The term “tant” refers to the handlooms in Bengal that are used to weave cotton sarees along with dhotis and other garments. The earliest record of handloom saree weaving in Bengal can be traced back to the 15th century in Shantipur (in the Nadia district of West Bengal). The art continued to flourish during the Mughal rule (16th – 18th centuries), when it received extensive royal patronage along with muslin and Jamdani weaving. The Tant saris became quite famous during the period when the Mughals used to reign in India. British government tried to destroy this art to protect the textile industry of Manchester. The British people tried hard to ruin the Tant sari business in India but history bears witness to the fact that they did not succeed in their endeavors.
While the fine muslins adorned the royal class, cotton sarees or Tant sarees were used for draping by the common folks. This weaving tradition continued during the British rule and the decades prior to independence witnessed an inflow of modern weaving techniques in Shantipur such as improvements in the handloom and introduction of the jacquard loom that is still used today. After the partition of Bengal in 1947, many Hindu weavers from Bangladesh migrated to India and were rehabilitated in West Bengal. Fulia (or Phulia), a town neighboring Shantipur, became a new home for these weavers from Tangail (of Bangladesh), who brought with them the weaving traditions of their ancestral land. Other migrating weavers were settled in the Hooghly and Burdwan districts of West Bengal. Over the years, each of these regions developed their own style of weaving and today, they are the homes of the most well-known varieties of Tant sarees.
Over the years, through cultural and artistic intercourse, the Fulia weavers integrated their craft with the Shantipur style and developed their own version of the original Dhakai Jamdani, called the ‘Fulia Tangail’.
Tant sarees can be classified based on the region where they are woven, or the motifs depicted on the sarees. The major regions of Tant production in West Bengal today are:
Fulia and Shantipur Tangail (in Nadia)
Combining the weaving styles of the original Shantipur weavers and the migrant weavers from Tangail who settled in Fulia, this region has developed the “Fulia Tangail” style of weaving and produces among the best quality Tant sarees today. These Tant sarees are soft and fine in texture, come in vibrant colors and have large, intricately woven motifs.
How does one recognize a Fulia Tant saree? These sarees do not carry Jamdani-like motifs. Their texture is coarse to look at but very fine, soft to touch because of the hand-woven characteristic. They are usually plain and available in earthy colors. The idea behind the Fulia is to let the fine fabric, the weave and the texture speak, hence the minimalistic style. A border, a few stripes or a smattering of a block print is all you get to see on a Fulia saree.
Dhaniakhali (or Dhonekhali in Hooghly)
Tant sarees from this region are of good quality, mainly come in pastel shades and have striped patterns and fewer motifs.
Begampur (in Hooghly)
Begampur specializes in loosely woven, light-weight and translucent sarees in deep, bright colors.
Kalna (in Burdwan)
Tant from this region are based on the Tangail style of weaving.
Atpur (in Hooghly)
This town was known for producing coarser sarees and dhotis for everyday wear. The term “Atpoure” which means “common wear” denotes the Bengali style of wearing sarees which used to be the traditional way of draping for women of this region.
Muslin cotton sarees
Muslins are the finest variety of Bengal cotton sarees. The fabric of the muslin sarees is so fine that it is almost transparent, ultra-light, exotic to behold, and is considered to be the ultimate in luxury. Delicate designs using the Jamdani weaving technique further add to the subtle splendor of these sarees. The price of muslin sarees depends on the fineness of the fabric and the intricacy of the woven designs. They range from several thousand to even upwards of 1 lakh rupees
is one of the brightest and lightest pride of North East India. The fabric is extremely breathable and soft to touch and thus taken as one of the best fabrics in the market.