The white cotton saree with the red border, called Lal Paar Saree is synonymous with the women of Bengal. Saree and Bengal are fairly synonymous with each other, traditional attire for Bengali women is usually the saree. The sarees are not only worn at the time of Durga Puja but are an integral part of a Bengali woman’s wardrobe.
All the various styles of sarees donned by Bengali women, the quintessential red-and-white sarees – the Korial, the Garad and the Tant – are perhaps the best known, particularly because they are worn en masse during the state’s Durga Puja festival celebrations.
However, few people outside the state understand the significance of this particular colour combination. With the white symbolising purity and the maroon or red symbolising fertility, the saree is a celebration of the feminine.
The off-white Korial saree usually features a red border and is worn with a red blouse. The Garad is another traditional Bengali saree in the same colour combination, but with a broader red border and printed patterns.
Tant sarees are another Bengali wardrobe staple, made of cotton. Of all the many other traditional sarees worn by Bengali women, the Baluchari, Murshidabad and Tassar silk sarees are particularly well known in the rest of the country. Synonymous with Bengal cotton handlooms, tant (or taant, tat, taat) cotton sarees are among the most popular sarees worn by the women of West Bengal.
Their light, airy texture makes them especially suited for the warm and humid summers of this region. Tant sarees are characterized by a thick border, a decorative pallav and are woven with a variety of floral, paisley and other artistic motifs.
The term “tant” refers to the handlooms in Bengal that are used to weave cotton sarees. The earliest record of handloom saree weaving in Bengal can be traced back to the 15th century in Shantipur in the Nadia district of West Bengal.
The art continued to flourish during the Mughal rule (16th – 18th centuries), when it received extensive royal patronage along with muslin and jamdani weaving. While the fine muslins adorned the royal class, cotton sarees or tants were used for draping by the common folks.
This weaving tradition continued during the British rule and the decades prior to independence witnessed an inflow of modern weaving techniques in Shantipur such as improvements in the handloom and introduction of the jacquard loom that is still used today.
After the partition of Bengal in 1947, many Hindu weavers from Bangladesh migrated to India and were rehabilitated in West Bengal. Fulia (or Phulia), a town neighbouring Shantipur, became a new home for these weavers from Tangail (of Bangladesh), who brought with them the weaving traditions of their ancestral land.
Other migrating weavers were settled in the Hooghly and Burdwan districts of West Bengal. Over the years, each of these regions developed their own style of weaving and today, they are the homes of the most well-known varieties of tant sarees.
Tant sarees can be classified based on the region where they are woven, or the motifs depicted on the sarees.
major regions of tant production in West Bengal today are Fulia and Shantipur in Nadia district. Combining the weaving styles of the original Shantipur weavers and the migrant weavers from Tangail who settled in Fulia, this region has developed the “Fulia Tangail” style of weaving and produces among the best quality tant sarees today. These tants are soft and fine in texture, come in vibrant colours and have large, intricately woven motifs. Tangail is famous for weaving areas specializing in patterned silk textiles known as Tangail sarees, woven on jacquard pit looms. Weaving is done as a cottage industry set up with most households involved in some part of the textile production.
Dhaniakhali (or Dhonekhali in Hooghly): Tant sarees from this region are of good quality, mainly come in pastel shades and have striped patterns and fewer motifs.
Begampur (in Hooghly): Begampur specializes in loosely woven, light-weight and translucent sarees in deep, bright colours. Kalna (in Burdwan): Tants from this region are based on the Tangail style of weaving.
Atpur (in Hooghly): This town was known for producing coarser sarees and dhotis for everyday wear. The term “Atpoure” which means “common wear” denotes the Bengali style of wearing sarees which used to be the traditional way of draping for women of this region. A variety of traditional motifs are woven in the borders and pallav of the tant sarees. Some of the popular ones are: bhomra (bumble bee), tabij (amulet), rajmahal (royal palace), ardha-chandra (half moon), chandmala (garland of moons), ansh (fish scale), hathi (elephant), nilambari (blue sky), ratan chokh (gem-eyed), benki (spiral), tara (star), kalka (paisley) and phool (flower).
