I have a deep abiding love for Odisha handloom sarees and textiles, here is a list of a few weaves that I am extremely partial towards…
Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)
Handloom textiles are the true definition of wearable art that reflect the social histories of their places of origin. Ikat is one of the most intricate and elaborate methods of hand weaving involving first resist dying and then weaving of loose threads post the dyeing.
These photos feature a vintage Bapta saree from Odisha worn with a top made from Ikat fabric from the neighbouring state of Andhra. The material was given to me by an incredibly generous friend whose sarees and blouses I am forever coveting, check her out here. Handlooms don’t really have to be restricted to traditional wear, the same top worn with the saree was paired with a denim skirt and the same sneakers for another day of adventures.
The Ikats from Odisha, locally called bandha kala generally are weft ikats that follow a curvilinear style and have a feathery look with hazy outlines. The various traditional textiles and motifs are steeped in cultural connotations and symbolisms.
Some of my most favourite ikat weaves from Odisha are listed below, please note that I am no textile expert and everything I have mentioned beneath are details I have gathered over the years:
Bapta: These understated sarees woven in and around Sambhalpur feature a wild silk (tussar or kosa) body and a cotton borders and pallu. The one I am wearing in the photos is a decades old vintage Bapta that is one of my most precious treasures.
I have been told that a lot of sarees sold as Bapta these days dilute kosa with other inferior quality artificial silk so I have no intentions of buying one unless I am very sure of the fabric composition.
Jagatsinghpuri: These single count pure cotton sarees are tremendously reasonably priced and named after the tiny village in Odisha where they are woven.
Weaving in Jagatsingpur was introduced by crafts people from the neighbouring Bengal and therefore these sarees are a beautiful union of textile weaving techniques from both states. An older post featuring this weave is available here.
Sambhalpuri from Bargarh, Sambhalpur, Balangi, Boudh and Sonepur: Known for incorporating motifs inspired by the rural life in Odisha these sarees are available in cotton as well as mulberry silk. I love the more intricate textiles with really detailed motifs in mulberry silk and cotton.
Pitala from Ganjam: These are often confused with sarees from Jagatsinghpur and I have met a lot of re-sellers that don’t know the difference.
These are some of the simplest sarees from Odisha and are used as daily wear by locals. Characterised by simple Ikat patterns at the border, pallu and with butis in the body these no-fuss textiles have my heart.
Kusumi from Dhalapathar in the Khurdha district: Named after a local variety of the hibiscus in the area that is used as a chief motif in these textiles, these are apparently also known as kusumi kapta, kankana pedi, muktapunji, nahati and akata.
Traditionally natural dyes from pomegranate, manjistha, lac, black solution and jack fruit tree were used on these fabrics but synthetic colourants have pretty much completely taken over. The motifs depicting the flower in different shapes are made using the extra weft method with the help of set of badis (tool) called kalabhida yantra and flat rectangular wooden pieces called ‘chiaris’.
Gopalpur tussar: Gopalpur is comparatively a new cluster in Odisha. The sarees are not named after “Gopalpur on sea” near Berhampur close to the Andhra/ Odisha border. The Gopalpur famous for tussars is located in Jajpur, North-Eastern Odisha. I love the stunning fish bone designs in body and ikat in the pallu/aanchol.
Habaspuri from Kalahandi: Named after the Habaspur village of Kalahandi district and used traditionally as bridal wear, these sarees feature longitudinal, kumbha (temple), fish and tortoise motifs in the borders using the extra warp technique. The pallu (aanchol) is decorated with local tribal motifs made with extra weft technique.
Paata from Berhampur (phoda kumbha): A recent weave that originated a couple of centuries ago, these textiles also adorn the deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra at the Jagannath temple in Puri. These thick silks have a relatively plain body but feature stunning hand-interlocked temple (phoda kumbha) borders decorated with zari threads that have my heart!
Khandua Paata from Nuapatna and Cuttack: Easy on the pocket and lighter than most other silk sarees these stunners are woven in and around Nuapatna. This weft ikat textile technique is almost 800 years old with the warp threads consisting of malda silk from West Bengal and the weft, mulberry silk from Bangalore.
Worn by erstwhile brides as a shoulder cloth, the idol of Lord Jagganath has been draped in Khandua for Rath Yatra since the 1100s.
Sachipaar: This is another restrained Sambhalpuri cotton or khandua silk weave with tiny grid-like pattern woven into the cream or white body of the saree. I love the ones that feature an amalgamation of rudraksha, temple and ikat motifs in the pallu/ aanchol and the border.
Pasapalli (Saktapar): Yet another eye-catching Sambhalpuri weave, these feature the sakta (dice-check) motifs placed in different hexagons and squares in the body. These are usually double ikat textiles with an extra warp border and floral traditional pallu/ aanchol.
Utkallakshmi: It is a stand-out double ikat Sambalpuri weave in a riot of colours with multiple flower or lotus motifs placed inside a series of quads formed by intersecting floral ikat lines. It is known as utkallakshmi because the lotus is supposed to be Goddess Lakshmi’s favourite flower.
Naba Kothi or Navrang Pata: These kinds of sarees have nine different motifs spread across the body like kaincha (tortoise), kalash , fish, prajapati (butterfly), shankha (conch shell), padma (lotus), parrot, elephant, singha (lion), peacock, gada (mace), mayurpankh( peacock feather), chakra (inspired by the Konark wheel), sakatpar, phula (flower) etc.
The motifs are placed in nine quads called kothis arranged with mathematical precision so that no two adjacent squares have similar motifs.
Bichitrapuri: Another famous double ikat weave from the state these sarees feature big pasapalli (checkerboard) blocks with ikat work running through the middle.
So far the various other Odisha weaves like the Dolabedi, Bomkai, Dongria and Kotpad haven’t really made me swoon. What I love about the textiles from the state are that the motifs are incredibly precise and exquisitely woven, I am perpetually in awe of them.
This is not an exhaustive list, there are many more Odisha weaves that I haven’t listed here because I don’t really know them well or I am not very fond of them. I am sure this list is something that will evolve as time goes by and I learn more about handloom textiles from this wonderful state.