Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More Dhakai Sarees

Blue and white flowers, blowing in the wind
The Bangladeshi saree sellers came home last Sunday.  It has been about a year since their last visit and though I didn't need any more sarees, I invited them as I like to support talented weavers and craftsmen.  The pressures on these tremendously skilled people are high and come in different forms - the most recent being T.V. serials.  Wafer thin models wafting around draped in gauzy designer outfits seem to be glamour personified; solid looking women in bright 'country garb' seem to dictate what the middle aged woman ought to wear.  Where does that leave the soft, thin off white cotton sarees, so comfortable for a Bengal summer?  Or the elegant, lightly woven muslin and tassar silk in natural shades?

I had invited a few friends home to look at the sarees.  Several of them asked the same question, "Why are these so expensive compared to Bengal cottons?"  I am not sure I know all the answers but I think these are some of the reasons:

I am not an expert on weaving, however, to my eye these sarees appear much more finely woven than most of those I see in Kolkata.  They feel lighter to the touch and the patterns are better done.  These sarees are all hand woven (largely by members of one family); some of the more expensive pieces take a year to complete.  The designs are a mix of traditional and modern, but most are striking.  They stand out and my experience has been that while I am wearing these, people notice them and ask me where I bought them from.  Kolkata does have many such sarees but they are no longer to be seen in the large, regular shops.  Traditional colours and weaves are not in vogue and as for the high end products, they are best found in boutique shops, whose prices are also quite high.

Four layers thick - and still translucent!
My intention of buying these sarees is to wear some beautifully woven clothes that make me feel happy and to know also that I am helping in a small way to keep this craft (and art) alive.  So, as usual, I looked carefully at everything they had to display - everyday sarees in soft and bright hues - beiges, blues, reds, off whites - spiralling creepers, giant birds and large mango pallus.

Red and blue parrots stand beneath flowers
Small 'bootis' (circular or oval motifs) in different colours adding zest to light backgrounds.  Lemon yellow butterflies with blue eyes and antennae, resting with wings oustretched (this was a beautiful new pattern).
Colourful bootis, beautifully woven

Large blue mango pallu
Fine muslin with weaves of grass green, sky blue, lemon yellow, hot pink or midnight blue running through the borders and pallus.  Delicately spun silk (the kind of sarees that fit into matchboxes) with flowers looping all over.  Elegant black sarees with thin gold thread - stars and moonbeams illuminating a night sky.  Nature in all its loveliness brought onto cloth - what more could one ask for?

Off white and golds, intricately woven
I selected three sarees finally - an off white with little bootis, cheerful for everyday wear.  An off white woven with gold with faint traces of soft peach-pale pink - my 'Diwali' saree.  An off white (yes! I am partial to off whites!) with big, cheery dots and many coloured flowers - a party saree.

Last year I had bought a white saree with blue mangoes on it, which suffered terribly at the hands (rather teeth) of rodents.  After wearing it just once, I left it at the ironing shop overnight and a rat gnawed through every layer of my saree (leaving all the other clothes untouched)!  As I showed this to the saree sellers, they brought out another one of the same kind and handed it to me as a parting gift, saying that they could darn my older saree but it would be six months before they returned and they wanted me to be able to wear the saree soon!

A heartwarming gift from the saree sellers

My Diwali saree (pallu)

My party saree - zingy yet soft

An incredible combination - large dots, purple and blue stripes...

14 comments:

Sachin Desai said...

saree has it's own charm and grace for that reason it is most popular in india today.use all type of events.
Women - Clothing

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