Saturday, June 22, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Monipuri sarees: A treasure chest of culture

Celebrating Bangladesh’s cultural diversity by recognizing the richness of Monipuri sarees on this Ekushey

Update : 21 Feb 2024, 09:20 AM

Saree wearing is an intricate and colourful display of Bangladesh’s robust culture. Bangladesh has always been the producer of the world's most valued fabrics. If we look into the intricate tapestry of Bangladesh cultural heritage we would find many parts of the country upholding a vibrant thread of tradition through their weaving.

The textile industry has shown progressive development in regaining its regal position with Jamdani and Muslin gaining recognition from UNESCO. The heritage of Jamdani and the world’s appreciation of the artistry of the finest textile sometimes seem to camouflage the wider variety of our textiles, one such is the Manipuri handloom sarees by the ethnic Monipuri tribes of Bangladesh. Monipuri Sarees stand apart with its story of unique culture, artistry and vibrancy. They epitomize the essence of the vibrant Monipuri Community.

The Monipuris are the Meitei people, one of the major ethnic groups of Bangladesh. They migrated to the Sylhet division during the Manipuri-Burma war. The Monipuris have assimilated themselves with the culture of Bangladesh, but still maintain their dialect, cuisine, culture, and tradition. 

The Monipuri women are not limited to household chores, they are born weavers, and they have always had the culture of weaving sarees for themselves. Traditionally, the skilled women in the community are entrusted with weaving. They shoulder the responsibility of preserving and imparting the technical skill to their posterity. Young girls are apprenticed under the elders in their family. Weaving functions as a source of livelihood, artistic expression, and cultural identity for the Monipuri tribe.

These fabrics are often brightly coloured and were more often created for personal use, with a distinctive pattern. They project the vibrancy of our culture. Although it follows the same waft technique of jamdani weaving, the fabric has tiny holes like a mesh as it is woven loosely, making it permeable and light-weighted. The weavers usually use two varieties of yarn for the saris giving it either a coarse or finer texture.

The handcrafted sarees from within the household of the Monipuris are now available in the markets. These sarees often took a back seat as saree-wearing portions of our society were prone to buying Indian sarees. With the advent of digital technology transformation and social media, our modern designers are playing an integral part in popularizing the Monipuri sarees and other products. The designers with profound knowledge of textiles and fashion are generating and reviving this age-old skill. With time, the mesh fabric is turning into finer quality and has undergone a massive transformation as modernity and complexity have also been introduced.

These sarees are summer friendly as they are highly breathable and have low-cost maintenance. The vibrancy in colour and pattern, and comfort of the fabric, makes it a viable option in comparison to our exquisite and high-rocketing jamdani sarees. The sarees are colourful, affordable, comfortable, and can be easily paired with local accessories. It can be worn by all age groups. Above all, these sarees define the diversity of our vibrant culture.

Social media and online entrepreneurs have created a platform for bringing our local products to the general public. The platform is aptly used to set a trend and create awareness for using deshi products, and also refining and promoting the culture at the same time. The government is doing its part and we citizens are promoting deshi products and taking the opportunity to familiarize the world in our own way. Our Bangladeshi diaspora could play a significant role in the promotion of our culture.

The relevant authorities have focused on the revival of the handloom sector as it is aware that it is the biggest source of rural employment after agriculture. It is also a source of women empowerment. The government is arranging training programs for enlisted weavers. 

Despite the government’s initiative, the sector encounters various challenges. Owing to the lack of modernity, many weavers are switching to power looms or different jobs in search of better livelihoods. Some weavers also migrate to neighbouring countries to improve their standard of living and secure stability in their job to keep up their basic standard of living for their families. 

We must embrace our heritage and promote our ethnic culture to the world. As the world joins hands to pledge on the occasion of International Mother Language Day to promote both linguistic and cultural diversity, it is our moral responsibility to promote and enhance our culture.

Shehnaz Rokeb is a teacher by profession. She has a passion for promoting the culture, tradition, and heritage of Bangladesh.

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