Making handloom haute

"In my village Puttapaka, weaving is the most practised profession. My family has been weaving for many generations. Even in today's day and age, it's almost natural for the children to take it up as well. I remember beginning to understand weaving and Ikat very early in my life, as a school student. At 15, I began to do it by myself. My siblings and I would help our parents weave. It was never the intention to earn more, but the interest in the process, that pushed us. I knew I would want to grow up and do something in the same field.

Just as planned, my interests in weaving led me to explore and understand Telia Rumal. I was in Chirala (Andhra Pradesh), when I first came across this double Ikat weave, which was almost dying. Weavers told me that they had stopped working on it because it didn't fetch them enough returns. I learnt that the yarn was treated with a mixture of castor ash and oil to help it retain colour and lend it cooling properties. The word rumal (handkerchief) stuck because this was a square piece of cloth with geometric patterns, used as headgear. After understanding the weaving technique, I took it upon myself to try variations to make it more profitable. I worked on it for a while, before finally being able to use it to make sarees, bedsheets, dresses and dupattas. Suddenly, Telia Rumals became popular. People from across the state wanted to buy them. All the hard work of the weaver community had paid off! We had made a place for it in not just the local market, but internationally too.

Apart from the increase in the sale of Telia Rumals, people had also begun to notice my achievements. The Government of India honoured me with a National award and a Padma Shri in 2011, while UNESCO gave me an Excellence award. I realised that none of it could've been possible without my siblings and parents who supported me while others criticised my efforts. It wasn't an easy ride up here, but today, my district is on the world map because of this. It means a lot to have achieved this for so many other weavers, who would've otherwise given up on this beautiful form of weaving. Thanks to technology, so many of us are also able to sell our products directly to customers online. This National Handloom Day, I hope every weaver receives the due credit, respect and money for his work. May his life be as colourful as his Telia creations!"

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