Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, India...
The state of Kerala, is generally known for its different types of weaving process of saree. The Kasaragod weaving is one such type which is specially treasured down and worn by each Keralite during any traditional occasions.
Initially, it was believed that the Kasaragod weaving was worn only by the women of the royal family of the kingdom of Karnataka and woven by the Shalia community who settled in this region. Soon, as time passed and technology progressed this type of weaving became famous. However, it should be noted that no change is observed in the usage of the product. Earlier, sarees were made through this type of weaving. At present too, the sarees of Kasaragod are famous. The few changes that can be observed are in their colours and the material. Earlier, cotton yarn was only the main raw material used. However, at present, weavers also use a mix of silk blend in cotton to make the product more attractive in the urban market. The weavers now weave these sarees keeping in mind to combine the traditional, ethnic and ‘brand value’ to cater to the contemporary market. This was not the aim of the weavers earlier. They used to weave, focusing on durability and mostly comfort.
The most significant aspect of this craft is that Kasaragod sarees are very comfortable for daily wear and are quite affordable. Kasaragod sarees are the most preferred outfit for every traditional occasion and have become the face of south Indian culture.
The weaving has a unique quality, meaning the products of Kasaragod weaving are most durable. They are considered as the best-known cotton sarees with a fine thread count of 60s, 80s and 100s. The present versions of adding blended silk to the weaving have earned the Kasaragod sarees their own Geographical Indicator (GI) tag. Additionally, one can observe the old craftsmen have returned to their work to pass on their tradition to not only younger generations but also those who are interested in learning weaving. For these master weavers of Kasaragod, weaving is not just about earning a livelihood but their own way of upholding their traditions in a modern-fast changing world.
Kasaragod weaving is among the four weaving traditions existing in the state of Kerala. All the process, raw materials and tools are all hand-made and sourced from natural resources making this craft sustainable and eco-friendly. However, the making of a recent version of silk blend saree involves using vat dye (chemical dye), which makes it lone-lasting. Considering, using vat dye and majorly natural raw materials, the sarees have gained a steady patronage due to its durability and quality.
It is believed that the weavers of Kasaragod are from the Padmashali community, who were originally based in Mysore. The term “Padmasali” is a combination of two words, “Padma” and “Sali.” In this context, “Padma” signifies lotus, while “Sali” denotes weaver. The origin of the term is rooted in the myth where the thread is likened to a lotus that emerged from the navel of Vishnu.
It is said that this community was specialized in making the decorated borders with different types of colours before the Kasaragod saree flourished and became famous.
The history of India is intricate, and it’s impossible to confine any community or culture within boundaries. People migrated to different regions for better opportunities, climatic reasons, or due to unstable kingdoms, eventually assimilating into the local culture. The core philosophy encouraged people to mix, share common knowledge, and form connections.
The Western Ghats, spanning from Karnataka to Kerala, face monsoon rains and aren’t conducive to cotton cultivation. Historical documents indicate that many weavers’ communities in this region migrated from Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. Unlike the dispersed settlements in Kerala, weavers here settled in streets or specific centers. Traditionally, there was minimal use of cloth, with women wearing “kunchattam” and leaving the upper body uncovered—a practice evident in old paintings and 20th-century photographs.
The history of the origin of this weave can be traced back to the 18th century A.D. According to many historians and scholars, it is believed that this weave was crafted by the Shalia community of weavers who initially wove exclusively for the then king of Karnataka. The Saliya or Saliyar community is a South Indian Hindu caste traditionally engaged in weaving. Primarily located in the northern regions of Kerala, southern coastal Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, they were originally brought from Tamil Nadu to Kerala by the Chirakkal kings to produce fabrics for the royal family. In return, they were granted land and access to nearby temples. This migration resulted in the formation of various weaving streets, known as theruvus, in Kannur. A portion of these weavers, who had already established themselves in weaving clusters in Tamil Nadu, decided to relocate due to political, social, and natural factors. They resettled in Tulu Nadu, particularly in the South Canara region.
