Rajshahi silk remains a highly prized cloth in the modern era even though it first emerged thousands of years ago.
Silk is called the queen of fabric. In the Mughal era, Rajshahi’s silk industry was very prominent. However, with time, it was forgotten. In the past few years, the industry was struggling. But now the silk industry of Rajshahi is seeing good business prospects, fuelled by attractive designs.
Among silk products, Rajshahi silk sarees boast a place of pride in Bangladesh, just like muslin and jamdani. Bangladeshi silk products have always been very famous all over the world. Now, colourful and gorgeous silk panjabis and salwar kameezes with artistic designs are attracting more and more customers.
Silk manufacturers like Sopura Silk, Usha Silk, Rajshahi Silk Fashion, Amena Silk and Mohananda Silk are now drawing potential buyers with their attractive designs. Since time immemorial, they have been using dresses made from this soft and luxurious fabric on special occasions.
Woven and designed by local artisans with new designs, the fabrics are now gaining high demand from among the customers.
Varieties of silk clothing like bolaka karchupi, sui-suta katan, koti silk, joyashri, silk katan, water katan, jamdani katan, borkatan, dupiana and jhorna katan are drawing potential buyers like magnets.
As demand increases during festivals, products made of Rajshahi silk, especially sarees and panjabis, become very much coveted. “Now people in our country purchase sophisticated and luxurious gifts and opt for silk products like sarees or panjabis,” said Ashraf Ali, director of Sopura Silk.
He also said renowned boutique shops purchase silk fabrics to make products that help their businesses flourish.
Sopura Silk has two showrooms in the capital’s Gulshan and Dhanmondi. Their silk sarees are in high demand, with prices ranging from Tk. 2,000 to Tk. 12,000, while panjabis range from Tk. 3,000 to Tk. 6,000 as their products are made of pure silk, he added.
A salesperson of Kori Silk’s showroom in the capital’s Dhanmondi area said silk saris were in high demand, with prices ranging from Tk. 3,500 to Tk. 15,000. On the other hand, panjabis at Usha Silk were being sold at Tk. 1,900 to Tk. 6,500 per piece.
Aarong, one of the retail chains in Bangladesh operating under BRAC, sources silk from Rajshahi and then weaves beautiful clothing and home decor items with the help of the silk weaving artisans of Bangladesh.
“But silk businessmen are facing an acute shortage of raw materials because exporter countries like India and China want to sell us their finished products instead of raw materials. Besides, they have increased the supply rate of the products,” Ashraf Ali added.
Bangladesh will not get raw materials from China and India after five years because of the growing demand in these countries, he added. He requested the government to take steps to sustain the silk industry.
Bangladesh Reshom Shilpa Owners’ Association president Liakat Ali said the government should come forward to save the silk industry of the country as it has huge prospects.
He added, “It is only possible to save the silk industry of the country by spreading silk farming among marginal farmers at the grassroots level.”
He said, “Normally, silk worth Tk. 1 to Tk. 1.5 crore is sold a month but goods more than Tk. 7 crore have been sold this month, thanks to the growing demand for the product in the country. It is possible to do well in this industry and earn more currency through planned cultivation by the government.”
The potential of silk production in Bangladesh remained unrealised till the end of the last century. Production declined dramatically over 1995 as a result of further decrease in tariffs on imported silk, followed by devastating floods in 1998, while the sericulture industry in Bangladesh largely became stagnant. Private organisations continued producing silk merchandise, but largely depended on more reliable imported silk. In 1998, the government established the Silk Development Project (SDP), within which the Bangladesh Silk Foundation (BSF) was created, to revive the silk sub-sector once again into a forward-looking industry.