Iswar Meher, a perfectionist of Sambalpuri Handloom

It took him three months to design and weave a Sambalpuri saree which he named ‘Brukshya Debata’ utilising natural colours. The intricately designed saree speaks about the importance of trees in maintaining ecological balance.

Apart from the design of different varieties of trees, Lord Brahma, Lord Bishnu and Lord Shiva have been portrayed meditating under the trees of banyan, peepal and rudrakshya respectively on the saree. And the saree with natural colours of black and brown has fetched him `1.2 lakh. The saree has been weaved by 53-year-old master craftsman Iswar Meher of Katapali village, 8 km from Bargarh town. He is known for his craftsmanship of Sambalpuri saree and registered as a master weaver under Sambalpuri Bastralaya Handloom Cooperative Society Limited.

Iswar is a perfectionist in Bandha Kala (tie and dye), which is core to Sambalpuri handloom products. This has helped him carve a niche in designing and weaving sarees and dress materials. Having dropped out after Class-III, Iswar learnt the nuances of weaving at an early age from his paternal uncle Kunja Bihari Meher and started weaving independently at the age of 12. He has created a number of designs using both traditional and theme-based motifs and recreated them successfully on yarn.

“I have produced more than 2,500 saree designs in Sambalpuri Ikat besides many designs for dress materials. Of the 2,500 saree designs, around 300 are intricately designed,” he says.“I have designed many sarees based on different plants and trees. ‘Brukshya Debata’ based on trees is one of my best creations,” he says. The price of sarees woven by Iswar ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1.2 lakh.

Iswar won the national award instituted by Ministry of Textiles in 2006 for his craftsmanship in making ‘Bahana Cotton Saree’. The design of the saree is based on different ‘Bahana’ (animal vehicle) of Hindu God and Goddesses.

Prior to this, he had received the ‘Best Weaver of the Year-2005’ by Sambalpuri Bastralaya.
Iswar has also provided guidance to 1,040 semi-skilled weavers and honed their weaving skills to help them economically. At present, he is busy creating another masterpiece saree ‘Subhra Bastra’, which is based on sloka pertaining to Goddess Saraswati, to enable him to apply for the prestigious Sant Kabir award.

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