Maharashtra: Paithani sari weavers make silk masks to beat lockdown blues

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The skilled hands that weave the exquisite Paithani sari, Maharashtra’s equivalent of the Kanchipuram or Benarasi saris, are now making masks, using the same silk and patterns that have given the sari its unique identity.


NASHIK/AURANGABAD: The skilled hands that weave the exquisite Paithani sari, Maharashtra’s equivalent of the Kanchipuram or Benarasi saris, are now making masks, using the same silk and patterns that have given the sari its unique identity.

The hand-woven silk Paithani sari, a must-have in a Maharashtrian bride’s trousseau, can sell from Rs10,000 to Rs4 lakh per piece. Woven with silk and golden zari threads, it is the intricate design of a dancing peacock on the pallu and border that define its price. These days, the weavers are, however, making do by selling Paithani silk masks for Rs 200-Rs 250 each.

Paithan taluka in Aurangabad district, where the famed sari originated, and Yeola town in Nashik, where it has found its base, are these days waiting for buyers to come by. The marriage season during March-June, when Paithanis are most in demand, lost its glitter due to the lockdown.
Weavers and sellers told TOI that the Rs 400-crore annual turnover has already reduced by half, and if the business does not pick up by Diwali, it would be difficult for them to recover.

Paithani sari weavers now make silk masks
Shyamlal Kayast, a prominent Paithani seller from Paithan, has been selling silk masks these days instead of the nine-yard or sixyard sari. “I used to enjoy an annual turnover of over Rs 70 lakh before the pandemic, but the business has been hit very badly during the past three months. Our income is directly linked to the tourist flow, which has dried up,” he said.
Kayast said he decided to make masks, which are in-demand these days, from the silk he had purchased in bulk.
Manda Malwe, a Paithani weaver, feels the sale of silk masks can barely help them tide over these testing times. “When ordinary masks are available for Rs 20, why would people buy silk masks? The silk masks can be considered a fancy item at weddings,” said the 60-year old weaver.

Paithan, which was the major hub of Paithani saris before Yeola and a few other cities took over, has over 200 weavers, mostly women. “Every weaver spends three to four months making one Paithani sari and earns Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 per piece. We are jobless for over three months now. Our families are finding it difficult to make ends meet,” Malwe said.

In Yeola, the situation is no different. Pravin Balasa, the executive director of Yeola’s Pathani cluster, told TOI that the chances of the business reviving look bleak before Diwali. He claimed they had already suffered a loss of about Rs 200 crore.
Another manufacturer, Manoj Diwate, said most of them are unable to buy the mulberry silk from Bengalury and zari from Surat to re-start production owing to damp sales and lack of money. .


Source: The Times of India

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Indian Weaver Community : Maharashtra: Paithani sari weavers make silk masks to beat lockdown blues
Maharashtra: Paithani sari weavers make silk masks to beat lockdown blues
The skilled hands that weave the exquisite Paithani sari, Maharashtra’s equivalent of the Kanchipuram or Benarasi saris, are now making masks, using the same silk and patterns that have given the sari its unique identity.
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