Poor revenue, very few workers leave handloom saree weavers on brink

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Signature of designers and prized possession of sari lovers, handloom today makes a statement that still doesn’t reverberate across the board. For Sungudi and Kandangi sari weavers working with poor wages and facing competition from powerloom versions, the lockdown has been a double blow.

Signature of designers and prized possession of sari lovers, handloom today makes a statement that still doesn’t reverberate across the board. For Sungudi and Kandangi sari weavers working with poor wages and facing competition from powerloom versions, the lockdown has been a double blow.

The lack of revenue is driving away the younger generation who have not yet been able to find a way of marketing the handspun tie and dye saris. The Geographical Indication tag given to Madurai Sungudi sari in 2005 has been a shot in the arms for weavers but none of the educated youths are willing to carry on the tradition imported from the Sourashtra community, as it is not enough to run a family with the meagre earnings. “Having dealt with the struggle to continue the craft I wanted my son to have another career. With livelihood completely lost, I do not know what to do if the lockdown induced job loss is not getting better any soon,” said handloom weaver L R Gubendran, 55, from Valluvar Colony, whose son is a science graduate.

A K Ramesh, secretary of Tie and Dye Hand Printed Textile Cluster said an authentic Sungudi sari made using organic dyes requires a big capital to source the raw material. “The price of a sari can go up to ₹15, 000 depending on the nature of work and material. The competition with lookalikes that are manufactured using powerloom carrying screen and wax printing designs,” said Ramesh. The raw material is sourced from Coimbatore and Surat, while the main markets are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal. “There have been no sale in the past four months and as a result all the stocks are still in our hands. Summer is considered to be the prime sale season. Now there is little scope for the industry to revive before Diwali,” he said.

In the neighbouring district, weavers of Chettinad Kandangi saris, which acquired the GI tag last August, are being pushed to the edge. Made from quality cotton and are known for their bright colours and chequered designs, it once had a thriving market. “Now the society is not able to pay our salaries of ₹350. Many of us are out of work due to the lockdown,” said Shanthi, a weaver.

A spurt in powerloom versions and lack of patronage has resulted in weavers dwindling to only 80 of them at present in Karaikudi, Sivaganga district, said S Palaniappan, president of Amarar Rajeev Gandhi Handloom Weavers Co-operative Production and Sales Society.

Palaniappan says they have more than 200 saris that are yet to be sold. “We do not have money to buy yarn bales, so everything has come to a standstill, during this crisis period and with the uncertainty prevailing, we don’t know if we can restart the business without help from the government, private players or loans from banks,’’ he said.

The saris cost ₹750 to weave and takes a whole day’s work. “But, now we are unable to compete with the powerloom products which look identical to our handloom products.Co-optex too is sourcing these powerloom saris made in Aruppukottai and Subbalapuram in Theni,’’ he said. The cotton handloom saris keep the body warm during winters and cool during scorching summers. “Powerlooms cannot match these inherent qualities, but not everybody knows it,’’ said J Hemamalini, a weaver. “It was a heirloom in many households. There are saris that have lasted nearly 95 years, and one such piece surfaced a few years ago,’’ she said. Among the active weavers, 20 of them are men and almost all plan to find some other employment to make a living.

Source: The Times of India

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Indian Weaver Community : Poor revenue, very few workers leave handloom saree weavers on brink
Poor revenue, very few workers leave handloom saree weavers on brink
Signature of designers and prized possession of sari lovers, handloom today makes a statement that still doesn’t reverberate across the board. For Sungudi and Kandangi sari weavers working with poor wages and facing competition from powerloom versions, the lockdown has been a double blow.
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