AP: Pochampally's sari weavers struggle to survive
Pochampally: Pera Kamalana sits in a small room of her house, spinning the dyed yarn that will bring alive beautiful ikat designs on the nine-yard silk sari Pochampally is famous for. Wearing a polyester sari herself, Kamalana's life is, however, an irony and hardly as exotic as the timeless creations her loom gives birth to. "I can't afford to wear a Pochampally silk sari," Kamalana told IANS, when asked if she had any special creation in her wardrobe. She, however, admitted that she did own a cotton sari she had herself woven. "But I mostly wear polyester saris. They're cheaper".
For weavers of the famed Pochampally sari in the Bhoodan Pochampally village of Andhra Pradesh, life is as complicated as the warp and weft of the fabric they weave. For the skilled work they do, their wages are low and therefore survival is a struggle. Kamalana and her family members are among the dwindling number of weavers of the village who have not yet given up the skilful craft passed down through generations.
But unlike them, there are many who have moved away from the craft for more viable means of livelihood. "I get Rs 3,500 a month for weaving saris," Kamalana's 20-year-old son Shiv Shankar told IANS while working on a purple and pink sari on the loom. "I take about three days to weave one silk sari, but the whole process of making a Pochampally sari is much longer. There is the dyeing process. The designing weaving is the last stage. So it takes longer," he said. Kamalana's household income hardly surpasses Rs 8,000 a month. Ironically, each of its creation costs around the same or more by the time it reaches a retail shop.
The uniqueness of the ikat design lies in the fact that instead of dyeing the fabric, in this case, every thread is dyed in a pattern, and then woven in accordance with the design into the cloth. It is therefore a long-drawn process. The design of the end product looks the same on both sides of the fabric. "We are aware that our creation costs a lot in the market. But that is the amount a middleman pays us and we don't have much of a choice since we don't have the kind of reach in the cities like he does to sell our products," said M. Anjayya, another weaver.
"Weaving a Pochampally sari is an art. But because sustaining on it is becoming difficult, people are moving away from it. My son is not interested in taking it up for a living and wants to open a bike repair shop instead. Can I blame him?" Anjayya said.
In the nearby Handloom Park, set up by the union ministry of textiles and which employs about 400 weavers to make a host of products including bed spreads, table covers, quilt covers and bags, apart from saris, the condition of the workers is comparatively better. S.N. Das, who works in the marketing department of the Handloom Park, said its weavers got better wages than those who wove at home.
"Depending on the complexity of the work, our weavers get Rs.4,000 to 6,000 a month as wages. There are some who also get paid around Rs 150 per metre of the cloth they weave, or per piece," Das told IANS. "Also, the entire process of making a Pochampally sari is long, and at home all members of the family are involved in different processes for a single sari. Here, there are different departments for processing the thread and for designing and weaving. We make about seven saris in 45 days," he said.
While designs on the saris woven in homes are mostly traditional, those in the Handloom Park have modern designs as well, courtesy a team of designers. If these challenges were not enough, Pochampally sari weavers also face competition from powerlooms which copy the designs and the products are sold at lower prices. "The silk we use for Pochampalli sari is sourced from Bangalore and the cotton from Coimbatore. These days, China silk is used by powerlooms, but they don't suit us. Those saris have more shine, but not the sheen of a Pochampally, and are cheaper," Das said. "The challenges are many, but we are still managing to continue with our craft," Anjappa said.
Pochampally Saree Women'S Silk Saree (Off-White)
THE TRADITIONAL ARTISANS
Pochampally weaver's cooperative society is a cooperative society from the pochampally district of Telangana State.The cooperative society has 400 weavers under it who, specialize in the art of weaving Ikat textile since 1955. They specialize in the production of Pochampally Ikat Cotton and silk sarees.
The Handloom Mark
Handloom Textiles constitute a timeless facet of the rich cultural Heritage of India. "Handloom mark" scheme has been introduced by the Union Government, to preserve and protect the identity of our handlooms. It is used for popularizing the hand woven products, and serves as a guarantee for the buyer that the product being purchased is genuine. This would also provide a distinctive name in identifying the product or, the manufacturer. The Mark is also a symbol of social cause to promote the livelihood, welfare and growth of more than 6.5 million weavers. It is registered for Certification Trade Mark under the Trade Marks Act, 1999 as well as for Copyright under the Copyright Act, 1957.
