Traditional Textiles


Published: March 27, 2020

One of the eastern states of India famous for its rich variety of ethnic Indian fashion wear in Odisha or Orissa. It is renowned for its beautiful and gorgeous handloom textiles. Orissa sarees are well-known for their exquisite finish and delicate works. Some of the sarees of Orissa are carefully preserved and proudly cherished to carry forward the tradition in subsequent generations. In fact, handloom weaving in Orissa is one of the ancient and largest industries in India. It supports thousands of weavers and related craftsmen and artisans. Hence, these Indian sarees cannot be missed when it comes to enhancing the beauty of one’s closet or gifting.


Textile of Odisha is a reflection of its cultural ethos with intricate weaves giving it a distinct personality. The thread work, motifs and vibrant colours make them rich and desirable that can turn heads, make an unmistakable style statement and also be passed down for generations, making it a prized heirloom. Following are famous textiles of Orrisa.

Sambalpuri Ikat

Sambalpuri Sarees are the most wonderful sarees of India, these are produced in Western Odisha, mainly in Sonepur, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Boudh and Balangir Districts of Odisha. Each and Every thread of the Sambalpuri Sarees are Handwoven. All the process involved in weaving a saree is carried out manually, no machine is used in any of the steps.

Sambalpuri sarees particularly are known for the utilization of traditional themes taking after its relationship with this shoreline state, for example, Sankha or shell, phula or flower, and chakra or wheel, swans, fish.

The process of weaving Sambalpuri Sarees:

The process starts with dyeing the cotton/silk material. In short, the coloring process includes dipping the material repeatedly in the boiled color water. Utmost care is taken while dyeing the cotton/silk to make sure that the color is uniform throughout the material and it doesn’t affect the quality of the material.

The most alluring part of these sarees is their association with Bandhakala-the customary craft of tie-dye, also known as Ikkat or Ikat. In this method, first, the threads are well tied and dyed and then they are used for weaving. This entire process usually takes more than two weeks to get completed. 

In Sambalpuri sarees, you get to explore new patterns including that of birds, animals, fishes, conch shell, flower, wheel, landscape and much more. Draping these sarees you get the relish the authenticity of Odisha.

 This art form has deep spiritual significance as well. Each family of weavers preserves their own ikat fabric that has been woven by their forefathers, each generation adding on to the same fabric to signify change and continuity. The pallu, often the area that is adorned the most with motifs and designs, is seen as the auspicious end of the garment that serves as a reminder of both god and tradition. One can say that this is the closest we can get to tactile spiritual embodiment; it is no wonder that the ikat serves as the fabric upon which the oldest surviving form of religious verses is found, known famously as the ‘Gitagovinda cloth’.

Bomkai Silk

Woven on a pit loom, Bomkai, which is also known as Sonepuri, is an extraordinary fabric that results from the confluence of two extremely popular components of the Orissa textile industry. In its simplest, Bomkai can be explained as an extra weft technique on a pit loom.It is an outcome of Ikat and embroidery interwoven into each other. The borders are often in contrasting colors and the pallus marked by intricate threadwork. The motifs on the Bomkai are inspired from nature and tribal art, giving the saree a fascinating look that makes it perfect for aristocracy. Bomkai sarees are available in cotton and silk fabrics.

Origin and History

The historical significance of Bomkai emerges from the fact that Bomkai is one of the traditional faces of a designer Orissa; and, showcases the adept works of an artisan. Also known as Sonepuri the embroidered cloth is a type of saree that was first crafted in the southern coastal parts of Orissa. Undoubtedly then, the fabric carried an essence of the ensembles that originated on the shores. While most of the coastal areas of Southern Orissa are involved in the creation of Bomkai sarees, it is in Sonepur that the prettiest of the fabric facades are found.

Locally known as ‘Bandha’ Bomkai concept of sarees is a part of the Orissan culture since 600 B.C. An outcome of Ikat and embroidery interweaved into each other, Bomkai is a magnificent innovation that has taken over the textile industry and gives it a global push. Traditionally worn as an auspicious attire by the Brahmins of the South during rituals, Bomkai or Sonepuri today is counted amongst one of the most highly thought of attires in the state of Orissa and an illustrious one in other parts of the country.

