Ikkat Silk Saree- Odisha's Unmatched Art of Weaving

When talking about sarees, one saree that we must talk about is the Ikkat silk saree, which is the pride of Odisha. Often pronounced as ‘Ikat’ or ‘Ikhat’, the term Ikat comes from the Malay-Indonesian word ‘Mengikat’ which roughly translate to ‘tie’ or ‘bind’. Ikkat is an age old process of tie and dye that India have acquired from the Indonesian culture. The state of Odisha, in India, has been successful in adopting this weaving form and producing beautiful sarees with their own unique style and traditional designs. Ikkat silk sarees from Odisha has quite a demand, all over India, due to their fine patterns and designs and this particular technique is popular even outside of India.

Historically, as mentioned, the Ikkat form of sarees is not of Indian origin. The origin of this ancient form of weaving is often associated with Indonesia, however, textile historians cannot say for a fact that the Ikkat form is actually of Indonesian origin. The craft has travelled a lot through the different trading routes in the past and has flourished through different parts of the world. In India, the presence of the Ikkat form of clothing can be dated back to a long long time ago, around the period of 7th Century CE, due to strong trade relations with China and Indonesia back in the day. You can find old frescoes, from around the 7th century period, in the Ajanta-Ellora caves in Maharashtra, depicting figures wearing garments with Ikkat form of patterns.

Coming to the weaving process, Ikkat silk sarees in Odisha are made using the resist-dying method where the weaver’s preconceived design is formed in the yarn first rather than on the fabric later. The yarn is first tightly bound in a sequential manner and dipped in dying vats. By this method, the exposed portions of the yarn soak in the dye and the tied portions are left untouched. This process is repeated for a few more times until the weaver is satisfied with the result. Once the yarn is ready, the complex and labour intensive process of weaving the yarns into a complete saree starts. This is a very intricate process wherein utmost precision is required in order to get the design right. Depending on the type of weaving, Ikkat silk sarees can of two types – Single Ikkat and Double Ikkat. Single Ikkat refers to the sarees in which either only portions of the warp or the weft are dyed and Double Ikkat refers to the sarees in which both the warp and weft yarns are dyed together in a precise manner. The beauty of these sarees are recognized throughout the world.

Odisha Ikkat silk sarees are characterized by their blurriness in the designs and patterns which are the result of the difficult weaving technique that is followed. Most saree enthusiasts and textile collectors value these blurriness in Ikkat sarees, acknowledging them as the symbol of authenticity. The sarees come in bright colors like red, blue, yellow, etc, and feature designs inspired from flowers, animals, conches, etc. Ikkat sarees of lower price range can be used as day to day, household wear. Premium sarees belonging to higher price range are perfect for occasions, festivals and weddings.

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