History and significance of Bhagalpuri silk

India silks are renowned across the world for their richness, elegance and unique workmanship. One such opulent silks are the Bhagalpuri silks. Bhagalpur which is popularly known as the “silk city” of India is a town with historical importance, situated on the banks of the holy river Ganga in the state of Bihar, India. The silk which is produced here is famously known as Bhagalpuri silk or Tussar silk. Bhagalpur has numerous mulberry orchards. Nathnagar, Hussainabad, Champa nagar and Kharik bazaar are the four main clusters where Bhagalpuri silk is produced. Bhagalpuri silk sarees are one of the oldest forms of artwork in India. This town has a history of skilled craftsmen who have excelled at weaving these exclusive silk sarees. Bhagalpur was once considered as the biggest trade centers of Eastern India.

The history of these sarees dates back to more than 200 years when these sarees were exclusively made for the aristocratic class of the society. Recently Bhagalpuri silks have been put under the limelight for their high quality and precision of weaves. Nowadays, many designers work with these luxurious fabrics by adding a contemporary twist to these age old beauties. The silk produced here is exported globally. Bhagalpur cluster ranks the second highest next to Karnataka in the production and export of silk and thus it is rightly named as the silk city of India. It is a hub for weavers of hand loom sarees.

Bhagalpuri silk saree

Bhagalpur boasts of over 35,000 weavers and around 25,000 looms. The entire family would be involved in the weaving process. It has a business of over 100 crores per annum with 50% comprising of domestic and the other 50% from the export market. Around one lac people are involved in the process of separating silk from the cocoons to spinning the yarn and weaving the cloth. Bhagalpuri silks are also famously known as” peace silk” because of the non-violent method of silk weaving that is used here. It is one of the rarest methods used wherein the silk worms are not harmed. Silk fabrics produced here are exported to countries like Europe, West Asia, U.S and Japan. The industry makes approximately two million meters of silk each year.

Process of silk rearing, dyeing and weaving

The silk which is used for making Bhagalpuri sarees are obtained from the silk worms belonging to the moth genus which feed on the leaves of the Arjuna trees. Once they grow and reach a particular stage they start forming cocoons all over them. 40% of their bodies contain larvae from which silk threads will be yielded. These trees on which the silk worms live and feed are constantly cut and kept short as these silk worms have a tendency to move in the upward direction and if they go up they are more likely to become prey and get eaten resulting in less silk production. After the cocoons are collected they are taken for silk production. Firstly the cocoons are tested for any type of allergy or irritants and are boiled in water. This process helps to loosen up the threads. Next step is the pre weaving. This work is usually done by women. During the earlier days, threads were manually rubbed on the thighs for reeling. Nowadays, with the advancement in technology machines are used in the process of reeling.

silk worms and cocoons from which silk is reared

The threads are then sent for the dyeing process. Initially natural dyes extracted from vegetables and flowers were used to dye the threads which have been replaced by chemical dyes. Bhagalpuri sarees are dyed in vibrant colours like red, brick, orange, yellow, blue and green making them suitable for traditional occasions. Finally these dyed yarns are fixed onto the looms for the weaving process and we get the final product.

Interesting features of Bhagalpuri sarees

The silk used in the making of these sarees are also referred to as “wild silk” as the silk threads are obtained from the cocoons of silk worms that live in the forest and so these sarees have a unique coarse texture when compared to the other fine silk varieties. The designs on a Bhagalpuri saree are largely inspired by the Mughal era hence we can find elements of nature like intertwining floral and foliate patterns being incorporated in the weaves of the sarees.

Bhagalpuri saree inspired by Mughal art


Some of the varieties of Bhagalpuri silk are Katia, Giccha, Eri, Mulberry and Tussar silk.


To maintain the luster, texture and colour of the fabric, it is always best to dry-clean the Bhagalpuri silk sarees. Store the sarees in dry air tight boxes , wrapped in translucent paper, so that the moisture does not tamper the saree.


These sarees are appropriate to be worn for traditional events, festivals, formal occasions and religious ceremonies.


Ethnic jewelry would be appropriate to team up with these silk sarees. Traditional gold or silver jewelry embellished with colorful gemstones that match or contrast with the outfit will give you a royal look.

Other uses

With evolving trends and the interest to experiment with fabrics, these silks are nowadays not only used to make sarees but also used in making suits , upholstery, curtains, cushion covers and bed covers too.


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