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CRAFTS OF INDIA / IKAT / VARIETY -3
IKAT

In the Bomkai sari, on a bright background, the weavers create panels of contrasting motifs in the anchal or pallu. The motifs are many: karela or bitter gourd, the atasi flower, the kanthi phul or small flower, macchi or fly, rui macchi or carp-fish, koincha or tortoise, padma or lotus, mayura or peacock, and charai or bird being some of the more common ones. Motifs are freely composed. Unlike other traditional saris, the pallav pattern does not have any regular grading of motifs, like for example, heavy to light. As only the rich Brahmins wore this sari each piece was different, thus making each creation an exclusive one.

Traditionally, vegetable dyes were used: myrobalan for black, turmeric for yellow, lac for dark red/ maroon, girmati or ochre treated with ghee for light red, and acacia skin for chrome orange. However, in the past few decades, weavers buy dyed yarn, which is commonly chemical dyed.

Created with the three shuttle weaving technique and the extra healed shaft design on primitive pit looms, it is a labor intensive product, and hence expensive. Bomkai saris combine bandha and supplementary threadwork. This is called kapta jala, which refers to the dobby mechanism (jala). The bomkai sari was traditionally worn by high-caste Brahmins during rituals and ceremonies.

Field: The bomkai saris are created in coarse low-count cotton but are always brightly dyed (often black, red, or white grounds). The body of the sari is ‘accented with a single buttah or motif of a bird on a tree’. Borders: Supplementary weft and warp borders. For the border, popular motifs are dalimba or pomegranate corns and saara or seeds topped with a row of kumbha or temple spires. Both the dalimba and the saara are diamond shaped beads where the former has a dot within and the saara is halved vertically.

End-piece: Supplementary weft and warp end-pieces. A broad band of supplementary warp patterning, creating a latticework of small diamond shapes is the usual design. The field’s warp threads are cut and re-tied to different coloured warps for the end-piece, thus creating an unusually dense layer of colour for the (fairly large) end-piece. This is known as muha-johra or ‘end-piece with joined threads’ (muha = face; johra = join). To achieve a solid colour effect in the pallu, two different coloured warp threads are twisted with starch and joined at the junction where the pallu and body meet. (a muha-johra bada-saara is a sari that is ‘blood red in colour and has dotted diamonds [saara] in the border.’)