Threads of discontent

 

In India, we have some history behind each and every garb. Indian Costumes are considered as one among the oldest costumes ever globally. The Indian textile industry is so traditional and beautiful. India is also very rich when it comes to traditional handloom production. Handlooms are an important craft product and comprise the largest cottage industry of the country. There is hardly a village where weavers do not exist, each weaves out the traditional beauty of India’s own precious heritage.DSCN9511

India has a rich and superb heritage of handloom weaving. The artistic skills of the traditional handloom weavers have their own distinctive excellence. The handloom industry is highly labour intensive, with a decentralised set up. Handloom sector is considered to have potentiality to absorb additional labour force by providing appropriate means of employment on a continuing basis. This cottage industry has spread throughout the length and breadth of the country with variation in production, wages, craftsmanship, design, traditions etc. The artistic skills of the traditional handloom weavers have their own distinctive excellence.

Handloom cloth is usually stronger than similar mill made or power loom cloth. Every piece of the handloom cloth is unique and different from the other. Every piece of handloom cloth symbolises a job done in a fastidious manner by the traditional craftsman for the sheer love of it. It is not a stock reprint with fanciful checks or stripes or dots or flowers on cloth because it is not mass produced. Every inch of cloth woven by hand brings back memories of artifacts of the older generations. Every piece of handloom cloth sold goes a long way to provide a square meal to a weaver and his family somewhere.

Surrounded by hills, narrow streams and lush green field, Pochampally is a group of about a hundred villages.The handloom industry in pochampally has a superb tradition of artistic excellence and craftsmanship. Pochampally products are handcrafted to perfection by skilled artisans who are endowed with critical skills in intricate designs, having decades of experience behind them in their respective fields. In certain cases some of the masterpiece works can take up to one hundred and twenty days to take its final shape. The world has been enjoying the craftsmanship of the pochampally artisans for the last four decades.

The Pochampally Ikkat textile industry produces sarees as well as shirting and furnishing material using the signature tie and dye process. Pochempally handicraft workers believe in honest and ethical business practices. These artisans believe that quality of the product comes from the commitment, experience, attention to detail and innovation they exhibit. Their aim is to provide nothing less than the highest quality for the customers. The services of these handloom weavers are honest and clear. Handloom work requires alertness, agility and creativity. It requires hard work of over two weeks by a team of three to four weavers to make four sarees.

Rekha is a 20 year old girl. After marriage she cannot continue her education. She was forced to do handloom works to support her husband, so as to raise the income of the family. Rekha says she has studied up to 12th standard and wanted to study further. She realises that she cannot take up any other work because she does not have the qualifications required for the higher studies. She added that the weavers of pochampally are facing a crisis because majority of the men are migrating to the city. She wants to take necessary steps to improve the life in the village. She hopefully believes that education can change the life of villagers.

Sagar and sweta are one of the over 3,200 families living in this village who survive on weaving. Hours of work is needed to complete one cotton or silk sari of breathless beauty. Sagar and his wife, both working together for over eight to ten hours a day, can barely earn only around Rs. 3,000 per month. They have three children who go to school. There are months when there is no work because there is no demand for the fabric. They are asked not to weave because there is too much stock with the merchant or the cooperative society.

These weavers are currently facing their worst ever crisis. Hunger and deprivation are their constant companions. Youths from pochampally are forced to look for some alternative sources of employment. The crisis of these weavers is not just due to the lack of demand of the handloom fabrics, but also because of high yarn prices and the import of cheap substitutes. The sector has survived on government subsidies but that too is not as readily available.

“Demand for our product has been multiplied. Product is improving by the minute. Yet it is very sad to see the weavers struggling at the same time. We have never faced such a situation before” says Damodar, IMG_4693-103ya local handloom weaver at pochampally.

Bharatha Balaratnam, secretary of the Pochampally Handloom Tie and Dye Silk Sarees Manufacturers Association, put forward many reasons for the poor condition of the pochampally handloom weavers. The increase in the cost of raw materials, low incomes, massive loan and investment requirements, lack of marketing facilities and a declining demand in the domestic and international markets are the main reason of the crisis.

“An apparel park has already been established at Pochampally to provide skills and development training to weavers with the help of the National Institute of Fashion Technology” says Bharatha Vasudev, president of the Pochampally Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society.

Although these weavers are under crisis, Internet marketing has given the pochampally handloom artisans an excellent opportunity to reach the customers directly. Pochampally.com is organised as a network of the crafty weavers to provide a clear and synergistic focus to do business, and be accessible to the customer with good service, product innovation and profitability.

