The lone staccato sound of the old loom in the distance tells you that you've approached Sirajganj. And as the distant beats near to a climax, you get to see the sides of the highway lined in brightly-coloured, dyed weaving threads that the village girl is carefully laying down to dry. But most importantly on an early Wednesday morning you'll find villagers, finely dressed in crisp white, pressed panjabis and lungis, buzzing like bees at almost every turn of the road. They are stacking up their weaves in open vans or rickshaws. All you have to do is follow them and you'll find yourself in Shahjadpur, Sirajganj Sari Haat in no time at all.
Shahjadpur Sari Haat is open for business twice a week -- one on Sunday evenings running till late at night, and another that commences at the crack of dawn on Wednesday mornings. This is a very old sari bazaar in operation from before our war of independence.
This industrious, small and medium cottage industry thrives on weaving saris and is one of the important sources of income for this lush green village in Sirajganj, Pabna. The villagers, who have looms in their own backyards, weave these saris and congregate at the bazaar twice a week to vend their trade.
Simple, with no fuss at all, Pabna saris (as they are popularly known) differ from Tangail taant in a way or two. Though the textures of these saris are dense and designs are not as innovative as Tangail weaves, Pabna saris have their own charms. With brightly-coloured single-toned saris with churi borders (multicolour), or thin golden borders, the famous Pabna check saris and gamchas are a few of the attractions of the bazaar. Not to forget the fine cotton lungis that lay piled up at almost every aisle of the dingy bazaar. The Pabna lungis are personal favourites of men who prefer this choice of comfort garb, but for women with the slightest knack for creativity, these lungis are seen as tops, kurtis or even kameezes. In fact, by adding a patch of appliqué here and there or a border or two, a kurti made out of the lungi can be really chic and innovative.
Pabna saris up for sale at this wholesale market are sold in bundles of six or petti as the locals say. The regular, set clients buy the entire collection and in turn sell it at other markets throughout the country. Mostly low-end saris, these Pabna weaves are best for zakat purposes; however, there are high-end Pabna saris like kathans or silks in jacquards work as well.
Once you come out of the bazaar and head towards the village you'll find that almost every household has a loom and almost every member of the house is engaged in the trade in some manner or the other. Some are spinning threads, some dyeing it, some are drying it and some are printing designs on big rolls of threads ready for weaving, while others are actually weaving a sari. All sorts of activities related to the process of making a sari go on in each household of the village, adding a different tone of colour to the entire scenario, lending a vibrant, energetic mood to an otherwise mundane village.
This particular cottage industry, like all other sectors in Bangladesh, needs a financial boost to attract the next generation of weavers to actually invest their time and skill in it. Younger people of the village find weaving a less attractive career path and are ready to try their luck at other trades, putting their ancestral business at stake.
However, this uncertain picture of the future doesn't dampen the present much because there are plenty of happy weavers at the haat who find the trade still profitable.
While you are there you must visit the Shahjadpur Kuthibari adjoining the haat. Shahjadpur is emotionally connected with the fond memory of the Nobel-laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore, who used to stay here in connection with the administration of his father's zamindari. He wrote a lot of verses while living here. His Kuthibari (revenue office) still stands as does Shilaidaha in Kushtia. And on the way back, don't forget to stop by Aristocrat, a highway restaurant near the Jamuna Bridge for a plate of beef bhuna and hot parathas with a cup of sweet tea, of course the latte.
By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo:Sazzad Ibne Sayed