CHENNAI: At every 15 km in Odisha, a new weave is born,” says Rakhee Chowdhary. After quitting her corporate job, Rakhee along with her friend Sagarika Sarangi started Palash in Delhi. It has been ten years since the two women, originally from Odisha, started travelling to villages around Odisha. The name Palash is inspired by flowers from tress in the village of Sambalpur. The red colour extracted from the flowers is used in ikat.
“We go there every two months. Our motto is to unearth all the dying weaves and bring back the legacy of the third generation artisan clusters in this area. Odisha is home to a rich heritage of textile roots and vintage designs,” says Rakhee, who along with Sagarika has been living with the artisans and learning this art through hands-on experience.
About 200 saris will be displayed at the exhibition presented by The Crafts Council of India. The variety spreads across textured Kotpad saris dyed red in colour extracted from aal(madder) roots of a tree in the state and khadi ‘dui-moi’ double pallu saris. “The first step always involves research. The second step is to convince the artisans to revive a particular weave. So far we have revived vishwakarma, bomkai, tussars, bhandho, siminol, dongariya and khadi saris. These are woven in remote craft clusters where the different weaves and designs had evolved over time,” says Rakhee.
Unlike the usual mild colours, expect a promising palette of dark shades and exquisite motifs native to the state. Look for temple-bordered orange, sky blue saris with long dramatic pallus featuring typical stripes, and ikat designs. Every heritage piece comes with a modern textile frame. “Chennaites love saris. This is the second time we are coming to the city.
When something out-of-the-box strikes their eyes, they are the first ones to explore it. The fabrics are breezy for summer and the palette offers every possible shade,” says Rakhee. As they researched different weaves over a period of time, Rakhee and Sarangi learned that Odisha had its own khadi. “We have recently revived the khadi saris having two pallus originally called the ‘Dui Muho’, Dui meaning two and Muho meaning pallu in local dialect. These saris used to be small in size. It was difficult coaxing them to be flexible with their ancient skills and weave the sari in a way that it answered a contemporary need. But we managed to get a full length woven,” she explains.
Weavers in Odisha are specific about natural dyes extracted from flowers. However, there are a few synthetic dyes. The two woman are determined about focussing just on Odisha. “We travelled to different villages near Sambalpur and Sonpur to meet the weavers at the various clusters. Our first teachers who taught us the nuances of ikat weaving are Bhagbana Meher and his wife Kalabatee Meher. Next at Barpali we meet kostha master weaver, Khetramohan Meher. He taught us the nuances of the jalla weaves and tussar silk. Jalla saris are woven by Kostha weavers. With every new sari it is a new lesson learned from them,” she sums it up.
The Behrampuri pata or Berhampuri silk saris are woven by a few devanga families who migrated to Behrampur from Padmanabhapur village. Behrampuri with kumbha and phadha kumbha border are beautiful. It is here that the maitrimagi sari with a very long pallu is woven. The Behrampuri saris are also adorned by the deities at the Jagannath Puri temple.
The exhibition is on June 6, 7 and 8 at Kamala Crafts Shop