If you recall any movie that was set in Kolkata, you will remember at least one scene depicting Bengali women draped in traditional white sarees with red borders. These are indeed among the most well-known and sought after sarees from this region. They are commonly referred to as "lal par sada saree" or "red-bordered white saree" in Bangla.
Why red and white?
The combination of red on white is considered very auspicious by Bengali women. White stands for purity while red symbolizes her fertility. A white or off-white saree with a red border and pallav is often the attire of choice of a married woman for devotional events, religious ceremonies or commemorative functions. These sarees are often accessorized with white bangles made of conch shells (called “shakha”) and red coral bangles (called “pola”), along with red sindoor on the forehead, all symbols of her marital status.
What kind of sarees are these?
Red-n-white sarees are available in all textures and price ranges. The simplest cotton sarees are available for a few hundred rupees while the most gorgeous silks could even cost several thousands. One can choose an appropriate saree based on her budget, taste and the importance of the event where she plans to wear it.
Common varieties of red and white sarees:
Tant: Typical tant sarees in this combination have a white or off-white cotton base, a red border often with gold zari work, an artistic pallav and small red motifs strewn across the body of the saree.
Jamdani: The jamdani sarees have a sheer white base in cotton or silk-cotton and fine red motifs woven all over the body giving it a grand finish. The motifs are usually traditional, ranging from simple polkas to more elaborate paisley and floral designs.
Garad and Garad-Korial: The most popular garad saree comes with a plain white silk base, a broad red border and a striped pallav. Variations of this have striped borders and small red motifs woven across the white base of the saree. Garad-korial sarees are more elaborate with intricate motifs in red or gold woven in the body and pallav. The silk in garad sarees is very fine and has a papery texture.
Tussar: The tussar silk sarees have a beige or off-white base with a golden sheen. The borders are in red or red-gold, and the pallav has elaborately woven motifs in red. The patterns in the traditional tussar silk sarees are quite similar to those of tant sarees.
Muslin: The muslins are super-fine and exotic versions of the jamdani sarees. The white base of the saree is extremely light and sheer and is adorned with delicate weavings in red, giving it a luxurious finish.
Korial-Banarasi: These are lavish silk sarees with a plush white or off-white base and gorgeous gold/silver embellishments that are characteristic of Banarasi silks, adorning the red border and pallav of the sarees.
Baluchari: Baluchari silk sarees in the red and white combination are very exquisite to drape and behold. The borders and pallav are intricately adorned with red motifs depicting tales from epics and religious texts. The rich white base complements the gorgeous borders and often has delicate red motifs woven across. A touch of gold zari amidst the red weavings can further enhance its grandeur.