Unlike most of the common forms of designs that are painted on the face of various fabrics, Bomkai dares to be different. The motifs and designs portray mythology and well-kept.

secrets of the past. Inspired by folklore that spring from the roots of the Orissan culture, Bomkai is the heart of the textile industry of Southern India. However, Bomkai doesn’t ignore the inspirations that nature offers to everyone completely free of cost.


Designs composed in the most outlandish of concepts string together motifs from offerings of the environment including karela (bitter gourd), the atasi flower, the kanthi phul (small flower), macchi (fly), rui macchi (carp-fish), koincha (tortoise), padma (lotus), mayura (peacock), and charai (bird). A significant part of the finishing in Bomkai sarees can be attributed to the borders or pallavs. Some of the sarees feature border motifs that are inspired by tribal art. A few examples include, Mitkta Panjia, Kumbha, Rudraksha and Floral.


Colors on the other hand, are inspired by the effect of contrast. So with yellow you might see a nice bright green, and with an orange saree, an equally absorbing yet mesmerizing black border. Sometimes, the pallav might be double shaded, giving out a reflection of royal lustre. Lattice work, which creates small diamond-like shapes, can also be commonly found on the border of a Bomkai saree.

 Berhampuri Paata

Berhampuri Saree or Berhampuri Patta is a GI product from the Silk City of India, Berhampur in Orissa.  Its unique feature is that it comes with a matching ‘joda’ for men. The 200-year old conventional Odisha weaving style is incorporated in its making. The temple or kumbha design falls into two categories; phoda or badhi. The zari borders are surely eye-catching.

The saree also adorns the three idols of the Jagannath temple. They are worn at weddings and auspicious occasions. Of late the weavers are complaining about its bleak future owing to low wages, shortage of raw material and non-availability of subsidy in power tariff . Itis famous for its temple-shaped designs along the border and pallu portion. This paata has another distinction: it is draped around Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra in Puri Jagannath temple.

Khandua Paata

Khandua Sarees (Maniabandi or Kataki), dedicated to Lord Jagannath of Puri Dham, one of the sacred places of India, dates back to the 12th century. In Odia ‘Khandua’ refers to the cloth worn in the lower half of the body. Manufactured in Nuapatna of Cuttack district, a Khandua is rightly termed as ‘Pride of Orissa’. It is a traditional hand-woven saree woven on wooden looms using pure tussr yarns. It is also popular for its ikat or bandha. It is commonly worn by women during wedding. Kenduli Khandua of 12 feet and 2 Kani (1 kani = length of one’s hand) is engraved with stanzas and illustrations from Gita Govind. It is offered to Jagannath as Khandua.

 The traditional colours include orange, red and sunset yellow. The borders and pallu are generally seen in black, blue and red colors. The colors are extracted from Sal tree. The designs seen on the sarees are auspicious elephants, large many petalled flowers, a deula kumbha, and a unique Orissan animal Nabagunjara. It is lightweight, barely 300 gms. and comfortable fabric. One type of the Khandua is the Navakothi which has all the nine main motifs of – flowers, animals, leaves, peacocks, beetel leaves and vessels.  Khandua Paata is noted for the texts of Gita Govinda eteched on it. Traditionally red or orange in colour, these colours are procured naturally from sal trees. This fabric too, is a registered GI and originated in Cuttak and Maniabandha.


Kotpad Sarees are vegetable-dyed fabric weaved by the tribal Mirgan community of Kotpad village in the Koraput district of Orissa. Out of the several Orissa sarees, these received the first GI mark. These are usually cotton sarees with solid borders and pata anchal. The ingredients for the rich textures are aul (madder) tree roots, tussar silk, and cotton yarns. Even though they have limited shades of color (black and maroon being the most common), thy are eco-friendly, pleasant and shining.

