Ministry of Textiles assures to take all-out efforts to preserve the languishing weaving art

All efforts would be taken to support and preserve the art of making ‘sungudi' saris, unique to Madurai region. While the Ministry could provide funding, non-governmental agencies would have to play a vital role by taking up initiatives to support this craft, languishing in the recent years, said Rohit Bhardwaj, Joint Director, Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Union Ministry of Textiles.

He was addressing the valedictory of a 15-day training programme on ‘Revival of sungudi' here on Tuesday. The programme was organised jointly by the World Crafts Council (WCC) and Crafts Council of India (CCI).

Formed in the U.S. in 1964, the WCC is a non-governmental organisation working towards strengthening crafts and foster economic development through income-generating activities for craftsmen. Affiliated to the UNESCO, the Council is working across five regions — Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia Pacific, which covers India.

The CCI is an affiliate of the WCC and works in design development, upgrading of tools, technology and craft documentation.

To revive the art of weaving ‘sungudi' saris, the two agencies have initiated several steps. They include a survey, this 15-day training programme, sample production sessions spread over six months, test marketing and exhibition.

The aim of the programme was to make craftsmen get better returns thereby sustaining the craft, upgrade skills, improve quality, introduce new designs, provide training in making products that meet contemporary market requirements and enable them gain access to more markets with a new product range.

Held at the Sourashtra Boys Higher Secondary School, the 15-day training programme featured not only training sessions on weaving saris but also yoga classes, short films on crafts and motivational talks.

Lauding the efforts of these two agencies in preserving the craft of making ‘sungudi' saris, Mr. Rohit said that the unique pattern of these saris was popular in several parts of the country, especially in northern States. He said that it was vital to initiate measures to ensure sustained employment for the 30-odd beneficiaries of the training programme.

Speaking earlier, Usha Krishna, WCC president, said that 800 million craftsmen were practicing in India. The Council was conducting awareness programmes on these crafts at schools to sensitise the children. A total of six schools in Chennai took part along with three in Andhra Pradesh and one in Bangalore. Such programmes could also be started for schools in Madurai, she added.

Soumitra Srinivasan of WCC said that a pilot programme for schools was launched in 2009. Besides some college students and teachers, 651 school students took part in these programmes.

E. Rajeshwari, Joint Secretary, CCI, assured the craftsmen of support in marketing. Uma Kannan, Secretary, Thiagarajar College, said that ‘sungudi' sari was the only traditional textile unique to Madurai and had to be preserved. Retired Madurai Kamaraj University Professor of Art History R. Venkatraman gave a lecture on the historical significance of ‘sungudi' sari.