Upholder of Indian heritage, culture mirror, hand-woven, and a classic masterpiece. Yes, that is how you praise a Sambalpuri Saree. Originally from the Tribal cults, called Bhulia of Western Odisha, these gorgeous drapes have now attained universal fame not limiting to only Odisha.
The Sambaluri Saree is the absolute favorite of many charismatic women who have ensured that their wardrobe has a classy collection of these wonderful hand weaved sarees.
Simple, original designs, light-weighted, comfortable yet classy, statement piece which speaks for itself and a must-have: This is how most gorgeous ladies with a good taste for sarees would describe a Sambalpuri Saree.
Some of the prominent Indian women found flaunting these ethnic beauties are the women from Gandhi family starting from Former Prime minister Indira Gandhi to renowned politicians Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, the charm of Bollywood Vidya Balan, our former President Pratibha Patil, Veteran Actress Kirron Kher (just a few to name!)
So what is so special about this saree created by the people belonging to Lord Jagannath’s land that attracts so many people towards itself? The craftsmanship, the intricate designs and the depiction of culture on a long piece of cloth which can sometimes take up to 6 long months to weave.
Also, the patterns and motifs used, the deeper meaning behind each pattern and finally the amazing technique of tie and die, popularly known as Bandhkala, which cannot be bleached into any other color after the saree is made are some of the factors which draws women towards the saree like a moth to the flame.
The Sambalpuri Sarees are hand-woven and a typical saree takes up to 2-3 weeks to weave. Depending on the design, some sarees can also take up to 5-6 months to get completed.
The weavers first create the design on a piece of paper, then form the design and tie the different patterns. The tied cloth is then dipped into boiling colors. This method is called to resist dying. Once the process is completed, the saree cannot be bleached into other colors.
History of Sambalpuri Saree:
The community who earn their livelihood by weaving this saree are called the Bhulia Community. This name brings us to a story.
Originally, this saree was woven by some people in Kashmir. The King asked weavers from Kashmir to come to Odisha to spread their knowledge there. But on the way, they forgot their route and settled in the region between Sambalpur and Patnagarh.
In the local tongue, Bhulia means a person who has forgotten. Thus, these people who forgot their way back were given refugee by an Odisha King and they began living in Sambalpur and spread their art to the people of the region.
The saree began to be called Sambalpuri saree because of the place. The other types of Sambalpuri Sarees are also named after the places where they are woven.
The weavers of this saree tell us that is no proper record to know when exactly this art began to take form.
All they know is that their forefathers and fathers have been doing this and they have learned it from them and are doing their best to keep this art alive.
It has been handed down from generation to generation by the word of mouth and practical teaching. Kids, from an early age, were taught about their profession and were trained by their parents.
Padmashree Haldhar Nag, an eminent poet from Odisha, writes in his poem about the existence of the Sambaluri saree since the times of Mahabharata.
He says that during the Vastra-Haran of Draupati by Dushasan, Draupati was draped in the long Sambalpuri Saree which was so long that it seemed to go on and on and had no end. The English translation of the poem is:
”Black and brown, blue and green, yellow and pink, Colours are everywhere,
Having an impact deep and profound,
Making the fabric shining all around.
Snakes crawling, squirrels playing,
Making no sound but, the fabric shining all around.
Lotus embroidered, Snakes bordered,
Temples motifs all around, making no felt,
But the essence is everywhere,
Making the fabric shine around.
Clenching fist, bitter mind, pulling the saree (of Draupadi),
Still making no sound, but the fabric shining all around.
Praying to the Almighty making no sound,
Still the fabric shining all around.
Pulling and plunging the saree all around,
Still no root about to be found, the fabric shining all around.
However he cries, however he tries, still the root not found,
The fabric shining all around.”
This is evidence of the existence of the Sambalpuri saree since time immemorial.
The only form of recorded information of designs of the Sambalpuri Sarees is the ones maintained during British rule.
Two books were maintained which give us an insight into the details which were used in the Sambalpuri Sarees during the pre-independence era.