 They are also comfortable to wear during summers and winters. The motifs developed by the extra weft are axe, crab, bow, fish, temple, fan, conch and boat, reflecting the culture of the sea. The sarees have befitting elaborate borders and designs depending on the occasion.


Habaspuri Saree is a GI marked tribal handloom product from Orissa. The kondha weavers from Chicheguda, Kalahandi district are attributed to the weaving of this exquisite piece. It has taken its name from the Habaspur village where it was originally woven during the 19th century.

 The making of a Habaspuri is a time-consuming and painstaking process. The traditional patterns in Kumbha style are etched out on the saree. It is basically a cotton saree. The weavers are trying hard to restore the dying art of this saree in the best possible ways.


Pasapali or Saktapar Sarees are one variant of the Sambalpuri sarees of Orissa. They are mainly weaved in the Bargarh district. ’Pasapali’ comes from the word ‘pasa’ meaning chess or gambling games using a chessboard. Hence, they have detailed chequered patterns of different variety and color combinations.

They are identified by the double ikat weave in the pattern of a chessboard and brocaded borders. Their unique symmetry makes them stand out in ethnic Indian fashion wear for women. Tussar, silk, pure organic cotton and their varied combinations serve as the base material for the fabric.

 Pure silk threads are then woven to enhance its glossy appearance. The anchal or the pallu has motifs like conch, flowers, animals, birds, temple, wheel and landscape.


Dongria Sarees are inspired by Dongria or the tribal art form of Orissa. They are woven the Dongria Kondh tribe of the Munda ethnic group, located in the Niyamgiri Hills from the districts of Rayagada and Kalahandi. They are handwoven pure soft cotton fabric. Natural products like dyes and cotton yarns make them eco-friendly.

They are rare and unique. They are generally thick weaves with bright and vibrant color play and geometric and simple designs. Today to catch up with changing times there are prints and modern textures and designs.


Gamchha is a traditional Indian towel made up of thin coarse cotton fabric. Although it is normally used for drying one’s body after bathing, gamcha serves other purposes also. It forms an important item of men’s clothing, especially of those belonging to the lower sections of the Indian society. For instance, one often sees physical laborers, like coolies, construction workers and farmers, carrying a gamcha on their shoulders.

Farmers keep the gamchha on their shoulders to wipe away the sweat while toiling in the scorching sun, the whole day long. Sometimes, they also spread it out on the ground like a mat and take a nap on it. In ancient India, travelers used the gamocha to carry food in it while journeying. It also forms one of the essential items offered to Indian deities during religious ceremonies.


Textile heritage of Orissa reflects the true artistic capabilities and superiorcraftsmanship of Orissa. Drawing heavily from the motifs replete in tribal culture and its association with nature and Orissas famous temple architectural style, the textiles and handlooms of Orissa have entered the living rooms of people from as far as US and Poland.

 Handlooms of Orissa are mainly available in cotton and silk though thecolors, patterns and methods of weaving differ for the two textured materials.The cotton fabrics with heavy drapes are woven of fine cotton threads tightly held together. The fabric is flannel like to touch for its soft wooly weaving, unlike the luster of precious stones and metals of the silk fabrics.

 Orissas cotton handlooms and textiles come in earthy patterns of the famous Ikatstyle of weaving. The Ikat handloom and textiles origin can be traced back to Orissasrich maritime past when seafaring traders ventured forth on journeys to the islands of Indonesia primarily Bali.


Costumes of Odisha is reflects the ancient culture of the state. Odisha has a lot of ancient history. Even Kalinga is the place which made to change the entire life attitude of Samrat Ashoka. In Odisha, people take interest to preserve their tradition and culture.

Costumes for Women in Orissa

In Odisha, women wear different types of sarees. Famous saris include Kataki Saree, Bomkai Saree and Sambalpuri Saree. These are adorned by females in Odisha during festivalsmarriage and other special events. Salwar Kameez is also worn by the girls and women. They like to beautify themselves with a lot of jewelleries and ornaments.

