Kantha Stitch Sarees: Binding Tradition with Art

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Though one can never be sure of the place of origin of Kantha Stitch, there remains no doubt that it is one of the oldest forms of needlecraft developed in and around some specific regions of undivided Bengal (now West Bengal and Bangladesh) and Odisha. Kantha stitch, one of the very popular embellishments now used in the cloth industry and famed around the international fashion industry for its simplicity yet richness of art, originated as the simplest form of needlework amongst the rural women who probably used this as an addition and decoration to mere stitching together of multilayered cloths for bed spreads, throws and quilts.

However, with revolutionising efforts in the fashion industry towards the end of the twentieth century, Kantha stitch evolved and came to be found on saree, kurtas, salwarsuits and dress materials. Kantha stitch sarees quickly became one of the most sought after pieces and still hold their ground strong and steady.

The villages near Bolpur, West Bengal, are now one of the major commercial producers of Kantha stitch sarees and dress materials in India. This art form has now taken a much complex form and needs around a couple of months to half a year for a dedicated artisan to embroider a complete saree. The use of multifarious coloured threads, intricate patterns and finally the uniqueness of each design make every piece a cherished possession even for a connoisseur of sarees.

Garad Silk Saree: Epitomising the Tradition of Bengal

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An epitome of true Bengali culture and tradition,Garad Silk sarees represent purity and serenity in its simple red and white. Garad silk is more often used during festivals and other auspicious ceremonies and the reason is simple: the word ‘Garad’ means ‘white’; Garad Silk gets its name from the pure white or slightly off-whitecolour of the body of the cloth which is because the mulberry silk threads, from which the cloth is woven, isnot dyed and therefore, retains its authentic purity. This purity of the cloth has made it the best choice for religious and other kinds of auspicious ceremonies like weddings. A Bengali woman, even the most modern one, often loves to drape a Garad silk saree during the festivities of Durga Puja.

Highly popular in the world as a speciality of West Bengal, Garad sarees are manufactured primarily in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal. These lightweight, paper textured, pure silk sarees have very little ornamentation in the body. The pristine white and red being the major features of Garad sarees, they are sometimes decorated with threaded designs of paisley and floral motifs.

Garad sarees mostly come with contrast borders in bright red or maroon. However, with time and demand, few more colours like blue, green, and orange, brown, gold have been added to the list to make these sarees available to everyone.

Batick Print Silk Saree: Yet another Glorious Gift of Bengal

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A beautiful art using the resist and dye method originated around 2000 years back in many parts of the East and South East Asian countries and spread out in different parts of the world. Indonesia became most popular for the art. Some even believe that the art originated from Java. To support this, one can testify the origin of the name of this art ‘Batick’ – which is Javanese by origin and is predicted to have come from the two words ‘Amba’ and ‘Titik’. Amba in Javanese means ‘to write’ and Titik means ‘dot’. The art of Batick until date uses lines and dots with a pen like equipment.

Although the art of Batick print from Indonesia is designated a masterpiece, batick print of West Bengal, India has a class of its own. Batick print silk sarees stand proud in their own glory amongst the rich collection of Indian sarees from all over the country. Mainly produced in the Shantiniketan area of West Bengal, the art uses intricate and elaborate patterns making each piece of saree look like a canvas.

Mostly hand printed, Batick can also be mass manufactured in factories. However, the materials produced in factories are mainly used as dress materials for women; for making shirts and kurtas for men and for upholstery. The sarees are mostly a product of the handicraft industry and this is another reason, which makes each saree unique and special.