The cooperative society is encouraging experts to return to a traditional method of weaving
An effort to revive a traditional method of weaving has brought relief to practitioners of the craft. Some of the older weavers have even returned to the profession, thanks to this initiative by Co-optex.
Traditional silk weavers in and around Salem, Rasipuram and Namakkal had long given up on conventional means and invested in jacquard machines. Driven by what they saw as market trends, they bought heavy machinery but ended up with very poor returns. The machinery also took a toll on their health and many of them quit weaving around the age of 50. And over time, traditional designs fell by the wayside.
Enter U. Sagayam, managing director of Co-optex, who initiated research that concluded that reviving traditional designs would attract customers. The body then identified weavers in Salem and Namakkal districts who were familiar with traditional motifs and offered them an opportunity to return to weaving. Co-optex has branded the saris with these traditional designs as ‘Kalachara pattu’.
G. Arasu of Rasipuram had moved to jacquard machines and heavy silks for the money, but quit some years ago when the work took a toll on his knees. When Co-optex officials sought his expertise in reviving traditional designs that he had given up 20 years ago, he agreed.
“Now, at 53, I have gone back to weaving simple designs. The pay is good and my knees are not affected. I can continue to work for another 20 years,” he said.
For weavers like D. Janardhanan, (73), the initiative was an opportunity to get back to what he loved doing. “Weaving this variety does not require investment. I have installed mirrors on the walls and light through the windows of my house is enough to weave,” said the weaver, who lives in Kondalampatti in Salem.
Younger weavers like J. Pradeep (37) are yet to be convinced about the benefits of these traditional designs. He came into the profession because of family compulsions and is happy that he earns Rs. 400 a day weaving traditional designs. “My grandfather and father used to weave them. My father moved to jacquard machines but we didn’t earn much,” he recalled. However, he said that regular revisions of wages were necessary to sustain the initiative.
The initiative was launched in May by Handlooms minister S. Sundararaj. “We wanted to revive the culture of Tamil Nadu. There are a variety of traditional designs in the State and we decided to start with Salem and Namakkal districts where these were woven,” Mr. Sagayam said.
A customer, who has a few of these saris, said “They are light-weight, less expensive and can be worn on special occasions that don’t require heavy silks.”