Costumes for Men in Orissa

Similar to females, men also like to wear their traditional outfits. Generally, Dhoti is the common traditional costumes for men in Odisha. They also wear Kurta and Gamucha during the festival and other traditional celebrations. The head of the family follows their religious costume strictly so that others also stay in touch with their culture and wear their traditional costumes.

Wedding Attire

Groom Attire: Traditionally, the Oriya men prefer wearing Dhoti during the wedding ceremony. These may be simple cotton ones or may be made of silk. Modest dhotis have a simple and demure border with a white base, while modern-day grooms may prefer to wear dhotis in various other colors and with more elaborate borders. Over the Dhoti the groom wears a Cotton Shirt or a kurta typically worn by men in most eastern states. He also wears some form of ethnic slippers with the outfit. He is made to wear a colorful and glittering crown made of Shola or Cork Pith.

Bridal AttireThe bride is traditionally adorned in a yellow saree with red border known as Boula Patta. However, modern-day Oriya brides prefer wearing elaborate sarees like benarasi or kanjeevaram or even local Ikkat silk sarees in red or similar colors that have some sort of ornate embroidery with zari or sequin work. She pairs the saree with an ornate brocade blouse. Another compulsory part of the Oriya bride’s wedding attire is the Dupatta or the Uttariyo. The bride covers her head with the Dupatta which is adorned with zari and sequins as well. Like the groom, the bride wears a matching headwear. She generally wears aesthetically pleasing jewelry, preferably made of gold, including necklace, earrings, bangles and rings.

Dance Costumes of Orissa

The female dancers wear brightly coloured sari usually made of local silk adorned with traditional and local designs such as the Bomkai Saree and the Sambalpuri Saree. The front part of the sari is worn with pleats or a separate pleated cloth stitched in front to ensure flexibility of movements of the dancer while showcasing excellent footwork. Silver Jewellery adorns her head, ear, neck, arms and wrists.

Musical anklets called ghunghru made of leather straps with small metallic bells attached to it are wrapped in her ankles while her waist is tied with an elaborate belt. Her feet and palms are brightened with red coloured dyes called alta. She wears a tikka on forehead and outlines her eyes prominently with Kajal so as to make her eye movements more visible. Her hair is tied in a bun and beautified with Seenthi.

A moon shaped crest of white flowers or a Mukoot that is a reed crown with peacock feathers symbolising Lord Krishna may adorn the hairdo. 

A male dancer wears a dhoti neatly pleated in the front and tucked between the legs that cover his lower body from waist while the upper body remains bare. A belt adorns his waist.


The tribal culture of Orissa is also abundant is the celebration of festivals. Being God-fearing people, they worship numerous deities for their well-being. The festivals are celebrated with much excitement and happiness and the traditional rituals are closely followed in order to please the Gods


Sauras is one of the ancient tribes in India that also find their mention in the Hindu epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. The tribe has a unique shamanic culture and its people are the great craftsman of Saura paintings. Their dress consists of loin cloth of about 6 feet long and about two inches in breadth. It is plain and at times we find decorated with red tarsals at the border. This is tied around the hip which hangs down into two strips, the one in the rear being longer. Often they wear single necklace of beads. The Saura women put a waist cloth with grey borders that reaches up the knees. The skirt is generally 3 feet long and about 2 feet broad. In winter season, she covers the upper part with another piece of cloth. The cloth is oven by the Dombs.


One of the country’s primitive tribes living in the quaint hills in Malkangiri district, Odisha. The unique culture, enthralling customs, and typical attire make Bonda the most popular tribal community in the state. BONDA WOMEN wear large and thick brass or aluminium circular and countless colourful beads looped around their head and neck. The Bonda women wear tiny skirts called ‘ringa’, which they themselves weave at the family loom. Beads cover their naked breasts.


The great fighters during British regime in India and also most fun-loving ones are the people of the third largest tribe of India – Santhal. Music and dance are activities which are loved the most by Santhals. Santhal women dress up themselves in the red borderd white saari and dance in the line sequence.