The Silk Mark
The Silk Mark is a registered Trade Mark, introduced by Silk Mark Organization of India (SMOI), a registered society sponsored by Central Silk Board, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. It is a paper hand tag on which a high security hologram is affixed. The hologram contains a unique serial number which can be identified for its authorized user and period use. The hand tag is used on lot basis for silk yarn and small value items such as stoles, scarves and cushion covers. For silk fabric roll, a paper tag at one end is used.
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Pochampally and the cluster of many villages in Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri district of Telangana are renowned for world-famous Ikat designs and dress materials. Here the threads and colours created by skillful weavers are used in the process of making beautiful sarees and dress materials. Popularly called as the Ikat or Tie and Dye weave, the uniqueness of Pochampally fabric lies in the transfer of design and colouring onto warp, for weaving them deftly together.
Pochampally has many traditional looms, and many of these designs are more than a century-old. Telangana is considered as one of the ancient Ikat weaving centers of India, in addition to the states like Gujarat and Odisha.
Pochampally Ikat is also known locally as Chitki, Pogudubandhu, and Buddabhashi in the region of Telangana where it is produced, whereas in other parts of India, the handloom design is popularly known as Pochampally. The Ikat design has its own unique pattern, which is different from other Ikat producing centers of India. There are more than five thousand looms producing this textile in this region.
The fabric used is cotton, silk and sico, which is actually a mix of silk and cotton. Ikat represents a weaving form wherein the warp, weft and even both are tie-dyed before they are weaved to create any designs on the finished fabric. Great care is taken from tying of the resistant areas with the water repellent material. The precision of the wrapping process decides clarity of the design. After wrapping, these warp threads are dyed. When these are eventually finished and unwrapped, the areas under these ties retain the original colour. Numerous colours are then added once the additional wrappings are done.
Designs are worked out usually on graph paper before the actual weaving process begins at the Pochampally handlooms. The natural movement during the process of weaving gives the Ikat designs a form of feathered edge, which is indeed a highlight of this technique. Pochampally handlooms are widely known for the durability of the colours that are used in the yarn.
Pochampally Ikat is a well-known form of saree made in Bhoodan Pochampally and these are popular for their traditional geometric patterns with the Ikat style of dyeing. The intricate geometric designs are mastered by the hands of skilled weavers here who make beautiful sarees and dress materials at the several handlooms which are run in the villages of this region for decades. The handlooms have been upgraded with changing times while customized designs are created based on the order and demand from customers.
Pochampally village has made it to UNESCO tentative list of world heritage sites under the "iconic saree weaving clusters of India". The weaving here is carried out in Pochampally, Sripuram, Chuigottala, Koyalgudam, Chowtuppal and Galteppala and other villages that are situated close-by. Pochampally represents a prestigious weaving tradition of Telangana. The fabric is marketed today through a cooperative society, other related organizations as well as the master weavers and the business houses which are located in Pochampally.
Pochampally saree also received Intellectual Property Rights Protection or Geographical Indication (GI) status in the year 2005. Pochampally Ikat is a registered property of the Pochampally Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society Ltd & the Pochampally Handloom Tie & Dye Silk Sarees Manufacturers Association. The Pochampally Handloom Weavers’ Co-Operative Society Ltd. was established in 1955 and it has a turnover of more than 2.5 crores per annum currently. The associations markets and sells their products all over India and in the process it has also received few awards and rewards as well. The Pochampally Ikat sarees command a very good market in India and overseas as the weavers also make use of modern synthetic colours for creating exclusive designs, considered typical of the Indian saree tradition. In fact, the air hostesses of Indian government's official air carrier, Air India wear specially created Pochampally silk sarees.
Online retail spins a revival yarn for Ikats of Pochampally
The Pochampally Handloom WeaversCooperative Society has 915 members. According to its president, B Vasudev, there are 3,000 weavers in the village today. The narrative, a few years ago, though, was totally different. As Andhra Pradesh went through the throes of bifurcation and the state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society (APCO) – its biggest buyer — stopped procuring merchandise, large quantities of unsold fabric piled up. Unemployed weavers, Vasudev shared, either took to farming or moved to Hyderabad to eke out a living, driving auto-rickshaws or working as security guards.
From 2,000 working looms, the number dwindled to an abysmal 500. It was at this time that some enterprising young men from the village turned to online retail. In 2016, the first attempt at online merchandising was made. This reshaped the storyline for Pochampally’s Ikat. Business grew by 100% — from Rs 5.29 crore in 2014 to Rs 7.38 crore in 2017. More and more young men got into the online business.
Recently, GST affected the trade, but it is still a happy scenario. Business is booming and the Pochampally society is buzzing with activity. Construction of a new, spacious, air-conditioned showroom is on in full swing.