Types of Sambalpuri Sarees:
Sambalpuri Sarees offer a wide range of options right from which women can choose what pleases them the most. There are many types of hand-woven Sambalpuri delights that vary in design, fabric, and colors used.
The similarity is that they are all created using the tie and dye technique and are excellent pieces that exhibit our tradition and culture.
Some of the types of Sambalpuri Sarees are given below. They usually take the name of the place where they are woven extensively or the fabric used. Sometimes the designs used also lend their name to the saree.
Sambalpuri Silk Sarees:
They have a rich look and are the fanciest of the Sambalpuri Sarees. Owing to the fact that the fabric is silk, they have a characteristic luster which makes the saree stand out.
Unlike the other silk sarees, Sambalpuri sarees are very comfortable to wear and have simple yet elegant designs. They make great choices for weddings, festivals and celebratory events.
Sambalpuri silk sarees are sometimes woven with Golden threads in the pallu. Many designs such as temples, chakras, etc are used.
Sudarshani saree is a very popular one. Sambalpuri silk sarees are available in Ikat, Bomkai, and Pasapalli also. The silk threads used are Pure silk, Mulberry silk or Tussar silk.
Sambalpuri Cotton Sarees:
They are light, earthy and have a coarse feeling and are usually preferred as daily wear sarees as they are very comfortable and feel like your second skin.
They are also used extensively by office-going women as it gives them a formal and Indian look. Sambaluri cotton Ikat and Bomkai are very popular because of the amazing design used and comfort of wearing cotton.
The Sambalpuri Cotton sarees are preferred because they provide warmth in cool seasons and at the same time helps to keep oneself cool in summer.
Sambalpuri Pata Sarees:
Pata sarees is the collective name given to Sonepuri, Pasapali, Bomkai, Barpali, and Bapta saris.
It is the most expensive variety of Sambalpuri sarees. It has a look of silk sarees but in reality, is woven with high-quality yarn which gives it the shine.
The fact that you can flaunt the look of wearing a silk saree (without feeling uncomfortable due to heat which is usually experienced while being draped in silk) while wearing a cotton saree attracts many women.
The designs, just like in any other Sambalpuri sarees are eye-catching and heart-snatching.
The Patta paintings from Raghuajpur have inspired the depictions of Raas-Leela, Mathura-Vijay, and Ayodhya-Vijay in some of the sarees.
Sambalpuri Bomkai Sarees:
The Bomkai Village in Ganjam district of Odisha gave birth to Bomkai sarees. It was introduced in Sonepur by the ruler of Patna during the reign of Ramai Devi. Hence it is also called The Sonepuri Saree.
These sarees have modern designs with a touch of tradition. Usually one can see tribal patterns in Bomkai Sarees. Bomkai Sarees are available in two types of fabric – Silk, and Cotton.
The former is used for ceremonies while the latter is preferred for daily wear because of its light feel and breathability. The saree is created using the Three-shuttle weaving technique.
Sambalpuri Ikat Sarees:
Ikat is a word derived from the Indonesian word ‘Mengikat’ which means ‘to tie’. There are two types of Ikat- They are Single Ikat and Double Ikat.
Sambalpuri Ikats are called double ikats and are considered superior to the ones produced in other parts of Odisha because of both the fabric and the designs used.
The characteristic feature of this type of ikat is that the same, amazing motif is visible on both the sides of the saree. Additional yarn is not required for this process.
The motifs in Sambalpuri ikat saree are usually that of fauna, rudraksha beads, toers of the temple and geometric designs. The ikats have a hazy and feathery finish which makes it stand out from the other types of sarees.
Sambalpuri Pasapalli Sarees:
The Sambalpuri Pasaplli Sarees is one of the Pata sarees. It can be identified by the checked designs with contrasting colors. Pasa is the name of a gambling game played in the locality.
As the design resembles a gameboard, the saree is named as Pasapalli after it. It is used as the standard attire for the folk dance Dalkhai. Pasaplli saree also follows the method used in Ikat but both sarees vary in their designs.
