The word ”ikat” is derived from the Malay word ”mengikat”, meaning to tie or to bind. Ikat is a resist-dyeing technique used to create patterned textiles. Portions of the yarn are wrapped and dyed according to a predetermined pattern. Typically, this process is repeated several times before it is woven into the fabric. The dyed yarn is then positioned on the loom and the weaving begins. With each movement, the warp and weft interlace, and there emerges a complex design on the finished fabric.
A weaver from Pochampally weaving an ikat saree
In India ikat is practiced in Telangana, Orissa, and Gujarat.
Patan, Gujarat - The patola saree woven in this region is one of the most intricate examples of ikat weaving. It is a double ikat saree, in which both the warp and weft are dyed. Patola weaving is a closely guarded family tradition and as of today only three families in Patan weave these highly prized double ikat sarees.
A Patola weaving loom in Patan, Gujarat
Sambalpur, Orissa - Sambalpur is the major ikat centre in Orissa. Apart from Sambalpur, the other ikat centres are Sonepur, Bargarh and Nuapatna. Both single ikat and double ikat sarees are woven in these regions. But a feature which distinguishes some of these sarees is that a small area of the palla and border are woven using an extra weft. According to the weavers, this strengthens the fabric.
A Sambalpuri ikat weaving loom
Lotuses, peacocks, conch shells, elephants, floral designs of ten petaled and eight petaled flowers are some of the motifs used to create the sarees.
Pochampally, Telangana and Chirala, Putapaka, Andhra Pradesh - The third major centre for weaving is located in Telangana/ Andhra Pradesh. The fabric used is cotton, silk and sico – a mix of silk and cotton.
Painting of a young girl standing on her verandah in a Pochampally ikat saree. (Painted by Hermann Linde in 1895)
This region is also famous for the double ikat Telia Rumal sarees. The Telia Rumal (oily kerchief) was a square piece of clothing which could be used as a turban or shoulder cloth. It was named so because a lot of oil was used in preparing the yarn for weaving.
A Telia Rumal saree at an exhibition. ( Picture credits - livemint)
The tradition was on the verge of dying out when it was rescued by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay in the 1950s. She asked the weavers to weave sarees instead of kerchiefs. After much trepidation the weavers began creating sarees and the rest is history.