Ikats of India – Orissa – (Part 1)

From an inscription dating back to 600 BC found in Khandagiri caves, we learn that Utkala (Orissa) was known worldwide for expertise in weaving.

Orissa was created in 1948, carved out of the existing Central province and Madras Presidency.

Sambalpuri ikats2.jpg

(The fine curvilinear sambalpuri ikats, a national award winning design)

The Orissa ikat is known as “bandha” (tie & dye) and what’s unique is that the designs are reflected on both the sides in  sharper & finer count yarns. The striking resemblance of the temple border known as the “Kumbha” – the three shuttle method of weaving is so predominant, as in the neighbouring states of Andhra and TN.


Out of the different types of ikats produced in India, Bandha of orissa stands out. Not only because of its designs – but because of the tie and dye process and its expression, which is a poetry on the loom!  In Bandha, the motifs used are mostly inspired from nature, and the designs are the same as in front and the back.


(The huge 9×9 wheel of Konark Sun temple, the temple was referred as Black Pagoda by the travellers, and Tagore rightly mentioned “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human”).

Bandha is the reflection of Orissa’s tradition, social norms and all above, one can watch in awe when the entire city looks up to the huge temple tower of Puri Jagannath, where the arati is shown atop its tower every evening around 6 pm, when the flag is hoisted on the Neel Chakra with a single mantra –  “Jai Jagannath” – See how the design has percolated in this saree!


The lion motif is taken from the Singha Dwar – the lions guarding at the gates of Jagannath. The four adornments of Jagannath – Sankha (conch shell), Chakra the divine wheel (also the Konark wheel), Padma, the lotus and Gada (the mace) are found as motifs.


(Pic Credit – V&A Museum)

Orissa sarees broadly can be categorized in to three types of designs :

  1. Architectural designs – embellishments found in temple walls, gateways – major influence being Konark sun temple and a host of other major temples in that region
  2. Religious designs – Depictions of various deities and motifs associated with them, especially with the Jagannath culture ( eg., the motifs of DasaAvathara, Shanka, fish, kumba, elephant, bird, lion, lamp, dice motifs depicted in the pallu
  3. Landscape designs – Flora & animal designs

In the next part, let’s see the various clusters and major weaves..



The blog would be incomplete without a Rath Yatra, (a painting from V&A)


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