Bengal’s traditional tant sari is set to go global as weavers from Murshidabad, Nadia, Hooghly and American e-commerce giant Amazon will work together to revive and sell the quintessential fabric abroad. Officials said that Amazon will work with Tantuja, the West Bengal State Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society, for the promotion, marketing and sale of the saris abroad.
According to Swapan Debnath, Minister of State, Handloom and Textiles, “Amazon-United States will sell tant saris. This is a new initiative, which will promote and sell Tantuja’s products in the United States.” He added that with this initiative, Bengal’s tant sari will reach global buyers, helping the traditional fabric to stay alive.
Apart from saris, Tantuja products ranging from cotton skirts, scarves to stoles will also be available on Amazon. “Tantuja is also working on special occasions. For instance, the government will be inviting weavers from Varanasi to come and work with us to produce a line of Benarasi saris. Apart from that, we’ve worked on special sari designs with Durga Puja as a theme. We are very encouraged by the response generated from online sale of tant saris and we hope this takes the saris of Bengal to all corners of the world,” said an official at the secretariat.
Tant was historically made by weavers from across undivided Bengal. Considered to be ideal for the hot and humid weather of Bengal, weavers have faced various challenges in the past five centuries. Challenges ranging from the British attempting to curb weaving practices to strengthen their own industry to the more recent shutdown of Tantuja showrooms across Kolkata in 2010 after running in losses for 25 consecutive years.
Things have, however, changed as the Trinamool Congress is only too happy to point out that the the cooperative had earned a profit of Rs 76.4 crore in 2012-2013 and then Rs 85.48 crore in 2013-14. After tying up with Amazon and Flipkart to sell saris in India, the cooperative began “earning record profits”, said an official. In 2016, Tantuja received the “best turnaround story” award at the Images Retail Awards in Mumbai.
Speaking to The Indian Express, tant weaver from Murshidabad Shaiful Sheikh said, “The problem for the longest time was that weavers were not supported. There was massive corruption at district and village level. We would weave saris, but there were no customers.
“We had no idea about what the customers wanted and our age-old designs were no longer in demand. Many of us left the ancestral profession, choosing instead to work as labour in places like Kerala. But, the trend has been changing in the past few years.”