The faintly fragrant silk ‘Balaposh’ quilt which also double as elegant shawl is an example of the fine craftsmanship of Bengal. This soft quilt is made of three layers. A thin layer of cotton perfumed with attar snuggles between two blankets of silk. Today, the art of Balaposh making is a closely guarded secret and the legacy is carried forward by only one artisan left in this trade.
Unsurpassable in terms of dexterity and aesthetics, the intriguing quality that distinguishes the balaposh from other quilts is the fact that though it is stitched only at the edges, the cotton wool within does not lump up. The borders of the balaposh are usually ornamental and done in contrasting colours. What sets it apart also is its characteristic softness and sublime fragrance that wafts through its quilted layers when it is unfolded.
The story of its origin dates back to the 18th century when on one chilly winter night, Nawab Sujauddin the ruler of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, looked for a quilt that would be “soft like wool, warm like a lap, and gentle like a flower”. This was indeed a tall order and none of the craftsman of the region was geared up for the challenge, till one Atir Khan vowed to create an exclusive piece that followed the King’s specification and was quilted to perfection. Thus was born Balaposh- the finest quilts that were in its initial years reserved only for the Nawabs of Bengal.
The one craftsman today who preserves the secrets of the balaposh is Sekhawat Hussain Khan, the great-grandson of Atir Khan.