Tamil Nadu

Toda embroidery duplicates threaten local artisans’ livelihood

Skill under siege: Making a shawl by hand can take anywhere up to a week for a Toda woman.

Skill under siege: Making a shawl by hand can take anywhere up to a week for a Toda woman.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

More than 300 women who depend on the profession face the prospect of running out of business.

Artisans from the Toda tribe in the Nilgiris fear that duplication of their traditional handwoven textile designs may soon edge them out of the market, leading to the more than 300 women who depend on the sale of traditional Toda-embroidered clothing items being out of business in the next few years.

According to artisans involved in embroidering the signature Toda designs on shawls, quilts, bags, jackets, bags, mufflers and even keychains and bookmarks, the demand for hand-embroidered traditional Toda goods has been on the decline over the last few years. “In shops run by members of the community, including ones being operated with the help of the forest department near major tourist attractions, we are lucky if we sell 4-5 pieces of handwoven textiles each day,” said one of the women artisans from the community.

“While making a shawl by hand could take anywhere up to a week for a Toda woman, the cheaper, mass manufactured Toda-embroidery duplicates can be produced by a team of non-tribal seamstresses in huge quantities,” said the woman.

As they are handwoven, the original Toda embroidered items are much more expensive than the duplicates, with a single shawl being sold for around Rs. 2.000.

“However, a saree, with the Toda design being duplicated is sold for just Rs. 1,500,” said Northey Kuttan, a member of the community and President of the Nilgiri Primitive Tribal People’s Federation (NPTPF).

Mr. Kuttan said that as the Toda-embroidered textiles are protected by the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, the replication of the designs by “non-tribals” was illegal. “Moreover, as the community does not have the resources to market their products as effectively as private players, we stand at an even greater disadvantage,” said Mr. Kuttan, who called on the government to clampdown on the duplication of Toda designs.

Assistance sought

“We have asked the government to assist us with marketing our products online, and to also help us with mandating that Toda-crafted textiles and goods be inserted with barcodes, which can be used to verify their authenticity when required,” said Mr. Kuttan.

M. Alwas, Secretary of the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association (NAWA), said that the handcrafted textiles were a part of the Todas’ tradition, with deep cultural roots, and that their duplication was causing much distress among members of the community.

“As a result, the members of the community, with the help of organizations such as ours, have complained to the collector, who in turn has directed the police to investigate the duplication of Toda embroidered goods,” said Mr. Alwas, who added that the private firms profiting from producing duplicates are liable to pay financial compensation to the community if found guilty.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 30, 2020 7:31:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/toda-embroidery-duplicates-threaten-local-artisans-livelihood/article28527229.ece

Next Story