“Just like rice is nurtured by a farmer’s family, similarly every saree is the labour of many hands. From yarn to fabric, the entire weaver’s family toils towards this. One spins, one dyes, one weaves. So when you buy a saree, you support a poor family. You support our traditions. When you support our traditions, you support our economy.”
- Shashikala, the Assistant Director of Weavers’ Service Center, Kanchipuram
This is the story of weavers in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu who make the renowned and intricate Kanjeevaram sarees.
This short film, featured on the Registry of Sarees Facebook page talks about and features national award winning weavers, who offer significant insight into the techniques, the tradition, the intricacies and the hard work that goes into making these traditional handlooms.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Registry is an effort to "revive old motifs and techniques and recognise a few weavers honing their craft against the onslaught of rapid mechanisation."
Released on the Facebook page on the eve of the first event held by the Registry of Sarees in Hyderabad on August 30, the eight-minute video sheds light on the evolution of technology and training and is interspersed with beautiful shots of the weavers’ exquisite handiwork.
Watch it here:
Shashikala highlights how the weavers have kept the Kanjeevaram alive for so many years and even increased its visibility outside India. When we go to another country, people recognise us by the silk we wear, the nose ring and the tilak on the forehead, she says.
The video highlights that there are ample weavers to propagate the craft, and there is no dearth in demand. D Karthikeyan, Assistant Director for Weaving at the service center emphasizes how they focus on training the weavers, especially those below 35 years of age, in the intricate technique and technology involved in making these sarees. “So the next generation also is definitely interesting and they are coming into the field,” he says.
B. Krishnamoorthy is a national award winning weaver, three generations of whose family have been weavers. However, besides him, only his cousin carries on the tradition now. As of October 2015, Krishnamoorthy had woven 5000 designs without repeating a single one and maintains a patchwork of these designs on a tapestry, which he hopes will serve as a reference for future generations.
Having dedicated four decades to the Kanjeevaram, Krishnamoorthy had told Amrutha Varshinii of The New Indian Express however that these designs are scarce and that he has seen “many weaves, designs and colours fall through the cracks and slip away” over the years.
However, the video doesn’t talk about the socio-economic divide that exists between the weavers and those who buy their products. According to Mrinal Pande’s article on scroll.in, 55% of weavers’ families in India, including those in Kanchipuram, continue to live below the poverty line. It also highlights the gender divide that exists in the handloom industry against women, despite the fact that they make up over 70 per cent of the handloom workers.