Ilkal's famed looms fall quiet

Ilkal's famed looms fall quiet

Each worker earns a meagre Rs 100 even if he works all day on the loom. Sometimes, whole families have no other option but to depend on such meagre earnings. In such a scenario, if there’s the option of working on another job which is more lucrative, it is anybody’s guess as to which job workers who are looking to earn their square meal, will opt for.

A person who works in a granite factory, for instance, makes anywhere between Rs 200 and Rs 300 on a daily basis. Most handloom workers have now shifted focus to granite factories in the region. Then, there are those who have taken to setting up small businesses on their own.

There are only a handful of handloom workers left in the region now. Also rare to find are workers who specialise in weaving silk sarees.The younger generations of weavers’ families are no longer interested in this skill. Power looms are a bigger draw for most of them, because here, not much hard work is involved.

Ten years ago, Ilkal had 400 to 500 power looms. Today, the number has shot up to 8,000 to 10,000. “With this, the investment shot up, but not the price of the saree. We take two-three days to weave a saree, and it takes at least four to five members of the family to weave a single saree. The money we get for this labour is Rs 170. There is a lot of hard work involved. Also, the government’s schemes don’t reach weavers like us,” explains Manappa Honnalli, a weaver.

Plain Ilkal sarees are available in a wide range and cost anywhere between Rs 250 and Rs 750. The silk ones are more expensive and could cost anywhere between Rs 4,500 and Rs 5,500.

There is actually a lot of interest for the handwoven silk saree. But, the production of these sarees has not increased.
“Thirty years ago, the Ilkal silk saree did not have a huge demand. Today, though, things have changed.

“There are a lot of people interested in the Ilkal silk saree in the Bangalore and Mysore region. But, the number of weavers has dropped,” explains Chidanandappa Mara, who is into the saree business from the last 50 years.

Chidanandappa Mara’s son Chandrakanta Mara makes a strong case for the handwoven Ilkal silk saree, and says it is more durable than the sarees woven on the power loom.
 “On the whole, over the last eight to ten years, hand-operated looms have drastically dropped,” say Pampanna Kalagi and his brother Vijaykumar Kalagi, both into the saree business in Ilkal.

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