The two main distinct yet important weaving clusters are Sambalpur and Nuapatna. The migratory Bhulia weavers (Mehers) are in Sambalphur while the Patra Community occupy Nuapatna. Let’s look at the major weaves – Sambalpuri, Nuapatna, Koraput and Bomkai.
The basic form of ikat in Orissa is the weft ikat, and look at the “kumbha’ borders – it could have been invented a substitute for woven techniques.
Indira Gandhi was the best ambassador for Sambalpuri ikats. And her last journey was in one.
Sambalpur is one of the major weaving clusters, was earlier a part of Chattisgarh (Central Province), and famous for its tussar silk. But the most famous is its mercerised cotton ikats. One of the distinguishing feature is the usage of black colour both in border and pallu in Sambalpuris, and the traditional motifs of fish, conch, shell, birds, animals and floral designs are predominant in border/pallu.
The two traditional and very popular versions of Sambalpuri are : Sakatpar and Bichitrapuri desings.
In this Sakatpar design, spot this striking ikat checkerboard designs. Observe closely, the sakatpar (Checks) is warp and weft ikats, while the black band in between ( the fish portion) is warp ikat.
The Pallu is weft ikat – five broad bands of ducks, fish, flowers, see how it overlays the warp design. Again the border is weft ikat!
The checkerboard designs are also called Pasapalli – signifying the board dice game, an auspicious symbol and is traditionally played by the bride and groom after the wedding
Similar to this is the Bichitrapuri designs – “Bichitra” or patterned ikats – instead of checker boards, this will have alternating rows of warp ikat designs, with weft ikat pallu
This area around Cuttack is famous for its silk, and so you can find beautiful silk ikats in tussar. The range of colours in Nuaptana is more than Sambalpur. The weaver communities are Gaudia Patras and Asani Patra (Patra refers to the traditional occupation of weaving. Two famous Nuapatna textiles are Gita Govinda and Khandua Patta.
Gita Govinda ikats
(took this picture in valluvar kottam exhibition from an orissa weaver – the length and breadth is huge to accomodate the deities, and costs around 60k)
The calligraphic ritual textile offered to Puri Jagannath. It is said that the poet Jayadeva himself initiated the practice of inscribing the verses on the cloh as a temple offering. A report of 1719 refers to the silk as “Bandha Gita Govindha” meaning that the verses were tied and dyed in ikat.
The Gita Govinda cloths are done in different sizes, colours and dimensions for each of the three deities, usually woven by the Buddhist weaves. The verses are mostly in Oriya script, sometimes they use Devanagari also.
Khandua Patta – Earlier worn by the brides as a shoulder cloth, these designs have been adapted to silk ikats. Observe closely to see the temples are actually weft ikats
Now to the tribal Koraput or Kotpad sarees :
The coarse cotton sarees from the Koraput region sport the tribal designs and used to be dyed with natural dye colours. Now you get all the colorful versions. The motifs woven are birds, flowers and animals.
Most of the tribal sarees are in offwhite, but some of them are in deep red colour, which is extracted from the root of the “aal” trees. The tribal sarees of the Koraput-Bastr region are in heavy count, and the height was also short (as the tribes wore it short length). Look at the three shuttle interlock patterning in the border with Kumbha motifs, predominantly done in unbleached cotton (white), deep red derived from Aal or madder darkened with the addition of iron sulphate.
Finally to the Bomkai saree – Named after a village, this is one of the rare original weaves of Orissa, woven in pit looms. These thick cottons have extra weft designs on the pallu – peacocks, parrots, trees, flowers, fishes. The weft panels are called as “Mukta Panji” which is “Panel of diamond beads”, and this was so named after the village in which it was created. There is no ikat in the body unlike other sarees, but the pallu is long and striking, with panels of different coloured warps!
This is a Bomkai coarse cotton design, and with this I wrap up the Orissa ikats!