The saree literally defines the scope and history of traditional Indian attire, which is why it is said to have created an endearing legacy over thousands of years. This 6 yards long cloth has been worn by women in India in a number of different patterns which has made them look truly beautiful. No other garment defined a woman’s wardrobe in India in such a way like the saree. Over the years, many different kinds of sarees have evolved in different parts of India which naturally has presented the women of this country with countless opportunities to experiment with her looks. The state of Bengal has got an extensively rich tradition of handloom saree creation and one of the sarees that they are known to produce that has left a lasting mark is the hand woven Tant sarees.
The artisans in Bengal are gifted with imagination and extraordinary skills with their hands which allow them to create beautiful Tant sarees. The tant sarees, also spelled as taant, taat or tat, are some of the most loved sarees that are worn by women in Bangladesh and West Bengal. They have a light and airy texture which makes them perfect for the humid and warm summers of Bengal. The Tant sarees are also characterized by a rich and thick border and a decorative and ornate pallav. They are mostly woven with different types of paisley, floral and other motifs. The rich display of artistic elements in the tant sarees has made them some of the most extensively worn garments here in Bengal.
The term “tant” actually refers to the Bengal handlooms that are typically used for making cotton sarees alongside various other garments. The history of handloom saree weaving in the state of Bengal goes back to as early as 15th century in a place called Shantipur in Nadia. Over the period between 16th and 18th centuries, the art of making tant sarees flourished and evolved under the extensive royal patronage of the Mughal rulers. The tants were widely worn by the common men and women of the era. This weaving tradition further continued during British reign and many new weaving techniques were introduced in Shantipur in the decades just before the independence. The introduction of jacquard loom that improved the quality of the handlooms was also introduced during this time.
The historic partition of Bengal which took place in 1947 saw many Hindu weavers and handloom workers from Bangladesh come to India. It was during this time that Fulia in Shantipur became the new hub for tant workers. Many other weavers from other parts of Bengal came together at this time and gave rise to the trends of tant handlooms that are still prevalent today. Based on the regions in which they got inspired from, the tant sarees can be divided into a number of different categories. Fulia, Shantipur, Dhaniakhali, Begampur, Kalna and Atpur are some of the places where Tant sarees are developed.
To make tant sarees, cotton thread bundles are gathered from the mills and checked for the presence of any chemicals. After that they are sun-dried and bleached and dried again. The threads are then dipped in a pool of boiling colored water for the purpose of dyeing. The threads are starched and processed for making them stronger and finer. The tant sarees are characterized by their motifs and designs on the borders, the body and the pallav. The designs are created by an artist and imprinted on the sarees with the help of soft cardboards. The cardboards are perforated with the ink and then suspended smoothly from the looms. While the simplest tant sarees may take anywhere between 10 to 12 hours for weaving, the intricate designs can take about 5 or 6.