower), nilambari (blue sky), ratan chokh (gem-eyed), benki (spiral), tara (star), kalka (paisley), ardha-chandra (half moon), and bhomra (bumble bee).