Prices of Sambalpuri Sarees:
Sambalpuri sarees are expensive as it takes at least a week to weave a simple saree. Sarees with intricate designs which can be personalized and have golden threads in them can take up to 6 months for weaving.
As the sarees are hand woven and the designs are created using the tie and dye technique and not by printing, it takes a lot of effort to create a Sambalpuri Saree. But the saree is worth every penny you pay.
Recently the sales of original Sambalpuri sarees are on the decline due to the entry of fake and copied designs in the market. This has caused misery to the Sambalpuri weavers. The average prices of original Sambalpuri sarees are as follows:
Starting From (Rupees)
Up to (Rupees)
The prices of the sarees differ based on the saree material, i.e., silk and cotton. Pata, Bomakai, and Ikat sarees are available both in Silk and Cotton.
If you find a person marketing sarees for prices below these, then it means that it is a copied design and a fake one. Such typed of plagiarized sarees have put the original weavers in penury.
So, before buying masterpieces at such a cheap ate think again. Think of the poor weavers who are struggling to make ends meet but still have not given up to uphold the rich culture and tradition of majestic India. They are the Pride of India.
Bhimabhoyi, a legendary poet of Odisha belonging to the Late Nineteenth Century has inspired weavers for generations through his words. Regarding the poor economic conditions in which the weavers are, Bhimabhoyi says:
‘The suffering of humankind—I hope my life becomes hell but alleviates the human condition’
Sambalpuri Saree Blouse Designs:
You can select a plain blouse with an elegant neck design so that the design of the saree will stand out.
Opting for a grand sequined or designed blouse will draw eyes away from you saree. So keep the blouse simple to ensure you bring the best out of the hand-woven beauty.
Some of the designs you can use for the blouse are:
- Boat Neck Blouse
- Cap sleeves Blouse
- Collar Neck Blouse
- Elbow Length Sleeves Blouse
- High Neck Sleeveless Blouse
- Printed Blouse
- Sleeveless Blouse
The idea to follow while picking out blouse for a Sambalpuri saree is ‘Keep It Simple Yet Elegant’. If the blouse is too grand or sequined, it will draw the attention away from the hand-woven beauty.
You can opt for blouses in contrast color to the saree which will enhance the look. Long and elbow length sleeves are trending currently. It gives your saree a chic look.
Popular Places to Buy Sambalpuri Sarees:
Recently, due to the increase in the trend of e-commerce, one can easily buy Sambalpuri Sarees from the huge list of online stores.
The Government of Odisha has created a state recognized online shop called SERFIED under the Department of Handlooms, Textiles and Handicrafts. Buying from these co-operatives will benefit the weavers than buying from a corporate company.
One can also buy Sambalpuri sarees directly from the weavers through the Weaver Society and the Self Help Groups and corporations from formed by them.
There are also several e-commerce sites like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Ajio, etc where you buy sambalpuri sarees.
The Sambalpuri Sarees are a mirror of the Indian way of living. Rich and elegant outlook, diverse culture exhibited, classic yet struggling to survive.
Due to the flooding of copied designs, the original weavers have lost their market. There can be a striking difference between an original Sambalpuri Saree and a copied version.
As educated buyers, we must not only think about our personal economic gain but also spare a thought to the lives of weavers, who even though depict such an amazing life on the sarees are living in a situation which no one can comprehend.
The fact that they are still doing their best to keep this art alive brings me close to tears. However, the next generation is not as much interested as the weavers to keep the light of Sambalpuri Saree burning.
Many are moving out and looking for better professions to feed their family. The historical Sambalpuri Sarees will probably remain a part of history in a few decades, thanks to the growing technology, which has become a bane for such original artisans.
We don’t have much time left. The weavers are already on the noose. We must do our best and help them come out of their debts and must show our gratitude for keeping the rich culture and heritage of India alive while we all are busy making money.
It is time we all stopped being selfish and widened our views, not just in words but also in actions, show some patriotism and keep our nation alive, for it is the culture and tradition that are Mother India’s life breath and elixir.