Spellbinding weaves

Spellbinding weaves

For tourists and art buffs who harbour the dream of visiting Suryalanka beach near Bapatla, the mention of Chirala saris is enough to tempt them into travelling.

Chirala is a town in the Prakasam district of coastal Andhra Pradesh, roughly 11 km from Suryalanka beach. The town is known for its fascinating, traditional handloom weaves.

The term chirala is derived from two words — chira, which means sari, and la, possession. The weavers of Chirala have been trying to carry on the artistic lineage for generations. They belong to Padmasali, Devanga and Pattusali communities of Andhra Pradesh.

It’s been centuries since the art of weaving Chirala saris took form, and the renowned European traveller, Marco Polo, first described the brilliant art of craftsmanship of Chirala in his travelogue, as he was surprised that the sari could fit in a match box.

The base of Chirala sari is in one colour and the zari border comes in a different colour. Large quantities of oil is used in the preparation of yarn for weaving. Once the fabric is prepared, it is layered with wax and clay and then dyed in a variety of colours.

Best known as the leading quality of handloom production centre in the country, Chirala town is well equipped with modern amenities like weaving, natural dyeing and processing machinery.

In the globalised era, Chirala saris are a big hit on the export map of India. Chirala craftsmen are known to make excellent designs on saris along with other fabrics comprising curtains, bedspreads, home and office fabrics and textile materials.

Back in the early 1970s, the launch of exportable variety of Madras handkerchief offered fillip to the local craftsmen of Chirala and they earned a lot of foreign exchange. Since 2002, the craftsmen of Chirala have received a big boost with kuppadam and seiko variety of saris from the cluster.

Nag Babu of Suryalanka explains, “It takes around three to four days for weavers to weave a single Chirala sari. Today, around 1,000 families of weavers are engaged in this profession in Chirala. The government of Andhra Pradesh is offering them subsidies through banks.”

In this age of spiralling price rise, Chirala saris are feather-light on the wallet of high-spending customers. The saris would start from Rs 1,000 onwards and depending upon the weaves, would go up to Rs 6,000.

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