The goal of the online portal is to make sure that, the pochampally silk customers go through a wonderful buying experience, and able to get their choice product at the right price. Every single direct purchase at pochampally.com instills enthusiasm, energy and commitment into the Pochampally handloom Ikkat Craftsmanship. Their business policies and activities are carried out in a manner that reflects the knowledge that pochampally.com is God’s business. These artisans live and work ethically. Pochampally artisans never compromise their integrity in the name of profit.

Since Years and Decades Hyderabad have seen various art and crafts embedded in Silks.  One among such beautiful ancient art is called Kalamkari art. Kalamkari or Qalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile produced mainly in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana state. The basic concept of kalamkari is a hand painting that is designed in the South of India.The word is derived from the Persian words kalam which means pen and kari means craftsmanship, So Kalamkari simply means drawing with a pen. It is believed that millions of people in India are engaged in the production of handloom sarees, and kalamkari saree is one such great handloom work which requires art, dedication and love for both the paintings and threads. Kalamkari art has been practised by many families in Andhra Pradesh, and has constituted their livelihood. Kalamkari had a certain decline, and then later it was revived in India and abroad for its craftsmanship. British liked this kind of decorative element for clothing and popularized the kalamkari silk.

Kalamkari textile work is an ancient art that has been carried forward for over the past few years. Even with the graceful block prints and hand painted design, Kalamkari silk sarees have become one of the most preferred types of saree by all classes and masses. From the time of the Mughals to the present days, kalamkari sarees have granted people with grace. This extraordinary piece of work has the ability to attract people with the unmatched beauty and the handwork of experienced workers. The kalamkari silk saree is the first choice for the people who enjoy and collect a good crafty saree. With years of experience in making,the weaver’s extra ordinary work on different kind of material makes it unique as well as expensive.

Kalamkari silks are some of the precious piece of art that gives you a royal look as we can see the beauty and grace reflecting from each piece. These silk sarees are made up of detailed prints that will stay forever. One of the best parts about owning a saree with such beauty is that it never goes out of fashion. The trend will keep changing, but the love for kalamkari sarees won’t change.

There are two types of kalamkari arts in India; they are Srikalahasti and Machilipatanam style. There are some kalamkari silk sarees that are made from the natural dyes. The Machilipatanam style of sarees has been emerged from the Golconda sultanate and the Mughals. The best feature of the machilipatanam style is that the cotton fiber is soaked for an hour in the resin known as Myrombalan and also cow milk to give a touch of brightness. Then, the outlines are drawn by using bamboo. This bamboo has been soaked in the mixture of fragmented jiggery and water and is applied on the piece of cloth. Thereafter, the vegetable dye is used to complete the process. After each color, the Kalamkari is washed. Thus, each fabric can undergo up to 20 washings. Various effects are obtained by using cow dung, seeds, and plants and crushed flowers.There are many varieties of Kalamkari silk saree available on various textiles. The Chennai Mall at Secunderabad sell kalamkari silk sarees of different vibrant colors and tussle work. These sarees are mind boggling and attract ladies of all classes. Most ladies wear this type of saree for functions or to attend any important event because it is both graceful and elegant. With a designer blouse and contrasting color, the saree brings out the mesmerizing look of a woman, making her look different and unique. Kalamkari saree give women a new identity.

Kalamkari art is not limited to paintings and sarees these days, but some new fashion dresses also got taste of kalamkari now. Now a days we see Fashion Designers giving modern touch to kalamkari art while using it in modern western outfits.Trendy modern kalamkari dresses are not only preferred by Indians, but also by foreigners. Many online portals avail this exquisite work of kalamkari silk sarees. But with many online portals have variety of Kalamkari silk saree that are priced within affordable price range so that everyone can acquire this beautiful saree.

Hyderabad is a central hub for many shopping centers. Famous clothes and textiles from various states are available in Madina market, Sultan Bazaar, and General Bazaar. Madina market is the best place to buy different varieties of clothes both casual and party wears for children, men and women of all ages. It has more than 200 textile shops. Madina market is also the best place to buy traditional handloom cloths. Handloom Clothes are available here at reasonable prices for all occasions.

Though the country has made remarkable progress in the production and export of handloom items in the last few decades, but due to the growing competition and expansion of power loom and modern textile industries, the handloom industry is today passing through a crisis situation in the wake of increasing trend of globalisation. The modern textile sector including the spinning mills backed by modern technology and automated production set up has captured the major segment of rural and urban market, posing a great risk to the traditional handloom sector.

