Bishnupur, (also called Vishnupur) is a town and municipality in the Bankura district of West Bengal. It is named after Lord Vishnu, who was worshipped by the Malla kings during the 17th and 18th centuries and was the capital of the Malla kingdom. It is well-known for its heritage of producing silk sarees, especially the luxurious baluchari silk sarees. In addition, Bishnupur also produces fine, light-weight silk sarees that have a soft, smooth texture and drape beautifully.
History of Silks in Bishnupur
Silk weaving in Bishnupur goes back to several hundred years. It is known to have flourished in the 18th and early 19th centuries when the East India Company traded embroidered scarves and floral fabrics for dresses made of fine Bishnupuri silk.
Meanwhile, about 200 kms away, in another silk producing district of Bengal, Murshidabad, the weaving of the baluchari silk sarees blossomed under royal patronage of the Nawabs of Bengal. The baluchari weavers were settled on the banks of the river Bhagirathi, but a flooding of the river caused them to uproot themselves and move to Bishnupur. Trade gradually declined under the British empire and the influx of cheap mill-made fabric from England combined with financial sanctions eventually squeezed the baluchari weavers out of their craft.
The revival of baluchari weaving in the mid 20th century was brought about by the artist Subho Thakur, who helped develop the technique of jacquard weaving that greatly simplified the process and reduced the time it took to weave a saree. This new era of baluchari weaving features motifs from epics and religious texts, and is continued to this day by the weavers of Bishnupur.
Silk Weaving in Bishnupur today
Silk weaving continues to be an important cottage industry in Bishnupur, and about 15% of its population is employed in the handloom sector today. But the region is not very suitable for silkworm rearing or mulberry cultivation, and most of the raw silk used here comes from other silk producing regions such as Murshidabad and Malda. In addition to baluchari silk sarees, pure silk sarees with block printed, acid printed and batik-painted designs are quite common. These sarees are very light and airy and come in a variety of colours with traditional as well as quirky designs. They are soft and easy to drape and are suitable for both casual and formal wear.
Mitra T. (2016). Socio-Economic Assessment and Marketing Constraints of the Handloom Units - a Case Study of Bishnupur Municipal Town, Bankura District (West Bengal). International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Science Society and Culture, 2(1), 191-200.