Sambalpuri Saree, Barpali, and Chicago

November 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm 2 comments

The following are excerpts from an article published in the

It was May 2008; scorching tropical summer in India. It was a festive time in the little town Barpali for Sitalsasthi, the annual wedding ceremony of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati. One morning in the market I met a fair-skinned young man whom I asked, “Are you a Nepali?” He said, “No, I am Charlie from Chicago.” I wanted to know, if he was a tourist and had come to witness the Sitalsasthi. He said, “My wife Jillian is learning ikat (tie and dye) at Kusanpuri.” To ease things up a bit, I asked how far would Chicago be from Kusanpuri. He said, “Are you mad?” That single question of mine grabbed all his attention. I enquired if he had met any of the Sambalpuri cloth weavers at Barpali. He said it had been just a few days since he reached Barpali and had not found time to visit the weavers.

I was able to judge their limitations on exploring the neighbourhood. They were not familiar with the local language. On the other hand, the weavers were conversant only in Oriya. This made communication between the tourists and the weavers near impossible. I took it up as my duty and every evening guided the foreigners to different master weavers. Whenever we entered any cloth store, we were greeted with a smile and offered chairs to sit. This was followed by tea and other delicacies. It was amazing to receive such attention and care. However, the irony was that the hospitality was offered only when there were foreigners.

While checking Sambalpuri sarees, Jillian took an interest to the different designs, motifs and patterns on the cloth and wanted to know more about them. The more the sales boy tried to explain, the more disillusioned he and the tourists got. The duo turned to me for solace.

I started interpreting sankha (shell); chakra (wheel); phulla (flower) and so on. Jillian started to appreciate the art and my ability to explain. “Wow, wow”. Earlier to this, Jillian was also pleased to have barra pukdi as it was a change from the pizzas she was used to back in the US. I also taught them the best expression for appreciating Oriya food — a buaa.

When the shopkeeper returned to take out the next saree, Jillian blurted out “a buaa”. With this expression of hers, the shopkeeper got surprised and looked at me; I looked at her.

 Every evening  during her stay over there Jillian would return from Kusanpuri and Charlie would join us at my store. One evening while we were talking about their life in US, Jillian started getting hiccups. While I kept them busy with my talk, I lifted my right-hand and struck on her head without a precaution. At one go Jillian got shocked and looked at her husband Charlie. Charlie got angry. “How could you hit my wife?” As a husband it was his duty to safeguard his wife. He patted his wife asking, “are you alright?” She had no words for a while. For about 10 seconds I kept quite, then started smiling. “This fellow has gone mad,” Charlie remarked. “If you have noticed, your hiccups have gone,” I told the couple. “This is how we in India treat the involuntary contraction of the diaphragm while the glottis is spasmodically closed. I didn’t hit her head, rather, I suppressed the hiccup.”

Entry filed under: Arts and Crafts, Ikat and Sambalpuri Saree.

Research on Dalkhai, Rasarkeli, Bhamara, Nialmalli, Jaiphula and others Handloom products like Sambalpuri tie and dye, Bomakei of Sonepur, Pasapalli of Bargarh and Habbas of Kalahandi to get GI registration

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1.  |  January 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    The article published above is incomplete. It was published by on 1st Oct ’09. To know and understand the Koshali culture one should read the last para from the above site. Search for “a buaa” in Google Search.

    In Sambalpuri “a buaa” is an expresson of surprise. HAPPY READING to all those who wants to understand my Koshali culture.

    From the Writer’s desk
    E.Kiran Moh

    • 2. sanjibkarmee  |  January 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks!!! I updated the article.


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