Weaving magic

Weaving magic

If the food in India changes every 200 kms, so do the handloom weaves and designs. The sheer variety spans from the intricate Kashmiri embroidery to the temple designs in rich silk in South India.

Bridging the gap between the north and south, we have the beautiful phulkari from Punjab, the colourful dyes of Rajasthan, patolas from Gujarat, chanderis and maheshwaris from Madhya Pradesh, zari-bordered Mysore silk from Karnataka and kuthampully in Kerala. Yes, it sure is a legendary trail with centuries of history, stories of the rise and fall of kingdoms, temples and mosques and tales of invasion.

After preserved inscriptions, traditional weaves are the next best examples of
India’s legacy. Just look at the diverse range – the paithani brocades from Maharashtra to the sambalpuris and bomkais from Orissa, the tussar from Bihar, the delicate chickan embroidery from UP to the famed balucharis and kantha stitch from Bengal to the muga silk of Assam – and you will be awe-struck. If you thought this was too much, wait till you explore the different weaves within every state.

Surviving through ages

The Indian weaving industry has a rich a tradition that dates back to hundreds of years. In fact, the handloom sector still dominates the gamut of the cottage industry in the country.

In spite of having gone through innumerable changes and challenges, the handloom industry has managed to sustain itself. I firmly believe that no other nation in the world can boast of such a plethora of choices in weaving patterns and designs that are so typical and fashionably repr sentative of India.

These weaves have helped in making the country a true destination of what we have culturally imbibed and handed over by the master craftsmen over generations.

But for any weave to survive, there are two critical ingredients. First is the
economic cost and second is creative appeal. A labour-intensive sector, handlooms is facing harsh challenges with many weavers reeling under debts. This is a stark reminder of what we as consumers need to be sensitised to.

If we are discussing handloom and weaves, cost needs to be factored in. Also, for centuries, the community as a whole has been patronised by the existing rulers. Fortunately, that is going to end soon as the current government has given the traditional handlooms highest priority, specially given that the Prime Minister himself was elected from the hub of silk weavers – Banaras.

Moreover, the handlooms have to appeal to the contemporary tastes to survive. For this, blending in different kinds of fabrics can be helpful. For example, blending jute with silk, cotton with linen and so on.

The contemporary designs strictly demand a transformation – a process that would shape the future path of our weavers in the handloom industry at large. Modern designs need to be imbibed in a manner that showcase a perfect fusion of taste and carefully-preserved heritage.

Natural dyes have been the forte of handlooms since ages. Investments need to be brought in and there are various government bodies working on these areas to generate a strong preserve of colours blending them with the right motifs. Technology has also made its foray into this sector. Adapting modern designs would immensely help our master weavers regain their foothold in the market.

But while modernising the process, we shouldn’t forget to preserve its rich history. The traditional weaves of Kancheepuram are dominated with temple structures, given the whole industry grew up around the temple town for ages. This hasn’t deterred people from buying them.

Using the discernible differences in designs and the art of weaving, handloom sector can flourish greatly. For example, the thirubuvanam silk saree near the temple town of Kombakonam with its shiny silk and pure zari weaves are unique with motifs varying from mango to temples, diamonds and rudraksh. If you move to Banaras, you can find silk with colour motifs and zari work and a strong blend of art that has travelled from as far as Persia. The celebrated paithani motif has ruled the pallu for ages.

For generations, pure art has travelled through kingdoms, invasions and the diasporas of the vast Indian geography. It’s stated that the great fire of 1100 AD shifted the weavers from their hub at Gujarat to places like Banaras, northern India and far south. Despite such calamities, the art of weaving has survived and is a testimony of our timeless tale of art and culture.

Invasions wrecked havoc, but they also brought in new technology and designs that were grandiosely incorporated with local art. The present weave collection of India is a potpourri of years of experience and research. With the co-ordinated efforts of the master weavers, modern designers and a strong support base from the government, Indian weavers could go to a lot more places.

As long as the industry capitalises on the changing tastes, the rich heritage will survive for ages to come.

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