Are you going to Boyonika?

Ikat, sambalpuri and bomkai

Hand woven craft of Odisha

She is now a true love of mine!

(With extreme poetic license and apologies to Simon uncle and Garfunkle as T calls them!)

Yesterday we went on a shopping trip. I’m the worlds worst shopper (only second to JCO, who claims he’s allergic to it and his nurse tells him to avoid it at all costs!) but Boyanika is such a wonderful place that even I can spend hours and hours there. And of course rupees and paisas too!

Boyanika (pronounced “boy-O-nika) is a chain of cooperative stores run by the Odisha State Government department of handilooms, textiles and handicrafts. There’s an outlet in Rayagada, and thanks to the new road, it’s only an hour away from us.

Being in Boyonika is like stepping inside a Jackson Pollock painting: Splashes of the most vibrant colours everywhere! Earthy reds, browns, purples. The light beige of tussar. The bright oranges, blues and pinks. Dark greens and purples. We were immersed in a sea of fabric waves, floating on bales of rumals and bundles of lungis. The little square checks and miniature konarak border contrast with the long straight bomkai borders.

Ikat is a generic word for the process of binding threads together and then dyeing them in pattern before they are woven into fabric. This is a process called resist dyeing, where the patterns emerge as some threads are dyed and some resist dyeing. Batik and tie-and-dye are other forms of resist dyeing, all techniques used in South and South East Asia.

Ikat weaves are found in many Indian states and Sambalpuri ikat is one of my favourites.  It was popularised by Sri Radhashyam Meher as baandha art. Weavers cooperatives in villages in Sambalpur were encouraged and Boyanika is one of the results of this movement. As ST says, if every Indian bought one set of handwoven clothes every year, there’d be enough work for ALL our weavers. Today, after threatening to repeal the Handloom Reservation Act, the Government has fortunately left it alone (and will be moving on to higher priorities like land, minerals and mining I assume).

So, next time you’re going shopping, remember the weavers and their skilled hands, remember Boyanika!!

Oh, and we also managed to squeeze in a short trip to the ant hole :) Though the water levels have gone down and muddy, its still such a beautiful place. Thanks to the unseasonal rains, it all green green green! Enjoy!


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