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Not even a GI tag has helped them much

Sharath S. Srivatsa
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Backbreaking labour fetches poor returns to weavers of Navalgund dhurries

What a spread!Weavers of Navalgund dhurries display their genius.— Photo: K. GOPINATHAN
What a spread!Weavers of Navalgund dhurries display their genius.— Photo: K. GOPINATHAN

Navalgund dhurries may have the geographical indications (GI) tag but all this is cold comfort for the poorly paid women artisans who have been struggling to keep alive the craft handed down generations.

They put in long hours but what they get in return is a pittance. No wonder today just about 30 women are actively involved in weaving the Navalgund dhurries, whose demand has see a marginal increase after securing the GI tag.

Farzana Hasan Sab Sirsangi complains of abysmal facilities for weavers like her, as does Bibijan Devaridu. Both are part of the women’s group that weaves the Navalgund dhurries. “Today just about 30 of us are active because nobody wants to come forward to weave the durries as it yields very meagre income,” says Ms. Sirsangi.

Exhausting hours

Akkamma Bhojedar, who was trained by the Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation (KSHDC) in the late 1980s, said: “We work for nearly eight hours a day and yet our monthly income is just between Rs.1,500 and Rs.2,000, which we earn with great difficulty. Not many people would want to strain their back by weaving dhurries all day.” Like so many craftspersons elsewhere, she is disillusioned with the returns and would rather her children study hard and take up mainstream jobs.

While a 6 ft by 10 ft dhurrie could take as much as a fortnight for the weavers to complete, a 1ft by 1 ft dhurrie could take about a day and a half. While most women weave dhurries on the KSHDC premises, six weave them on their looms at home in the Jamkhana Gulli in Navalgund.

Once upon a time

According to Ms. Devaridu, the tradition had it that only the daughters-in-law were trained in the weaving of dhurries and not daughters (who would be married off) or any outsiders. This was the practice till a few decades ago when KSHDC started training women interested in weaving. Today, she says, there are about 70 women, who are skilled enough to craft a good dhurrie. “Many of them are old and some have developed back problems after having worked on the loom for years. Just about 30 of us are actively involved in the profession,” she said.

Navalgund dhurries are available at Cauvery Emporiums.

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