Keeping the weaving legacy alive

Most art forms nurtured by generations of a particular family have threatened to die until one person takes up the cause to keep the legacy alive for future generations.

Interestingly, here is a case where families have embraced the art form as a way of life, and their numbers have not diminished, but grown tremendously, signifying a bright and secure future for the art.

Medara Keri, or Medara block as it is called today, is just a few steps away from the Nanjangud Temple, adjacent to the highway that connects Chamarajanagar and Mysore.

The area houses around 100 families that have 300 active hands that are into traditional basket weaving. Bamboo is made into exquisite products by these skilled artisans every day. Fish traps, baskets, ladders and many others are crafted, depending upon the orders they receive.

“Not many of us know any other skill other than basket weaving. We have been doing this since our birth. I was brought up on this,” says weaver Eeranna, who is in his 70s now.

His day, and those of many others like him, starts and ends with weaving. Women, children, and at least four to five members in a family are experts in this art.

Lakshmavva is happy doing this work. She weaves at least three to four baskets every day.

“We get bamboo from wholesale distributors who bring it from Virajpet and other places around Madikeri. We don’t get good bamboo here. The government, which used to supply us earlier, is unable to give us good quality bamboo. You cannot do anything with the material you get locally,” she says.

The weavers have a good barter system going too. They sometimes give finished products in return for bamboo.

Regular wholesale buyers are their fixed customers. “I purchase around 50 to 100 baskets and other products (from them) which I sell in and around the villages of Mysore, Mandya, Srirangapatna and other villages. Here, the demand is good as you find plenty of agrarian families. The demand in urban areas is obviously quite less compared to these areas,” says a lady buyer.

There is no dearth of skilled people here. The number of artisans is ever increasing. The families that were together are split now and the women marrying into these family have added to the growth of the art, says another weaver Rangaswamy.

Education and modernisation are not much of a threat to the art. Many well-educated people are in the field, according to him.

He would like to get his son to join him but his wife is reluctant. She wants her son to get a high ranking job. But Rangaswamy wants someone to carry his name forward and sustain the family occupation alongside pursuing an education.

“Let him study. My father was doing this (weaving), and, now, I. And I need my son to continue the legacy,” says Rangaswamy.

Talking about profit, one of the weavers says: “Nobody would be weaving if there was no profit. The profit depends on the number of orders we get and the work we do.”

“We need to be aware of our limitations. We should not spend Rs 500 when we earn only Rs 50. Expenditures should be in accordance with the earnings,” says Rangaswamy.

He manages to facilitate his children’s education with the money he earns out of weaving. He looks rather happy and content.

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