It takes more than six weeks for a select group of five handloom weavers to produce the five-metre-long white vastrams (dhoti) with a maroon colour silk border. The Konkathi family has been undertaking the job with total dedication to adorn the presiding deity of the Tirumala temple with these ‘Sesha Vastrams’ (Eruvada Jodi Panchalu) on the first day of the annual Brahmotsavam.
The Konkathi family from this town in Mahbubnagar district has been weaving ‘Sesha Vastrams’ for the past 10 generations, on a decree from the Gadwal royal family. Chief weaver K. Venkateswarlu makes the designs and all the five of them weave the vastrams on a traditional loom in their house. The loom is used only once in a year and none is allowed to enter the room where it is kept, say family members.
The family brings superior quality cotton from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Chirala in Andhra Pradesh. The weavers, adopting the traditional practice, work for over six hours a day to weave the vastrams. It costs nearly Rs 15,000 for raw materials and the total would jump to around Rs. 40,000 by the time the vastrams are presented to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. “But we charge only for the raw materials,” Mr. Venkateswarlu says.
The weavers stay at the Konkathi house until weaving is completed. They cook their own food after daily pujas. The food materials are bought in advance and kept in the room separately.
After the vastrams are woven, special pujas are performed and then these are presented at the Peshkar’s office at Tirumala, says Mr. Venkateswarlu, a tenth generation weaver in the family.
The tradition of the Gadwal weavers’ family presenting vastrams to Lord Venkateswara began during the reign of Nala Somanadri Raja of Gadwal Samstan. He was a friend of Nellore Venkatagiri Rajus and he travelled to Tirumala along with the Venkatagiri Raju family. It was then that the Somanadri Raja promised to offer ‘Sesha Vastrams’ to the Lord on the first day of the Brahmotsavam, recall the family members.
“It’s a privilege to weave the vastrams for the Lord and we are thankful to the Gadwal Royal Family for continuing the practice,” says Mr. Venkateswarlu.