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Tussar Silk Sarees – pride of Bengal

Silk fabrics in the ancient times were meant for the powerful and rich. From the mythology tales and ancient texts we get to know that the silk fabrics were developed and cultured for the Royals. Now with the change of times anybody can buy silk products and use them without reservation. However, silk is still the most expensive and sought after fabric.

The saree is worn over a petticoat along with a blouse.The Tussar Silk is produced from the wild variety of silkworms, Antheraea mylitta or Antheraca proylei species. The fabric varies from a medium to heavy in weight. The silk is produced from a special type silkworm, which instead of mulberry feeds mostly on oak leaves. Tussar silk is spun by the worm in an oval, single-shelled cocoon, with hard, non-flossy, fine-grained shell. The cocoons are mostly grey or yellow and are compact and hard. Apart from these saris, the artisans from Bengal were adept in designing the traditional Baluchari silk sarees that are hugely popular and sough after among the women of the entire country.

Tussar silk or Kosa silk is valued for its texture and purity as it is naturally available in shades of honey, tawny, gold-pale, cream, dark beige, etc. Tussar silk saris are considered to be auspicious. The fabric comes in a range of colors and is designed with a variety of natural motifs. The tussar silk is also produced in the state of Bihar. It has been found that tussar silk fabric is of five different types, and usually with a tussar warp and mixed tussar-cotton weft, they were all tussar-cotton mixes, and four types were exported out of state.

Mixed tussar-cotton and plain tussar are the two types of tussar sari that are woven today. Plain tussar saris are popular throughout India and are made from reeled (not spun) threads. Tussar silk has some varieties that are used for various purposes by the women of India. The tussar saris like `mukta` and `sania` are famous among the Jains and the hindus respectively. Local saris are still created from mixed tussar-cotton fabric.

The Tussar Silk is back in fashion with a distinctive light weight loft and golden haze. The latest fashion statement is the Pashmina sari, which is a blend of tussar silk and wool. These Sarees are being produced in Madhya Pradesh, are a combinations of bagh printing and threadwork.

Even the Tangail Jamdani has a huge demand in all over and are also made in tussar silk. The women of Bengal normally during the pujas wear `garod` sarees with a variety of designer blouses. ‘Garod’ meaning white refers to the silk which has not been dyed. According to history, the local ‘Raja’ usually draped in these Garod saris during the important part of the festival. Silk is graded in deniers, unlike cotton, which is graded in counts. In cotton the material is thicker when the count is less. However in silk the opposite is true, lesser the denier the finer is the silk and heavier the silk when the denier is thicker. The most expensive Silk Sarees have handcrafted intricate embroidery done using golden threads and are called Zardosi. The chief varieties of silk saris are – Tussar / Kosa, Sambhalpuri, Paithani, Muga, Banarasi, Patola, Baluchori, Chanderi, and Maheshwari.

The entire weaver’s villages nestling in rural Bengal, punctuated by pukurs (ponds), among the lush green paddy fields, are engaged in creating the equivalent beauty of poetry in fabric. These weavers have made it possible to keep alive a priceless heritage of highly stylized weaving techniques. The eastern handloom industry has had its share of bumpy rides, but the Bengal handlooms have survived the ups and downs and become a household name. The exquisite brocade sarees woven from the special tussar silk are something West Bengal is renowned for. The fibers used are of fine in nature, dyed in colors made from natural materials. These saris are comfortable and light. The fabric has wrinkled and creased surface and also has a matte finish.
The brocade tussar saris have heavy ornamental designs. The ‘pallu,’ the free edge of the sari features jacquard designs. The classic Bengali motif with a Mughal touch is used in the sari is the classic.

Today sari is not the only thing silk is resgtricted to. A variety of men’s and ladies’ like dhoties, dupattas, scarfs, turbans, garments, fabrics, caps, handkerchiefs, shawls, ghagras or lehengas, and even bedcover, cushions, curtains and quilts are being made of silk.

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