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Saree Weaving in Bengal

Photographer: Piyal Adhikary


Every lane of a town called Fulia, West Bengal, vibrates with the sweet sound of running looms. The town keeps its unique identity with a backbone of handloom businesses and 80 per cent of its residents involved in the textile trade according to government reports.


Weaving sarees is an old crafting in West Bengal, an Indian region that is famous for its handloom products. Weaving started in Bengal in 1409 and became really important during the rule of Nadia king Rudra Roy (1683 - 1694). The region has over 125,000 handlooms, churning out Shantipuri, Tangail, and Jamdani handloom sarees in a variety of fabrics like cotton, tussar and silk. However the craft of making sarees is declining in the recent years as most of the weavers are forced to give up due to financial reasons. The weavers quit their profession in this traditional business and work as labourers in different fields, as the low salaries they receive are not enough to cover their daily needs. The average earning of a weaver family is in the range of 150–200 euro per month.


Most of the weavers are operated by their Mahajans or handloom merchants as they play the role of the intermediary between the weaver and the customer. Merchants supply the yarns and fabrics to the weavers who make the sarees and give them back at a fixed price which is between three to four euros per unit or saree.