In keeping up with contemporary tastes, tant sarees today also feature designs which are hand-painted, printed and embroidered on the fabric. A variation of the traditional tant has zari work woven into the borders and pallav along the patterns of a Banarasi silk saree giving rise to the ‘tant banarasi’ saree .
Every tant saree is characterized by the design on its border, pallav and body. These designs are drawn by an artist and transcribed onto soft cardboards by perforating them which are then suspended from the loom. Now all is in place for the weaving to begin. The simplest of tant sarees take about 10-12 hours to weave. More intricate designs could even take 5-6 days to complete a saree, said Rudranil Basak, a thinly built man who has been weaving saris for 35 years in Fulia, is working in a dimly lit room with a tin roof and no fan.
The Tant is famous not just in West Bengal but also across India and even worldwide. Tant sarees are light weight, which makes the fabric easy to carry and skin friendly in the hot climate.. The classic Tant sarees can not only be worn on festive occasions but also apt for daily wear since it is comfortable and well priced.
Since the tant saree are meant for daily use the lowest cost of this saree is Rs 350 (US$5.40). Tant saree are woven from cotton threads and distinguished by its lightness and transparency. It is considered to be the most comfortable saree for the Indian hot and humid climate.
A Tant saree is 6 meter long as against the usual 5.5 meter which is the conventional length of sarees. Now, since the thin nature of the fabric (that’s what makes it so comfortable), the sarees are styled to have thick borders and pallus which minimizes it’s wear and tear. Tant saree are colorful with artistic motifs, intricate detailing of thread work.
Tant sarees are liked by a list of eminent Bollywood celebrities like Sharmila Tagore, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Vidya Balan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Bipasha Basu and many more. Bengali starlet Rituparna Sengupta has also been spotted in several events donning the Tant. Politician Mamata Banerjee is seen wearing only one kind of saree, and that is Tant, and she chooses the most simple one at that in white color only, with a thin colored thread work border.
Besides Tant, another famous Bengali saree is Baluchori. Naw ab of Bengal MurshidQuli Khan brought this interesting style of weaving to the small village of ‘Baluchor’ from Dhaka in the 18th century. These sarees are woven from mulberry silk which is locally cultivated. The Balauchori sarees boast of being 7 yards of pure history. There are many motifs woven on the ‘Pallu” and the “Borders” which contain several historical references and religious texts.
The Bengali sarees both Baluchari and tant are highly inspired by the rich Indian culture and are definitely a symbol of Bengal which is famous not only in the country but across the world.
The Baluchari saris take their inspiration from the mythological scenes as they can be seen woven on the pallu of these saris. The Baluchari saris from Bengal have been awarded the status of being the ‘Geographical Indication of India.The Baluchari saris are mainly manufactured in Murshidabad.
The Baluchari saris are either made from Baluchari silk or from cotton. Both types are known for their vibrant colors and designs. The tant saris are made from cotton thread and have a distinguishing feature of being light and somewhat transparent.
Time brings change and there have been significant changes in the making process of these saris as well. The organic Baluchari saris use things such as used yarns as well as colors during the manufacturing process. The tant saris too have evolved with time and their popularity level has only increased. The modern tant saris have various patterns on them and some of them also depict modern art.
it comes to the traditional silk sarees from Bengal , then “Garad” has to be the one and only name. The term ‘garad’ typically refers to the undyed silk which is used in the making of these Garad sarees. These are immensely light weight and easy to carry sarees These sarees hail from the district of Murshidabad. They play a very special place in the hearts of Bengali women. A smash-hit saree in Bengal and a must for every wardrobe.
The Korial sarees are an upgradation of the “Garad Saree”. Many even say that the Korial Saree are a total makeover of the ‘Garad’. What makes the Korial different from the traditional ‘garad’, is the ornamental borders and Pallu. The borders and the pallu’s have beautiful motifs drawn on it which gives them a very grand look. Both Garad and Korial are considered to be symbol of purity and all the Bengali women wear these on all auspicious and religious occasions.