Another group of Padmashaliyas is believed to have reached Kasaragod taluk (present-day Kerala) from Mysore and the surrounding areas of present-day Karnataka, where cotton cultivation and weaving highly prevailed. The weavers in the Kasaragod cluster of Kerala predominantly speak Kannada as their mother tongue.
The term “Padmasali” is a combination of two words, “Padma” and “Sali.” In this context, “Padma” signifies lotus, while “Sali” denotes weaver. The origin of the term is rooted in the myth where the thread is likened to a lotus that emerged from the navel of Vishnu. Additionally, it is widely speculated that the weaving community north of the river Chandragiri migrated directly from the present Karnataka regions. The two sects of the caste Idankai and Valankai represented spinners and weavers, respectively.
It is also said that weaving was a family occupation, passed down from father to son for around 500 families. This type of weaving originated in this town, hence the name ‘Kasaragod Weaving.’ Although mechanization and modernization have greatly impacted the traditional methods, many weavers are making an effort to continue practicing the traditional method of weaving. At present, most fabrics are woven using natural materials like cotton that are eco-friendly and adorned with golden zari. The majority of cotton sarees are woven here due to the humid climatic conditions of the state of Kerala. Sometimes, in a few cases, art silk versions can also be seen, but they are fewer in number.
In 1938, the Kasaragod Weavers Society was set up. This society aimed to train people from the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe with a monthly stipend provided during the training period. The master craftsmen are mostly old weavers who come to this society for the weaving process and for doing the corroborating works in their way. Later, once the experience is gained, the wages provided are based on the piece rates or the meter woven, but it should be noted that the wages are fewer. Hence, they spend their remaining time making these sarees using their skills passed down to them by their parents and grandparents. Through this society, these weavers are currently keeping their age-old tradition alive by not only producing and marketing the craft of Kasaragod weaving but also providing training on weaving.
Earlier, during the origin of Kasaragod weaving, the weaver used to weave on the handlooms around 5m a day. However, at present, it is reduced to about 1.5m a day, the reason being the majority of the weavers have left practicing this craft. The uniqueness of the Kasaragod sarees lies in their colour combination and patterns, borders woven. The sarees of Kasaragod are mostly woven by using natural fibres like cotton which are eco-friendly and are edged with a golden zari. The body of these sarees are generally plain or sometimes striped using dyed yarns. Today, for making stripes vat dye (chemical) is used. However, the borders are still hand-woven using lattice Dobby techniques or Jacquard which makes this weaving more attractive in appeal. This is what Kasaragod sarees are described by any Keralite person. Kasaragod sarees are made with usually high thread count in the range of 60-100 and the weavers as mentioned have now started making use of vat dyes to make the sarees more attractive and long-lasting.
Through the establishment of ‘Kasaragod Weaving Society’, the weavers who had initially left practicing this craft, came back to this society spending their time in weaving and earning a stable livelihood, continuing their family tradition.
However, one major issue this craft is facing is that no younger generation is attracted to this craft. All the master craftsmen working in this society are of a majorly older generation. They are doing collaborative work in their own way. But, according to these master weavers, the marketing of their craft is somehow lacking. If the younger generation could start inculcating interest in their craft, a major change can be observed in Kasaragod weaving. These weavers are now not restricted teaching only to their younger generation of the same family, but they are now open to teach any student or a person who is interested to know more about the craft. However, the wages that they receive is another major factor the craft is facing. The weaver receives the wages according to the piece rates or the meter woven per day. But due to less income, weavers have now started working in other sectors, not restricting themselves to only Kasaragod weaving.
The weavers of Kasargod even today still follow the traditional way of making the saree. These sarees are all hand-weaved. Hence, no modern machinery is used.
The raw materials used in Kasaragod saree weaving include cotton yarn as its key material with other required at different steps of the process.
These raw materials undergo a series of processes to transform them into the distinctive and culturally significant Kasaragod sarees.
