Sitting amidst brightly coloured fabrics, Swikruti Pradhan draws triangular patterns on a sheet of paper, each different from the other. As you watch her work, a temple spire takes shape. In front of her is a traditional ‘Bapta Patta’ sari that is over half a century old, owned by her grandmother. It will take her two more days to decipher the details of various motifs of the sari.
These saris are rarely made today, says the Bhubaneswar-based designer, who is reviving Bapta Patta that could not survive the onslaught of power loom and lack of demand. “Batta Papta saris are a combination of cotton and silk yarns with traditional temple borders called ‘Phoda Kumbha’ woven using a three-shuttle method and Sambalpuri ikat (bandha) anchal,” says the 27-year-old.
Pradhan’s journey began from her grandmother’s wardrobe in her native village in Bargarh district. “Women would go for Sambalpuri saris that are mostly replete with traditional designs. I was surprised to find a simple sari with just a temple border and ikat anchal, which my grandmother said was a Bapta Patta,” she recalls. Nowhere in Odisha two kinds of fabrics are used to weave a sari other than in Bargarh. This fuelled Pradhan’s quest to learn the history behind it. She looked around for weavers who could recreate the fabric and finally found two remaining ones.
“Since the sari is an amalgamation of silk and cotton threads, Bapta Patta is not just elegant but also an extremely smooth fabric,” says Swikruti, who is reviving it with contemporary designs in terms of motifs and textures. An alumnus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bhubaneswar, she works with two weaver communities of Bargarh-Kosta who are engaged in three-shuttle weaving, and Bhulia who prepare the ikat anchal. Weaving a Bapta is painstaking and one sari takes an average of a week to 10 days’ time, starting from pre-processing to the final weaving.
“My collection is minimalistic and contemporary with striking colour combinations,” says the designer, who presented a research paper titled Sambalpuri Ikat Handloom: The Saga Beyond Culture and Tradition at the sixth Global Fashion Conference at London College of Fashion, UK, last year where she spoke about the Bapta revival project. Pradhan, who owns the fashion label, Rustic Hue, has held pop-ups in different cities and is currently working on various styles of temple borders (Kumbha) to be integrated into the Bapta Patta design.