Bengal’s Tasar Saree comes from the district of Malda. This district is one of the largest silk producers in the entire country. They are immensely popular for their woven floral and paisley motifs across the body of the saree.
Tasar sarees have a very crisp texture which gives it an added aristocratic look. The silk used for the making of these sarees are mainly obtained from the large-scale silkworm culture, which is now present throughout the state of West Bengal. Tasar Sarees are available in many different colours, like solid and bold colours to off-white and beige.
Murshidabadi pure silk is one of the most famous variants of silk across the globe, I am sure you would have definitely heard of it. In India this silk is used to make some of the most luxurious and elegant sarees.
In face the Murshidabad district of West Bengal is known for its beautiful range of silk sarees across the country and even abroad. It is mostly popular for its solid colour options, along with beautiful patters printed on the ‘pallav’. These sarees have a very shiny look which gives it a very charming appearance and spellbinds the mind of any person.
Jamdani saree one of the most intricate muslin weaves in Bengal, dating back to the times when there was no diplomatic border between the state and Bangladesh. As it requires a huge amount of time and effort in its making, a Jamdani saree is usually high in price and value.
Though these sarees were traditionally adorned with motifs of flowers, some artisans are now trying out more contemporary patterns, including geometric shapes and abstract motifs.
Kantha saree is an embroidery technique, originally used to embellish or sew together old pieces of cloth into quilts. The technique went on to gain so much popularity over the years that it is now used to adorn sarees. Kantha sarees are now handmade by women vastly in and around the area of Bolpur in West Bengal, the skill of these artisans clearly visible in the beautifully embroidered drapes.
The patterns used in these sarees range from geometric shapes and tribal motifs to elaborate designs, spread over six yards of cotton or silk.
Batik, the Indonesian technique of resist-dyeing using wax, has been practiced in Bengal for ages. Stunningly beautiful Batik sarees from Bengal, predominantly made in and around the Bolpur area, are hugely popular. The art of Batik involves drawing patterns on the fabric with wax and then dyeing it to get desired effects.
Batik sarees flaunt interesting color combinations, achieved by dyeing and re-dyeing the fabrics, helping to bring out the patterns. West Bengal Government has focused upon the rejuvenation and development of its world-famed Tant products, which are still now woven in handlooms.
Tantuja, the largest of the State Government organizations marketing Bengal’s handloom products, has taken initiative to have tie-ups with online shops like Snapdeal and Amazon. It is also with talks with the Google authorities for upgrading its website.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier provided some design for Tant sarees and had stressed on usage of natural and organic colours for the products.
Ms Banerjee had revived Tantuja which once suffered huge financial losses. The organisation has now made record operational profits and its products are already marketed through Amazon and Flipkart across India. But this venture of Amazon-US will be the first to sell Bengali tant in faraway America. Even other Tantuja products will also be sold.
"Amazon-United States will sell tant sari. This is a new initiative which will promote and sell Tantuja's product in the United States," said Minister of State for Handloom and Textiles Swapan Debnath,
"Amazon and Flipkart have already been selling Tantuja products. But with this effort, the Amazon-United States will take Bengal's tant sari to global marketing platform with possibility of higher reach to overseas buyers," the minister added
The state Government is giving all out support to the Self Help Groups, fifty per cent of which comprise women by offering incentives, weaver’s credit cards and other facilities given to the unorganized sector.
Recently, the Government has started the “Tant Saathi” scheme. In the first phase, around one lakh weavers will be distributed with looms so that they would not have to depend on loans.
However, Power-looms definitely pose a problem, especially those run in neighbouring Ranaghat, Nabadwip and Shantipur. Each produces around 10 saris daily. Their production costs are lower and, therefore, so is their retail price. It is tough even for the trained eye to differentiate between handloom and power-loom, and the market is flooded with power-loom fabrics parading as handloom.