Silk craft battling extinction

Weave story

Silk craft battling extinction

It was a revelation of sorts. The saree I wore recently to a function, thinking it was Pochampalli, was termed Puttapaka by a friend who’s travelled far and wide. Hearing the name Puttapaka for the very first time, I wanted to know more about this brand of saree. Piqued by curiosity, I researched on Puttapaka, and what I learnt about it only made me want to visit the place where it all began.

Located just 80 km from Hyderabad, Puttapaka, a small hamlet in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh, is home to a community of weavers more popularly known as Puttapaka Padmashalis. This rural community, which has been in the craft of interweaving reams of pure silk from handmade looms for over 300 years now, is outshone by its neighbouring weaving community from Pochampalli, owing to its lack of marketing skills. Net result is that brand Pochampalli enjoys wide popularity and Puttapaka sarees, though superior in quality in terms of weaves, richness and designs, get sold under the Pochampalli brand name.

No wonder, many Puttapaka weavers have now decided to bid goodbye to their family profession. According to Sriramulu, an octogenarian, who was a master weaver in his younger days, “A Puttapaka saree, picked up by bulk buyers for Rs 1,500, is sold at Rs 4,000 or more with the Pochampalli label stuck to it. This is disheartening. Hence, most of our community’s children have moved on to other lucrative professions as there’s neither recognition nor money left in this profession.”

These patterned sarees have their origin in Telia rumaals (scarves) that Puttapaka weaving community would make and export to Arab countries. Once the demand for these rumaals declined, they were forced to look for alternatives, and thus the weaving of silk sarees began.

The unique colour combinations and intricate designs of these sarees make one wonder if it’s the work of artistes. Sriramulu laughs it off by saying, “It is our love for nature and an eye for patterns that guide us in our designs. We create the designs on paper and try out various colour combinations before finalising a design.”

Though a sizeable section of the community has left the village, there are still around 400 families clutching on to silk-weaving. For, they know no other means of survival.

It was sad to note that the breathtaking sarees from Puttapaka held so many sad stories within them. So, the next time you buy a Pochampalli saree, make sure you’re buying the one from Puttapaka. It’ll be our way of encouraging Puttapaka weavers.

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