A warrior tribe that resides in the hills of Koraput, Balangir, Sunderbagh, Kalahandi, and Sambalpur is Gonda. Not just Indias but Gond is one of the largest tribes in South Asia. Gonds tribes of India origin have a typical Indian dress culture. Men in the Gonds tribe wear Dhoti (long piece of cotton cloth wrapped around the waist passing through the legs). Women wear soft cotton saris along with the Choli or blouse.


Esteemed as the most-celebrated tribes in the state, Bhumia tribe is rich in tradition and culture. The unique marriage trends and peculiar rituals make Bhumia a must-visit tribe in India. The Bhumias generally use dress like their neighbouring Hindu castes. The males use kasta, dhoti and gamucha and the females use kasta saree. Small children up to the age of 3 to 4 use no cloths. When they grow up they use small gamucha as kaupini.


Pipili Appliqué Work

Appliqué is art, a process of cutting coloured cloth into shapes of animals, birds, flowers leaves gods, goddesses and other decorative motifs and stitching them on a piece of cloth. On one hand, the village showcases the intense involvement of the men, and especially the women, in the applique production. Machine stitching has also caught up with the artisans of this town which is a proud achievement for these workers. But the people of this town are mostly proud of their handcrafted achievements because that is the purest way of keeping their art heritage alive.

The traditional appliqué items are mainly used during processions of the deities in their various ritual outings. Items like umbrella, Tarrasa – a heart-shaped wooden piece covered by appliqué cloth and supported by a long wooden pole and Chandua – an umbrella shaped canopy are usually seen during the processions. Another popular item is a sort of frill which is used as a border to canopies and also independently as a decorative piece.

In modern pipli applique work motifs used consist of stylized representations of flora and fauna as well as a few mythical figures. Of the more common of these motifs are the elephant, parrot, peacock, ducks, creepers, trees, flowers like lotus, jasmine, half-moon, the Sun and Rahu (a mythical demon who devours the sun).

Flat design are first cut from cloth and then superposed on the base cloth in a predetermined layout and sequence. The edges of the motifs are turned in and skillfully stitched onto the base cloth or stitched by embroidery or without turning as necessary. Craftsmen use straight stitch, blind stitch, satin stitch or buttonhole stitch for attaching the pieces of cloth.


Terracotta & Pottery

Pottery is marked as the beginning of civilization. Till now pottery is not only existed but also comes with a newly developed and innovative approach. Terracotta and Pottery is one of the approved craft most in every district. There are more than 10,000 terracotta artisans in the state who are producing traditional, decorative and utility terracotta-based items. Some of the focused terracotta craft pockets are Sonepur, Barapalli, Haldharpur, Nuagaon, Lunukua and Kusumi etc.

Silver Filigree

Odisha’s silver and filigree work particularly are unique examples of artistic excellence rarely to be seen in any other part of India. Silver wires, extremely delicate, are shaped into intricate designs. Forms of animals and birds, articles of daily use like vermilion receptacles are also made out of silver wires- Filigree ornaments, especially brooches and earrings are very popular among Indian women. Cuttack is world-famous for filigree work.

The quality of silver used for making these products is of a high standard and have up to 90 percent of purity. Silver wires are drawn through small holes and then soldered to create an exquisite mesh-like article.

Silver Filigree work can be categorized under many items. Ornamental items like bangles, earrings, necklaces, brooches, pendants are a hot favorite amongst the ladies. Decorative items like temple mold, the cast of snakes and horses, animals and chariots are apt for drawing-room. The utilitarian items mainly consist of bowls, ashtrays, cups, vermillion container etc. Devotional items of silver are also used in the many temples of Odisha.

Horn Works

Odisha Horn Work is mystical and showcases an outstanding fashion design. The lively appearance, animation, and dynamism of the horn articles vie with the genuine objects of nature. In Paralakhemundi, many of the horn works boast of little touches of silver filigree that offer an unusual look to these items.

Paralakhemundi, located in Odisha’s Gajapati district, horn articles of Paralakhemundi showcase the rich cultural heritage of the place.

