Wednesday 27 September 2023

Bomkai Saree - GI Handloom of Odisha

Bomkai is an exclusive handloom product of Odisha.

"Bomkai Saree & Fabrics" have the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

Bomkai Saree- Source: Utkalamrita

The Saree's name is Bomkai as it has originated in the Bomkai village of Ganjam district of Odisha.

However, now Bomkai Sarees are being mostly handwoven in the Sonepur district of Odisha.

Thus, they are being called "Sonepuri" Sarees.

However, the traditional Ganjam Bomkai Sarees look very different from the Sonepuri Bomkai ones.

Many are using the name "Sambalpuri" or "Bomkai" for sarees that are not of those types!

Why should the word Bomkai be used in the name of Saree when the Saree has Bandha Kala (tie-and-dye weaving) i.e. Ikat work entirely on body?

Using some popular words for goods of other types causes misrepresentation and confusion and is actually infringement.

This particular blog (The Explorer of Miracles) has many posts where such misinformation has been and is being repeatedly pointed out viz. Finance Minister, Madam Nirmala Sitharaman's Budget Sarees.

Many are unable to identify and correctly represent handloom sarees, that includes many leading designers and sellers online!

What will the buyers learn?

News media has been sharing wrong information over the years.

What will the readers & viewers learn? 

Consider this latest new report about Bomkai Saree in Times of India (TOI) report published four days ago-

The heading- "All About Bomkai Sari : A Timeless Treasure" looks so promising. It is true that this Bomkai saree, like other handlooms of India, too is a treasure.

After all, GIs are "invaluable treasures of incredible India."

However, the information given is incorrect and one image shared in the report too is not Bomkai.

It was a revelation to read the varieties of Bomkai Sarees with no mention about the Ganjam Bomkai in the given list! (I am not sharing the names of the 4 so-called types of Bomkai given in the list so as not to spread the misinformation further.) The TOI report mostly focuses on the Sonepuri Sarees.

As per Handloom expert and designer, Shri Prafulla Meher, 

"Bomkai Sarees are of 2 types- 

1) Original - produced in Ganjam, and 

2) Contemporary - produced in Sonepur & Boudh

There has been fusion. But names like 'Pasapalli Bomkai, Barpali Bomkai, Saktapar Bomkai' etc are not used."

After reading the same TOI report about Bomkai Sarees, Shri Surendra Kumar Patra, the ex-Deputy Director, Weavers Service Centre, Govt of Odisha, shared the following points in our Odisha GI group regarding the misreporting of Bomkai Sarees by TOI:

"This article has many misleading information such as-

1. It is not a fact that it dates back to 8th Century; in fact it was developed during 1980-1984. Some old cotton sarees were collected from the house of Hon'ble Speaker Shri Chintamani Sir of Bomakai village by Weavers Service Center (WSC), Bhubaneswar, an organization under the Ministry of Textiles, and new designs were prepared and some sarees were developed. Name was given as Bomakai Saree. 

2. Then, contemporary Bomakai Sarees were developed at Sonepur but it has no relation with original design except the name for commercial purposes. During the first phase of development, weaver late Chakrapani Patra was awarded National Award.

3. It has an extra weft woven technique and has no relation with Ikat technique.

4. It has no relation with Bhanjas."

Wrong information in leading media is a matter of huge concern as such information is referred and shared by researchers and those interested to share. Future works like articles and books also present the same incorrect information and and further spread misinformation and create wrong impressions.

What to do when trustworthy sources like GI documents and journals also have misinformation?

That is why it is so important to present right information in GI documents while filing.

Some Sarees have both Bomkai as well as Sambalpuri Bandha work.

In that case, as per weavers and handloom experts like Shri S.K. Patra & Shri Prafulla Meher, the Saree's name should be called by whichever work is higher and most widely seen on the body.

For example, if the Saree has Bomkai work all over on body and Pasapali/Sambalpuri Bandha border, then the name of the Saree should be Bomkai Saree. Of course, the name of the border or work on the aanchal can be mentioned in the name as well.

We cannot call such a Saree as Sambalpuri (with no mention of Bomkai)!

Earlier, I have had several discussions with late Devaraja Sahu of Boyanika, Odisha, about such handloom identification and representation issues.

Whenever we are unsure, we should ask the experts and then share. For special cases, we should take the experts opinion even when we are sure e.g. Saree worn by famous personalities. For example, I still ask the experts view even though I know the Saree name.

Sharing some images of "Bomkai Saree" search results from Google today-

Are all images shown above on the first page of Google search-results BOMKAI?

Are all the above 3 sarees shown in the above image BOMKAI Sarees? 
Do you know the real name of the above 3 Sarees?

Note- This is just a simple Google search and that too from the first page of search-results!

Imagine what misinformation is waiting to be discovered! 

What is truly disheartening is to find fake products- printed sarees copying traditional motifs/designs and also other inferior cheaper goods made of Mixed-not pure, Polyester and "Papa Silk" being sold as real silk and as handlooms.

Have you seen fake Bomkai sarees?

Recently, I saw a senior teacher wearing one of those duplicate Sarees during Ganesh Puja.

I immediately called her up and asked her if she was aware of what she was wearing. I was happy to learn that she knew that the new saree she had worn was not a real Bomkai saree. But, it was a gift from her young students. While gifting her a parcel the previous day, the girls had taken her word that Madam will use it for Ganesh Puja the next day. She did not even know what was inside the parcel! When she opened it, she got to learn and immediately recognized that it was not a real Bomkai. However, as she had promised her students, she obliged by wearing and sharing images on social media.

After receiving my call, teacher shared her story with me and complimented me that I could know from the image itself!

She took it positively and understood my genuine concern and intention.

This is in contrast to the behaviour received from many. Many get offended to be "corrected" and become defensive saying- "all are not experts like you!"

Some people continue to take pains to make corrections to ensure correct representation.

How many of us, "waste time and effort" doing this?

Requesting buyers to take care and support weavers and real producer-groups and authorised sellers, who have the genuine products and the right information. Producers know their products best.

More here-

YES to Geographical Indications. NO to Fake Products.

Did you know about Bomkai Sarees? Please share your comments below.

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