In the 18th and 19th centuries, Baluchar was an important hub of the thriving silk textile industry in the Murshidabad region of West Bengal. Woven from pure silk yarn, without any gold or silver thread brocading, Baluchar saris are acclaimed for their soft, lustrous texture, glowing colors, distinctive motifs, and for the sheer skill of the weavers.
The emergence of Baluchari saris can be traced back to 1704 CE, when Nawab Murshid Kuli Khan, the Mughal Governor of Bengal shifted his capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad, also bringing with him a community of skilled weavers who were settled in the village of Baluchar. Over the years, these artisans developed their distinct weaving style with exquisite mythological designs, which gave birth to the legendary Baluchari saris.
The colors used for Baluchari saris weaving are bright and cheerful. A lot of environment-friendly items are being used to make Baluchari saris today. Banana plant stems, bamboo trees and natural products like flower dye, fruits dye, neem leaves, turmeric leaves and dried twigs are used in the process.
The Baluchari saris are known for their intricate designs and handwork on the pallu. No other sari uses as many mythological designs as the Baluchari sari. The designs are inspired by stories and characters from epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharat.
This exquisite weaving tradition was revived in the first half of the 20th century by Shubho Thakur, a noted artist and the erstwhile director of the Regional Design Centre, Calcutta. He introduced Baluchari master weavers to the technique of Jacquard loom and gave this weave a new lease of life.