By Mrs Pritichhanda Dhal,

Noted Social Activist and Writer

Odisha has its uniqueness be it in terms of culture, cuisines or ethnic wears. Starting from my maternal and paternal grandmothers to my mother and mother in law, the age old ethnic handloom sarees had occupied the special place in their wardrobes. Be it puja at home, temple or marriages these sarees with its uniqueness was par excellence in its weave, texture, look, significance and providing comfort.

Following tradition when a newly married Odia bride goes to her in-law’s house, the first thing  witnessed there is , curiosity of the ladies present in the house looking up to the sarees that she has brought with her. The bride’s mothers and aunts with their experience never forget to add Odia pata sarees amongst the collection of sarees of a newlywed, irrespective of her economical status.

Earlier, it used to be one of the favourite competitions among women to flaunt their pata or handwoven silk sarees and even today the younger generations doesn’t seem to be way behind. Whenever, we talk about our Odia pata sarees, wearing it always add to the aura and  we can feel its warmth by draping it around us elegantly. We have  more often heard a lot about these sarees in our grandmas’ stories, clearly saying that it is not only a ‘six yard’s of elegance’ but a patriarchal saree tradition which needs to be treasured with full pride as it is  passed on from generation to generation.

Honestly, it is a feast to our eyes to catch a glimpse of our Odia pata sarees at all occasions across the globe. Our handlooms are excellent threads of elegance; it not only looks good but also feels great to wear. If we talk about our Odia sarees several varieties are there, starting from “Maniayabandh of Nuapatna to Sambalpuri, Berhampuri, Sonepuri, Dongariya, Kotapada”etc. There are numerous varieties beyond our expression.

The “Pasapali “ of Bargarh is not only famous in our country but also popular worldwide , also what to say about “Sonepuri” its intricate design of fish plates in the borders of the saree are quite attractive. The beauty of “Berhampuri “ pata from the silk city Berhampur , is just beyond the sky limits of authentic designer sarees. In the “Khandua” pata, the colourful square designs of elephants, horses and lotus are enough to take our heart away, also renowned as “Nuapatana” and “Maniyabandh” sarees.

Now let’s take a look at “Dongariya “ saree of Niyamagiri, the tribals of Niyamagiri named Dongariya used to weave these beautiful saris and shawls, initially it was given as a token of love to their relatives on different occasions but gradually with  the rise in demand of these sarees , they were brought to the market for selling them to others. The demand of these sarees has now reached overseas; the fine and intricate designs weaved on the colourful textile always overwhelms our heart. The simplicity in the lifestyle of Dongariya tribe can be truly reflected in these sarees.

Coming to “Kotpada” saree woven in Koraput , the sarees are not only beautiful but is also a comfy wear for all  A man named Lingaraj once set up a stall showcasing the kotapada” saree here at tribal fair. He had brought many designer sarees and dupattas. They were so attractive and fascinating at the same time that I could not resist myself and went with my friend Liza to buy it , looking at us keenly interested  in the sarees , they started showing us all their collections with full joy  and out of them we bought two sarees and dupattas, but amid selecting the unique clothing pieces,  we came across the fact that it takes around 25 to 30 days to make one Kotapada” sari , they dye the sari  with the organic colours made out from the roots of trees, which are non- harmful  and good for us and moreover a total of  70 families of Kotapada village are being involved in this handloom work as well as this Kotapada textile has also got GI tag in 2005.

Our Odia sarees are now gaining value across the globe  showcasing the magical spell casted by  our hardworking weavers on  every single piece of the their handloom weaves.

On being asked on this, Bargarh’s Sri Debashish Meher says that “even after we are putting lots of effort, we are unable to get any support or encouragement from the government. If government pays some attention towards us then probably we would be able to boost our morals and efforts to add more value to the weaving business,  It takes almost around 40 hours of hard work for a proper handloom sarees weaving but we are not given the right value for our artistic creation and the effort”.

Similarly, Sri Prabhat from Berhampur says” there was a time when “Berhampuri “ pata saree was undoubtedly the pride of Odisha , but due to the lack of encouragement  around 40 families have lost their livelihood.  Now is the time for the government to think more about them. Societies were made but the weavers are not able to get benefit out of it. In the context of self dependence a small step of government towards them will definately help them leap ahead in their goal”.

As responsible citizens we should understand government policies in order to support them. The need of the hour is we all should come forward and take pledge to wear a handloom saree of Odisha in order to support the weavers and give them their much deserved ray of hope. With the collaborative efforts of government and us they will live a better tense free life and we will be able to bring prosperity to the weaver’s family.