Baluchari Sarees originated in Bengal and are known for the depictions of mythological scenes on the pallu of the saree. Currently Bishnupur in West Bengal is the only place where authentic Baluchari sarees are produced.
Producing one saree takes approximately one week. The Baluchari Saree has been granted the status of Geographical indication in India, which is a kind of certificate that the product possesses certain qualities, is made using traditional methods and enjoys certain reputation due to its geographical origin.
After a flood in the Ganga River and the subsequent submerging of the village, the industry moved to Bishnupur village in Bankura district. Bishnupur was once the capital of Malla dynasty and different kinds of crafts flourished during their period under the patronage of Malla kings, including terracotta temples. A major influence of these temples can be seen in Baluchari sarees. Mythological stories were taken from the walls of temples and woven on Baluchari sarees.
The production process of Baluchari can be divided into several parts:
Cultivation of cocoons: Silkworms are bred for the sole purpose of producing raw silk.
Processing of yarn: To make the yarn soft, it is boiled in a solution of soda and soap and then dyed in acid color. The yarn is stretched from both the sides in opposite directions putting some force with both palms. This process is needed to make the yarn crisper.
Motif making: Making of the motifs for pallu and other part of Baluchari is in itself an intricate process. The design is drawn on a graph paper, it is colored and punching is done using cards. After punching, these cards are sewed in order and fixed in the jacquard machine.
Weaving: Weaving of a Baluchari saree takes two weavers five to six days to complete.
Baluchari sarees today often have depictions from scenes of Mahabharat and Ramayana. While there isn’t a lot of variation in the method of weaving used today, Balucharis can be broadly categorized based on the threads used in weaving the patterns:
Plain Baluchari: The most common Balucharis have threads in 1 or 2 colors to weave the entire pattern
Meenakari Baluchari: Meenakari Balucharis have threads in more than 2 colors to further brighten the pattern
Swarnachari: Swarnachari Balucharis are the most gorgeous Balucharis. They are woven with gold or silver colored threads that illuminate the patterns so much more.
Needless to say that the opulence of Baluchari sarees make them apt for festivals and weddings and are a sign of aristocracy, the attire of status.