The Handloom Talk


When I say Sari; it’s a subject I’m referring to! If ever a word could weigh with mythology, history, heritage, geography and economics, it is ‘Sari’. This 5.5 metres fabric narrates a legacy of a civilization in the most elegant and beautiful way possible.

Handloom is the soul of this ageless tradition which showcases India’s heritage textile; from the first lady PM of independent India to colossal nuptial affairs, handloom sari has always perched on high standards of dressing thereby personifying grace and poise like none other. This long stretch of cloth that is not just a canvas of culture but also an eminent bridge to peek into the artists, weavers and craftsmen engrossed in this phenomenal skill. Sahyadri, a niche documentary director carries a notion about elitifying this fine Indian textile art and the associated artists.

“We don’t even know how many different types of silks any one particular Deccan patch produces, but how crisply we ooze our knowledge about Zara or Louis Vuitton!! That’s what should be changed. Indian handlooms can revolutionize the face of textiles in contemporary age and a lot is happening on the same trajectory. Handloom is a humongous subject, Sambalpuri in Orissa to Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, Chanderi amidst cluster of stupas and temples in Madhya Pradesh, Kota Doriya in Rajasthan, Banarasi in Varanasi, Kuthumpully in Kerela and so many more within states are evident enough to reflect the enormity of this costume custom. Truth however is, the weaver including his generations and family, who have been crafting these masterpieces never get one for themselves. This indicates the state of this timeless tradition. I remember, at one Dastkar bazaar, someone asked an 80-year-old Manipuri woman wearing a handloom if she wasn’t feeling cold. She replied that she’d spun that out of her own hands; her mother and sisters have woven it. Her mother learnt it from hers and latter from hers. How can the warmth of so many hands of so many generations let her be cold?

 Mentioning statistics,  Fabindia consumes 11.2 million metres of handloom fabric a year, 10 lakh metres a month at a total value of Rs. 112 crore. It generates 100,000 man-days of employment and creates over 86,000 jobs, compared to 34 jobs for 24 lakh metres in the mill sector. There are an estimated 20 million handloom workers (this includes pre-loom and post-loom processes), compared to three million in the IT industry. Globally too, as understanding of the eco-friendly attributes and design virtuosity of handweaves grows, more buyers are looking to India. Besides, handlooms have a low carbon footprint, as they require minimum infrastructure, technology and power.

The handloom creates distinctive weaves and designs that no powerloom can replicate. As one person who signed the online petition wrote, “Handloom is like wearing your culture, why would we want to let go of that?”

Shirish, a photojournalist by profession and passion laments about the plight of artisans and craftsmen in the country but also has factual insights of growing demand and improving conditions since past five years. “With the e commerce evolution and online luxury retail getting in vogue, there are lot of platforms which have changed the fabric pie setting a new age for the textile industry. To name a few, iTokri, Raw Mango, Jaypore, Anokhi, Dastakar and similar sorts are creating a meticulous evolution in this fantastic world that weaves art and skill at such an ease. These platforms are reviving our textile glory with a dash of flamboyance and authenticity for the consumers and artisans as well. What a surgeon and engineer deserves, so deserves the artisan who masters an art of keeping the heritage and culture of the country alive with its roots intact!”

The intricately weaved motifs over the large frames of loom clack- clacking, shuttling back and forth is a mesmeric rhythm that has the sound of time. Elaboration of intricacies and finesse imparts a rich and exquisite look and finish to silks. It’s a kind of tactile version of heritage that is being woven in nooks and corners of this nation. While Banarasi stands out for its use of fine gold and silver filaments woven into the fabric over delicate running florals and motifs primarily inspired by Mughal designs; Munga is blessed to have a natural golden tinge which gets ornaments of butis and air light, yet sheer sophisticated ones from Chanderi embrace you classically meanwhile when ethnicity goes royal it is called Kanjeevaram with its patent premium quality silk of heavy texture and peacock or parrot motifs and next is vibrantly flaring Bandhnis from Gujrat reaching out to delicately embroidered Kanthas of Bengal sprawling that comprehensive pallu to the temple borders of Konard of Tamil Nadu characterized by motifs inspired by wedding rituals like elephants peacocks which symbolize fecundity and fertility. This narrative is an extensive affair and has so much woven in itself that makes it not a way of dressing but a way of life in India.  Sari being the queen of Indian wardrobe, Handloom is kingly instilling pride to each one of them.


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