In Cuttack, the horn and filigree works are blended to create decorative jewels as well as bangles. Several dexterous artisans of Odisha also make articles of daily use such as combs, pen-stands and flower vases using the horn of cattle. It is quite evident that when it comes to

Tribal Jewellery

The tribals of Odisha craft out a lifestyle to the beat of ancient rhythms, in the process of creating amazing works of artistry that touch even the most mundane and utilitarian object of everyday use. Such as stunning Handmade Dhokra ornaments like necklace, bracelets, earrings of great beauty depicting humans in a circle of tight embrace. zinc, copper and tin transformed into the poetry called Dhokra. It is handcrafted by artisans in Odisha using the 5000-year-old lost wax technique. A perfect mix of the old and the new, this jewelry is a modern take on of ancient jewelry. A tribal jewelry piece is a unique piece of accessory to compliment your outfits

Brass and Bell Metal Ware

Brass and bell metal’s fine engraving works you can find in different utensils, bronze bangles and pots are important aspects of Odishan art. Artifacts made of metal, particularly brass, find pride of place in the homes of Odisha. Beautiful lamps and lamp-stands are used during the worship of deities. Rice-measuring bowls made of brass are used in many homes. The artisans also make elephants and horses from brass and decorate them with intricate designs. Containers of brass for betel-chewers are designed both to be useful and ornamental. There are household articles and utensils made out of brass and bell metal and they are of different shapes and sizes. The brassware of Odisha reveals the high workmanship of the artisans and their flair for innovation.

Stone and Wood Carving

Stone and Wood cravings are among the age-old crafts of Odisha. The descendants of the artisans who once scaled the dizzy heights of excellence in temple building have kept the sculptural tradition alive through their hereditary craft of stone carving. The carved products include replicas of temples, images of gods and goddesses, the Konark wheel and horse, and decorative figurines like alasa kanya(the indolent damsel), salabhanjika(lady leaning against a sal branch), surasundari (heavenly. beauty), lekhika(lady writing a letter) etc. which are popular items of household decoration. Wood carvings of Odisha are almost equally popular. They differ from the artifacts of other states in so far as they are plain and shining with smooth polish and without any paint or coating of lacquer work on them.

Golden Grass and Cane Work

The golden grass work in Odisha includes baskets, hand fans and table mats. Floor mats are also woven out of golden grass which is a local product, Today the demand for these goods has increased and this testifies to their beauty, utility and lasting quality. Cane is used for weaving baskets and several items of furniture.

Jhoti, Chita, Muruja

Jhoti chita is a traditional Odia white art mostly shown in rural areas of Odisha. It is made from rice paste and a piece of cloth surrounded by a stick is used to create beautiful patterns. People also use their bare fingers to make jhoti chita. They can be created over walls and on floors. Murja is the dry rice powder or white stone powder that has been utilized on the floor to draw beautiful pictures.


One of the oldest forms of artwork found in Odisha, Pattachitra art is fascinating, depicts Hindu mythological tales and wonders. Primarily based on these stories from the past, Pattachitra art is vibrant, unique and is a fine display of dexterous Indian craftsmanship at its best. This kind of artwork has a traditional appeal and is intrinsic with Indian values, customs and rituals, which are a part and parcel of the Hindu faith and religion. What started off as different forms of paintings has however evolved to become an immense facet of Indian accessories and other forms of traditional fashion as well.

Puppets & Masks

Odisha has a history of folk theatre also known locally as Jatra. The characters of these jatras are made of wood and vividly painted. They are dressed according to the characters played by them and are controlled by strings.

The nomadic performers of Odisha stage play based on the epics and other historical characters. According to the character played they use masks. These masks are made of wood, sholapith, and papier-mache. The wood used is predominantly light driftwood. The masks thus made are then brightly colored. Most artisans for this craft are located in and around Puri.


The Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) is a Government of Odisha undertaking corporation in the Indian state of Odisha.

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Article written by Swati Patali B.Sc in Textile and Apparel Designing from Sir Vithaldas Thackersey College of Home Science. Textile Value Chain intern.

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