Chinese Mythology says, some 2700 BC, a silk worm’s cocoon fell into the tea cup of the then empress Leizu. Wishing to extract it from her drink, she began to unroll the thread of the cocoon. The touch and feel made empress so happy that she asked her entourage to weave it to see how is looks.That curiosity gave world one of the finest fabrics. From this point, the girl became the goddess of silk in Chinese mythology. Empress Leizu wouldn’t have thought in her wildest dream, that how her discovery will change the future generations taste in fashion, and the word silk will always be associated with style of elite class and people will look upto the same whenever its an occasion to celebrate.
In India, silk was always considered to be fabrics for emperors, elites, and it was used for making pious clothes for gods in temples. Still it is a luxury in India, and widely used for Sarees, and couture. In India, about 97% of the raw silk is produced in the five Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir. In recent times, Maharashtra has emerged as highly potential market as well as producer of silk, specially Tussar and Mulberry silk.
Tussar silk is often referred as ‘wild silk’, is an exquisite thread obtained from a wide wing moth that yellowish brown in colour. It is mainly produced in Jharkhand,Orissa, Chattisgarh, and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. The tussar produced in the districts of Bhandara, Gadchiroli, and Chandrapur of Vidarbha region is supposed to be the best in quality and colour.
The men and women of tribal areas are traditionally doing the job of protecting cocoons from trees in the forest. Mainly women in the area are trained to take out silk yarn from cocoon.The Tussar silk’s further varients are Ghicha, Katia, spun etc. These yarns are used for the production of sarees and dress materials on handloom. Their forte’ is ‘Karvat Kathi’ saree, a design variant of temple sarees, but small temples like ‘saw’. These manual looms and its weaves are so unique, that many stories can be written over it, every design has a story of its own.
But we observed that the weavers of this region are going through difficulties and their art is fading. Globally, trends are changing, so does people taste towards fashion. Now people see the practicality of carrying any ensemble or saree, rather than the efforts put into the same. Influence of media, movies, t.v. serials are also evident in the shifting taste of end consumer. In this rush of commercialisation, power looms has left handlooms far behind, leaving very less market share for it.
While doing the research I came across The Maharashtra State Handloom Corporation Ltd., which is doing the noble work of rehabilitating the weavers to save this heritage art. The senior officials shared with me that the weaver’s children are abandoning this art as they are preferring industrial white collar job than this highly demanding work. Mr.Dnyanesh Bawane, Jt.M.D., MSHCL told, that for making a saree, a weaver takes atleast 15 days.It means, that in a month once can weave 2 sarees, or maximum of 3 if the designs are simple. For that saree, maximum we can pay is 5000, depending on intricacies of the design. Now the weaver’s children say that if I put so much effort, I will be able to get more salary in an industry. Hence, they are abandoning this beautiful art, which is a loss to the heritage values. MSHCL has established Indrayani to promote ‘Karvat Kathi ’ saree and other variant of silk, which they sell through exhibitions and their own retail chain.
To address the situation Mrs.Richa Bagla, Director, Ministry of Textiles has started a very ambitious project of promoting ‘Karvat Kathi’ sarees and tussar fabric. Indrayani has roped in ace designer Ms.Anju Modi to redesign Sarees and ensemble for them. The designs developed by Anju Modi will be weaved by most efficient weavers of Urmer and Nagpur.
Ms.Anju Modi has already done research for the same. She has visited Daulatabad Fort, Ajanta and Ellora caves for inspiration to develop a theme for designs. Ms.Anju Modi believes that any art is sustainable only when the heritage value is given due respect, and making it contemporary by keeping its aesthetics. This is where Indrayani’s values and Anju Modi’s ideology clicked and they have taken 2 years project together to develop new designs of Sarees and ensembles.
We wish all the best to Indrayani (MSHCL) and Ms.Anju Modi for this project, as weaver’s concerns are our concerns. In the race of commercialisation, heritage should have its due share and respect, always.