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Sambalpuri sarees are known for their incorporation of traditional motifs like shankha (shell), chakra (wheel), phula (flower), all of which have deep symbolism, but the highpoint of these sarees is the traditional craftsmanship of the 'Bandhakala', the Tie-dye art reflected in their intricate weaves, also known as Sambalpuri "Ikkat". In this technique, the threads are first tie-dyed and later woven into a fabric, with the entire process taking many weeks. These Sambalpuri sarees first became popular outside the state when the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi started wearing them. In the 1980s and 1990s they became popular across India.
Sambalpuri fabrics reflect an original style of craft known as Baandha. Traditionally, craftsmen created Baandhas with images of flora or fauna or with geometrical patterns. New types of Baandha depicting portrait, landscape and flower pods are being designed on Sambalpuri Sarees. Baandha fabric is created using a tie-dye technique. The yarns are tied according to the desired patterns to prevent absorption of dyes, and then dyed. The yarns or set of yarns so produced is called 'Baandha'. The unique feature of this form of designing is that the designs are reflected almost identically on both side of the fabric.Once the frabic is dyed it can never be belached in to other colour. This versatile technique enables a craftsman to weave colourful designs, patterns and images into a fabric capable of inspiring a thought or conveying a message. Thus Baandha can be defined as "A length of systematically arranged yarn, dyed according to a preconceived design in such a manner so as to enable a weaver to portray the design when the yarn is converted to a fabric through the process of weaving". It is believed that this art migrated to Western Odisha along with the Bhulia community who fled Northern India in the year 1192 AD after the fall of the Chouhan empire at the hands of the Mughals. Since then and up to the year 1925 it flourished in Western Odisha in a limited number of designs and in vegetable colours and consisted mostly of saris used by the womenfolk of the Odisha. These saris were known as 'Bhulia-Kapta'. The demand was limited, distress sale was common and the craftsmen lived in penury