The Art of Weaving In Shantipur | Milaap

The Art of Weaving In Shantipur

Shantipur is located in the Nadia district of West Bengal. Apparently, the name is not derived from any individual term but connotes profound peace. Traditionally, it was well known for fabricating hand-woven saris. More importantly, it continues to be the main hub for handloom weaving.

The History

In the 17th century, Santipuri Saree came to fame. This art of weaving further advanced during the rule of Nadia Raj Rudra Roy (1683 to 1694). In addition, the handloom industry flourished in the Mughal era as well. Different products were sent to  Kabul, Turkey, Beluchistan, Iran, and to Greece as well at an optimum cost.   However, the rise of  East India stopped this wheel of success. During the reign of British, the weavers of Shantipur faced immense oppression. Nevertheless, there was a resilient sense of individuality among Shantipur weavers. The weavers’ community unified to oppose the iron grip of the Dadni system of the British East India Company. The fight to gain freedom seemed perpetual, but the declaration of independence gradually introduced many weaving techniques.

The Present Scenario

Hand-woven saris were earlier produced in the same traditional method. The patterns and colors on garments resembled the ones found in the ancient times. However, in the recent times, these adroit weavers in Shantipur have been struggling to survive.  My conversation with two women sheds light on why weavers are now altering their age-old weaving methods.

Champa Roy, a weaver in Shantipur, revealed, “We know that there is a huge demand for handloom fabric. But we don’t even earn half the profits earned by our contractors.”  The weavers in Shantipur are highly skilled, however, they cannot properly endorse their products, hence they have to go the ‘mahajans’.

However, many weavers now switched to the power looms. Champa said, “My son recently, bought a power loom.  He spent Rs 70,000 to purchase the loom.  The power loom can produce three saris in one day.” However, Champa still believes that the quality of handloom sari is better.

Archana Biswas, another weaver, disclosed, “We are now experimenting with innovative techniques. We are trying to make saris that are traditional as well as trendy.  She further added, “I know many weavers, who changed their profession because they couldn’t understand the market demands. They moved out of Shantipur and are now engaged in other jobs. But this change turned out well for me.”


Earlier, at the end of every month, Archana was unable to make any savings. However, now the situation is different. She revealed, "I earn Rs 300 for weaving one sari with a modern motif. Earlier, I used to earn Rs 100- 120 for making one sari."


Many such weavers like Archana, are now shedding their age-old practices, to deal with the contemporary market demands. The weavers left their ‘comfort zone’ in order to satiate the tastes of their urban clientele.