Beaming with pride, Vasudev recounts how reams of Ikat was sourced from Pochampally for the making of the superhit movie, Baahubali.
Ikat, referred to as pagdu bandhu or chitku in Telugu, derives its meaning from the Malaysian-Indonesian term mang-ikat, which means to tie, knot or bind, and the magic of Ikat is about tying and dyeing the warp and weft before weaving.
At the house of K Dasarath, a society member, I noticed how women applied ash or starch on their fingers to separate and count each yarn, which is then knotted as per the design. There are almost 15 stages of marking, dyeing and knotting before the yarn is spun on a charkha and wound on a bobbin. It is then handed over to the weaver.
It takes a weaver about 15 days to weave a double Ikat sari; a single Ikat gets done in four to five days. Though the government has given frame looms to weavers, as they are more efficient and easy to work on, weavers prefer the traditional pit looms.
When I paid 76-year-old Ganji Buchiah a visit, he was weaving a double Ikat sari in spun silk. He said it takes a fortnight to weave a sari on his pit loom for which he gets paid Rs 6,000. Ganji admitted that of late, the demand for Ikat saris has shot up and so have the wages.
G Srinu, a young and a very accomplished weaver, took me around Puttapaka — known for double Ikat weaving with warp and weft design. It has over 700 looms. Renowned weavers Gajjam Govardhan and Gajjam Anjaiah, both national award recipients, belong to the village, and several weavers work for them. Here, weavers prefer to work independently and not under the umbrella of a society. Private weavers work for master weavers or retail individually.
Pochampally Handloom Weavers Societyclaims to be the first in India to register for the Silk Mark. It was granted the Geographical Indication in 1999. As demand for double Ikats is growing, more and more weavers are veering towards weaving these. Also, it is more lucrative as weavers make anywhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 30,000 per sari, depending on the design. Ten years ago, I had not seen so many double Ikats on the looms of Pochampally. They may not be as expensive as a Patan Patola, but are surely works of art.
(The writer is an author whose book, Threads of Hope: The Magical Weaves of Andhra Pradesh, won the Incredible India Award in 2012)
Pochampally sari or Pochampally ikat is a saree made in Bhoodan Pochampally, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, Telangana State, India. They have traditional geometric patterns in Ikat style of dyeing. The intricate geometric designs find their way into sarees and dress materials. The Indian government's former official airplane company, Air India, has its cabin crew wear specially designed Pochampally silk sarees.
See also: Puttapaka Sari, Sambalpuri saree, and Patola Sari
Telangana is one of the ancient Ikat weaving centers in India, along with Gujarat and neighboring Odisha. The weaving centers during ancient period was in Chirala and Jentrpeta towns situated between Vijayawada and Chennai but was discontinued for various reasons. Locally, Pochampally Ikat is known as Pogudubandhu, Chitki and Buddabhashi in Telangana where it is produced, in other parts of India it is popularly known as Pochampally, named after one of the village where it is produced. It has its own unique character of design, different from other Ikat producing areas in India. Today, most of weaving takes place in Pochampally village where there are over five thousand looms producing this textile. It has found place in UNESCO tentative list of world heritage sites as part of "iconic saree weaving clusters of India".The kerchiefs made of silk thread have earned international fame as "Teli Rumals"
The weaving survives in a few villages like Pochampally, Koyalgudam, Choutuppala, Siripuram, Bhuvanagiri, Puttapaka and Gattuppala and few villages around them mostly in Nalgonda district. Pochampally Ikat uniqueness lies in the transfer of intricate design and colouring onto warp and weft threads first and then weave them together globally known as double ikat textiles. The fabric is cotton, silk and sico – a mix of silk and cotton. Increasingly, the colours themselves are from natural sources and their blends.
Pochampally, a cluster of 80 villages, has traditional looms, whose pattern and designs are centuries-old. Today this Silk City, which is more of a cottage industry, is home to more than 10,000 weaving families in 100 villages. The fabric is marketed through the cooperative society, many other linked organizations, the master weavers and the business houses in Pochampally. Pochampally does more than Rs.10,00,000,00 annual business in terms of yarn sales, purchase of handloom products and sales. The government in 2010 divided the belt into two clusters Pochampally 1 and Pochampally 2, and is proving common weaving centres. Because of its unique design, efforts are on to revive the dying art.
Geographical indication rights
Pochampally saree received Intellectual Property Rights Protection or Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2005. Pochampally Ikat be the registered property of Pochampally Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society Ltd and the Pochampally Handloom Tie and Dye Silk Sarees Manufacturers Association.
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