Dhalapathara has a glorious history, and hopefully a brilliant future. The documented history for this weave, takes us back a few centuries to a village dominated by the “Rangani” community in Khurda district of Odisha.
The community “Rangani '' wove a particular type of cloth woven without any jala, jacquard or dobby. ‘Rang’ means colour and ‘Ani’ means to bring. “Rangani'' added colour to our lives through their woven sarees. To weave such cloth with jacquard would require 400-600 hooks but the Dhalapathara weavers weave it with the help of ‘Chiari’. The fabric was woven with the help of warp rib structures or wooden planks known as ‘Chiari’. It’s a rare weaving technique in extra weft shedding and picking.
When it came to be the best saree for a bride or festivals, Dhalapathara used to be the first choice. This saree got its name from the place of its origin. Its fame was at its peak from late 1800s to mid 1900s. During our discussion with Shri Budhinath Prusty, now in his late 90s, he proudly shared how he was a regular at Bhubaneswar weekly market during the 1950s and that the traders from Kolkata used to drool over the Dhalapathara sarees. It was a bridal saree then.
The art of Dhalapathara is beautiful and even more beautiful is its history. Some designs of these sarees are Kusumi Kapta, Kankana Pedi, Muktapunji, Nahati and Akata. The designs were extremely sharp and so accurate that it seems impossible that these sarees are made by hand. These weavers were so skilled that they could create exquisite designs without the use of any graph. The weft rib effect gave the beautiful multicolour effect.
(Leesa Mohanty, Founder, Nirguna, showing two precious Dhalapathara Sarees which she was told is about a century old during video documentation by Nirguna Trust, 2017)
Dhalapathara weave has its own sufferings too. The machine operated handlooms took away the demand and jobs of the weavers. These looms could make more sarees in lesser time and were easy to weave. The Dhalapathara saree, once a bridal saree was lost in time. However, Ganesh Pujari ji and Udayanath Sahu reinvented and designed the craft respectively as “Parda” or curtain. With the onset of mechanized handloom machines, when Dhalapathara weavers were struggling for living, they started to weave pardas and created beautiful designs of Lord Krishna, Lord Hanuman, Taj Mahal, sunset scenery, Gautam Buddha, Map of India and several other famous personalities.
These pardas were beautiful and so their demand did rise. This art is more than just art, it’s a way of living life deep dived in colours. Again with passage of time and less consumer demand, the Dhalapathara Parda is going to be extinct. We had the opportunity of meeting and working with the only parda weaver Shri Braja Bandhu Rout in Dhalapathara today. Even at the age of 75, he continues to weave parda and says the future is dark.
Leesa Mohanty in discussion with Shri Budhi Nath Prusty and Shri Braja Bandhu Rout at Dhalapathara!
To be continued .......