In present days, the common mans choice of modern fabrics has severely affected the demand for handloom items. The modern textile items are available at relatively cheaper prices. Textile products being manufactured by organized spinning mills offer variety of designs of fabrics and attract more number of consumers, reducing the market size for traditional handloom products.

Pochampally and kalamkari silks maybe popular, but that’s just the fanciful and fruitful side of it. On the other side, they are under struggle. Pochampallyweavers attribute growing consumer preference to modern fabrics manufactured by the organized textile sector to the crisis situation in traditional handloom weaving industries. Surya is a third generation weaver of the world famous Kalamkari sarees. He became an expert in the art of weaving by the age of 16. Today, he works as a cleaning staff for a well known educational institution in secunderabad. He is not happy about the choice, but there is no other choice.

Rajendar of Chennai mall opined that the handloom items being costlier than the modern textile items find it difficult to attract more consumer segment. The modern fabrics being produced by organized mills capture relatively wider market. The growing consumer preference for modern textile products can be directly attributed to the increasing investment made by the organized sector for advertisement and promotion.

“Be it private sector or cooperative society, the situation remains the same for the handloom weavers. Sales have decreased rapidly during the past few years” notes Lakshman of The Garments Manufacturer and Wholesalers Association, Nallagutta.

Many handloom co-operative societies and production centres are passing through the crisis situation caused due to competitive environment created by the organized modern textile sector.  With increasing prices of yarns and dyes and poor marketing support of the co-operative societies and production centre’s, handloom products find a difficult time to maintain its position. As weavers are mostly from the rural areas with poor background, sufficient credit facilities are crucial for getting raw materials and handloom tools in time. A number of schemes have been initiated by Govt. of India and State Govt. for bringing about technological improvement in the handloom industry and for modernising the traditional looms and equipment to increase the efficiency of production.The future for handloom textiles looks grim if the crisis continues.

“We use yarn of silk or cotton. They are becoming costlier day by day. We cannot afford the cost of silk and cotton yarn. So we are in extreme trouble” says Chandramouli of Royal Sarees at Pochampally.

The weaver communities of pochampally demanded that the price of yarns and dyes should be available at reasonably subsidised rate to make the handloom products competitive and affordable. Otherwise the handloom weavers will be in extreme crisis.  The handloom cooperative societies and production centres should be strengthened to help the weaver community to adopt new design and modern technology and diversify their products to capture a much wider market all over the world. They also argue that necessary support should be provided to the rural weaver communities for technological innovation of their production process and product design.

The effect of globalisation and competitive scenario prevailing in themodern textile sector on the family of the weaver households has led to occupational shift and diversification by some of the affected families to cope with the negative effect of the globalisation. A change has occurred in family income and economic status of the weaver communities as a result of increased competition posed by the textile industry. The weaver’s communities have been pushed down to the lower strata of the economic ladder. Families engaged in weaving kalamkari silks having switched over to other sources of income in addition to weaving activities. However, majority of the kalamkari weaver’s families is still pursuing their traditional weaving activities without entering into any new avenue of income.

The pochampally weavers call for modernization and technological upgradation of the traditional handloom industry in order to retain its unique position and to achieve economy in the competitive environment. These weavers believe that technological upgradation will help them to cope with the modern textile sector. Further, there is a need to explore ways and means to control the operational expenditure and to improve productivity in handloom industry. Provision of sustained supply of the raw materials in time can greatly aid in smoothening the operational crisis in handloom sector. Since advertisement plays an important role in the promotion of textile products, traditional handloom sectors find it difficult to mobilize and allocate required funds and investment on advertisement through mass media channels. In this regard, the organized textile sectors have distinct advantage in increasing their market share through massive investment in advertisement and promotion.

The sustainability of traditional weaving operation is greatly dependent on the prevailing market position, efficiency of management of the weaver’s co-operative societies and production centre’s, availability of basic raw material-yarns, dyes etc. Though the sector is facing testing time to survive and maintain its position particularly due to the growing competitions and pressure caused by the modern textile sector, the weaving community still been continuing with their weaving operations to limited scale.The present generation of handloom weavers should be given some assistance to continue further in the future, and then only we can guarantee that the craft of weaving handloom materials like the Pochampally silk and kalamkari silk will survive another generation.

Handloom industry is a part of Indian culture and civilization. These craft items not only meet the basic requirement of the weavers, but also satisfies the preferences of the affluent section of the community. Despite all the bad happenings, the handloom artisans are hopeful. They hope that their art will survive the struggle.