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    Baavan Buti Saree

    Map Academy

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    Named after the fifty-two motifs, or baavan buti, running through their main body, these sarees are woven using silk and cotton as base material, with the motifs added to the body using extra weft. The sarees originate in the Nalanda district of Bihar, which has been an important Buddhist centre since the fifth century. This history is evident in many of the motifs in baavan buti sarees, which include Buddhist iconographies such as the peepal, the bull, the lotus, the stupa, the deer and the elephant. The most common colours used in the sarees are reds, yellows and parrot greens. Women wear the sarees on special occasions and often exchange them as gifts, especially during weddings. Baavan buti sarees are considered the only fabric of Bihar that prioritises pattern over texture.

    Baavan buti sarees have been traditionally woven on pit looms or frame looms, with extra weft threads being used to create the fifty-two motifs along the saree’s length. The process for weaving these motifs onto the body of the saree is similar to that used in satin-stitch embroidery (such as phulkari). For the baavan buti sarees, the needle is replaced by the shuttle and the embroidery thread is replaced by extra weft so that patterns can be woven directly into the fabric.

    At present, the two main centres for the production of these sarees are Nepura, known for its tussar silk weaves, and Baswan Bigha, famous for its cotton weaves. There have been two phases of revival for this handloom tradition: first in the 1940s, undertaken by the late craftsperson Dr Upendra Maharathi, and the second in 2009, by the Asian Heritage Foundation, aided by the World Bank and headed by textile expert Rta Kapur Chisti and designer Rajeev Sethi.


    “Buddha Still Smiling: Nalanda’s Bavanbuti Sarees.” 2016.

    Chaudhary, Pravana K. 1 April 2019. “Bawan Buti sarees to again be woven from today.” Times of India.

    Chishti, Rta Kapur. 2010. Saris: Tradition and Beyond. Eds. Martand Singh. New Delhi: Lustre Press.

    Ghose, Ruchira. 2017. “Mapping Indian Textiles.” Report for Tagore Fellowship. New Delhi: IGNCA.

    Gupta, Ruchira. 29 June 2016. “Weavers of history apt case for a museum of the living.” The Telegraph.

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