There is an interesting legend behind the name of this town. Translated into Kannada, Molkalmuru means ‘broken knees’. The story runs that during a battle between the native Indians and the British, many British soldiers suffered from broken knees because of the rocky and hilly terrain in the town’s surroundings.
The Nunkemale Siddeshwara temple is a famous temple in the region and once in three years, a jaathre is held in the town. Another jaathre is held every year on the Nunkemalle hill for three days and people from the surrounding villages throng the fair.
The Sri Rama temple is another famous temple in this region. Every year, the Ramnavami festival is celebrated here with great pomp and splendour. It also has a large reservoir and a huge rock which is popularly known as kugo bande or the rock that screams. Here, tourists can hear echoes of their voices. The sithaphala fruits (custard apples) that grow in these hillocks are immensely delicious.
Traditional and modern
However, Molakalmuru is best known for its hand-woven silk sarees of exquisite design and craftsmanship. Weaving is a major occupation of the people in this region.
Molakalmuru sarees have prints of fruits, animals and birds on them. It is said that Nalvadi Krishnarajendra Wodeyar appreciated the finesse of these sarees during his visit to the place during 1914. The beautiful floral designs and the rich pallu make these sarees attractive and gorgeous. The long border sarees have a contrast border and the traditional touch is their speciality. The small or narrow border sarees are popular, and are woven with peacock, mango, bugudi and chakra border designs. The peacock border saree is made from pure mulberry silk and this design is a replica of the Maharaja peacock design.
Sarees with multicolour checks are of Molakalmuru origin and have a contrast border. These sarees are woven under three shuttle looms. Sarees with the abstract temple motif is the speciality of Molakalmuru silk weavers. The border of the saree interlocks with the shell saree to give a temple design. Temple border sarees are woven with plain pallu and have a contrast colour combination. Butta sarees, of Molakalmuru origin, are woven under dobby looms and have a melange of both traditional and computer designs. The buttas are there on both sides of the border. There are also double border sarees which are available in two contrast colours. One is a silk brocade saree with jari that makes it a beautiful wedding saree. Designer sarees with ethnic multi-design and different colour combinations may take nearly 40 days to weave.
Mohan Vanjre, Secretary of Molakalmuru Town Silk and Handloom Weavers’ Co-operative Society says, “There are seven co-operative societies in Molakalmuru that have provided employment to nearly 1,000 people. There are two more cooperative societies in Kondlahalli, which is 18 km from Molakalmuru.”
There is a demand for these sarees in Bangalore, Mysore, Shimoga, Gulbarga, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. These sarees have also been sent to the US and Australia. “The demand for sarees has come down. In the past, top retailers in Bangalore were known to come to Molakalmuru to buy sarees. But now, we have to go to them,” adds Vanjre.
Nevertheless, Molakalmuru sarees continue to be popular. Today computer-aided designs (CAD) designs are blended with traditional motifs before they are supplied to boutiques.