Lightweight, translucent and woven using cotton yarn, Begampur sarees derive their name from the town in the Hooghly district of West Bengal where they are made. The tradition of weaving cotton sarees in the region can be traced as far back as the fourteenth century. They are traditionally characterised by broad borders, known as mathaapaars, that contrast with the saree’s main body and its few motifs.
The saree follows the cotton-weaving tradition of West Bengal, in combinations of white, black, red, orange, blue and purple, with the most common variant being laal paar, featuring a red border with the main body woven out of undyed, unbleached cotton. Common motifs on the saree include birds, animals and plants. Other variations may also have geometrical designs and borders with serrated patterns woven using extra weft threads, with various butas on the pallu.
In 2010, the Weavers’ Service Centre, Kolkata, led an initiative to revive Begampur sarees, focusing on design development and improving weaving and printing techniques, such as through the introduction of power looms. Today, the sarees feature stripes along with motifs of animals and plants on the borders and pallu — a change that has led to increased demand in the Indian market.
Banerjee, Abhradip. 2016. “Understanding Some of the Key Factors Responsible for Transition within an Indian Cotton Weaving Tradition.” Asian Journal of Social Science 44 (4/5): 571–99. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43954182.
“Begumpuri, West Bengal.” 2018. Bunavat. https://bunavat.com/blogs/blogs/begumpuri-west-bengal.
Chishti, Rta Kapur. 2013. Saris: Tradition and Beyond. New Delhi: Roli Books.
Mohan, Sreemathy. 2016. “A Bengal Handloom Trail.” The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/on-a-bengal-handloom-trail/article8537134.ece.