Tant Sarees of Bengal

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18 Jan 2021 by Aditi Chakraborty

Back in the 15th century, the mud huts of Shantipur (in Nadia district of West Bengal) resonated with the constant sounds of looms running through the day; sometimes even at night. This is believed to be the beginning of the era of one of Bengal’s most cherished handloom - our beloved Tant sarees. The legacy of this weave is still going strong and keeping up with the demands of the modern age.

Tant: Pride of the Weavers of Bengal

The then Mughal rulers in undivided Bengal took the Tant craft to greater heights. Starting from Rajshahi, Kumilla, Tangail (now in Bangladesh) to Fulia, Shantipur, Begumpur, Dhaniakhali, Aatpur, Murshidabad, this entire region saw the Tant craft coming of age. Tant sarees are known all over for their comfort and style statement that is best suited for the hot and humid climate across different regions of our country. This Bengal made gem found its place in the wardrobes of every common person to the fashionistas who believed in its lightweight, airy texture, in its carefully crafted designs and the elegance it represented for day-to-day comfort. Jamdani and Muslins were mostly worn by the rich people, the royals; whereas Tant sarees, clothes turned out to be the everyday at-ease attires for the common people.

The Woven Grace

Earlier, Tant sarees were woven on the handlooms installed inside the homes of weavers associated with the craft. Nowadays power-loom made sarees are mass produced as they are woven comparatively in a shorter time frame. The weaving of a tant saree can take anywhere from 12 hours to seven days depending upon the design specifics and intricacies involved in the craft. Cotton yarn is brought from the mills, washed thoroughly to get rid of the chemicals, then bleached, washed and dipped in colours as per the weaving requirements. After the colouring phase is over, they are starched and are processed for some more time so that the threads are smooth and strong.

Tant: Traditional meets Modern

Tant sarees are perfect examples of the amalgamation of tradition with modernity. The sarees usually have thick borders, sometimes woven in Zari, mostly in cotton and a beautiful pallu (pallav) that add to their enthralling beauty. Fish motifs, flower and Jaal motifs, motifs depicting animals (i,e,. deer, elephants), nature (half moon, blue sky {Nilambari}, paisley) adorn the entire saree and not just the pallus. Some Tant sarees are purely handcrafted in woven zariwork that resemble the richness of Banarasis and hence, are known famously as Tant Banarasis.

Tant is not just a saree weaving technique, it represents the era in which it was born, developed the way it is today and has earned livelihood for the weavers for generations. Tant is history told and retold in fine cotton textured weaves, in intricate designs and craftsmanship. Tant is that fine jewel adorning not just Bengali women but women all over with its rich yet simple extravaganza.   

Crafts Handloom Bengal