Sambalpuri Silk Sarees – The Charm of East India

by Shatika, February 8, 2017

A traditional charm of East India, Sambalpuri silk saree is a traditional handwoven saree that is woven in the western part of Orissa and is named after the village Sambalpur where this art form originated  in the early 1980s. Woven by the skilled hands of master weavers of Odisha, these sarees are woven in the traditional ikat style where in the warp and the weft are tie-dyed before weaving. Today, along with Sambalpur, these sarees are produced in the Bargarh, Sonepur along with Balangir district and Boudh District of Odisha. These sarees are renowned for their standout color combinations and their intricate thread designs.


Sambalpuri sarees also known as Bomkai Sarees have been a part of the rich culture of Orissa since 600 BC. There is historic reference that the designs that adorn these splendid silk sarees are inspired from the cave paintings of Khandagiri built during 2nd century BCE. These sarees are popular for their unique Bomkai designs that are locally known as Bandha or Bandhakala. These saees are created by the Jala technique. While originally these sarees were made in low-count cotton yarns that were coarse and heavy, they improvised not only on the technique but on the fabric, introducing silk in its weave to suit the special needs of the local Maharaja along with the other affluent communities of the society. This brought in a whole new gamut of bomkai silk sarees that are very famous today especially for local weddings, festivals and other traditional ceremonies.

Process of making Sambalpuri sarees:

Sambalpuri sarees are made using the uniquetie and dye technique where the yarns are first tied according to the desired patterns to prevent absorption of dyes, and then dyed. The yarns so produced are called ‘Baandha’. The unique feature of this form of designing is that the designs are reflected almost identically on both side of the fabric. Traditional jaalas are used for weaving Bomkai sarees where wooden jaalas are used for tying which is the furthering of the tie and dye technique. As these sarees mainly focus on contrasting colours  leading to a pallu or border to have a solid dyed block or sometimes even dual shades, their ornamentation is worked using the extra weft technique or jaala system.


Patterns and Designs

Bomkai sarees commonly depict images of flora, fauna or geometrical patterns. Popular patterns like rukha (pestle), karela (bitter gourd), dambaroo (hour-glass shaped drum), kanthi phoola (small flowers), mayor/mayuri (peacock), fish and other custom made designs take the centre stage in this enticing weave. While incorporation of traditional motifs like shankha (shell), chakra (wheel), phula (flower), all of which have deep symbolism adorn the saree, the supplementary-warp model of the borders in the saree is called as mikta panji, which is a trellis work with diamond form that gives the saree its prominence and distinctive attribute. These sarees are equally inspired to express motifs and designs that beautifully portray mythology. The more recent designs depicted on these sarees are that of portrait, landscape and flower pods.

sambalpuri-silk-sareeAn acclaimed art, a colorful craft, this versatile technique of Bandha by allowing a craftsman to weave colourful designs, patterns and images into a fabric, enables him to inspire a thought or convey a message through his weave.

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