There are specific tools required for weaving Kasaragod sarees in conjunction with its loom. Specifically known as Malabar looms or frame looms, these strong, durable and sturdy structures play a pivotal role in the meticulous creation of Kasaragod sarees. It was introduced in the handloom industry by foreign missionaries during 1700-1800. The Malabar looms, designed to accommodate fly shuttles, are characterized by their strength and resilience, making them well-suited for the intricate patterns and designs typical of Kasaragod sarees. Their design allows for the weaving of sarees with plain borders, additional warps, and cross-border designs. These hand operated looms aligns with the traditional craftsmanship, and their efficiency ensures the creation of high-quality, finely crafted sarees.
Explore the craft of making Kasaragod sarees, where every step has its own importance to get a desired product as a outcome from years followed as a tradition.
The term Kasaragod has a resemblance of ‘Group of Trees of Kanjira’. Kasaragod has a long history and a rich culture. Human habitation dates back to the Great Stone Age in Kasaragod. situated in the district's central Chenkal region. Ancient ironworks, copper, and pottery offer evidence about how ancient humans who worshipped agriculture and nature lived. The tribes solely found in Kasaragod include the Malavattu, Korangar, Malakkudi, Mavilar, and Koppalar. As generations of their tribal ancestors, tribal people like the Velan, Kadaan, Narasanar, Madigar, Bakur, Moger, and Pulaiyar can also be found in the district. Some sites and places of devotion reveal that the Adi Tribes' Buddhism and Jainism had formerly predominated.
According to historians, Kerala received the Vedic religion via the Konkani and Tulu. By the time of Sankaracharya, the Vedic religion had a greater influence. In addition to the Madhavacharya, the Dwaita-Advaita dialogue also includes the three-prince scholars from Kudlu Upadhippi, close to Kasaragod. The term Kootil served as the ancestor of Koodlu. The sole lake temple in Kerala is the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located near Kumbala in Ananthapuram. It is thought that the temple is the Sri PadmanabhaSwamy Temple's Moolasthana (location of origin). Also referred to as Swamy Thapassan, the Ananthapuram Temple. Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries A.D., a large number of Arab travellers to Kerala came to Kasaragod, which at the time was a significant commercial hub. This region was referred to as Harkwillia. Apart from this, this town was part of the Kumbala Kingdom in which there were around 64 Tulu and Malayalam villages. The Kolathiri ruler, who had Nileshwar as his capital when the Vijayanagar empire conquered Kasaragod, was in charge of that state at the time. According to legend, the characters in the ritualistic folk dance known as Theyyam from northern Kerala depict people who aided king Kolathiri in his defence against the Vijayanagara empire's onslaught. The Ikkeri Naikans were given control of this region during the 14th-century fall of that empire. They remained in power until the Vijayanagar kingdom collapsed in the 16th century. Then Vengappa Naik proclaimed Ikkeri's independence. The Ezhimala dynasty ruled over Kasaragod. From Gudalur to the north of Coimbatore, this region was built under the reign of Ezhimala Dynasty Nandan Maharaja.
Lord Wellesley sent Francis Buchenan to the English East India Company's domain in February 1800 to investigate the lands of the region, including Mysore, in accordance with the Srirangapatna agreement. He left Mangalapuram on January 16 for Kavvayi, which is close to the district's southern border, and returned there on January 23. In his remarks, Buchanan makes reference to the early 19th-century social, cultural, and political life that prevailed in the neighbourhood. With the Neeleswaram and Kumbhaka dynasties, British India colonised these regions in 1804. The South Canara district relocated to the Kasaragod district and Kasaragod taluk on April 16, 1862, when it joined the Madras province. The same status persisted till Kerala became a state in 1956 following independence.
The district of Kasaragod was established on May 24, 1984. The Kasaragod district, which was created by the taluks of Kasaragod and Hosdurg, served as an example of the widespread push for the comprehensive development of an underdeveloped area. On May 28, 2013, Hosdurg Taluk was separated into Hosdurg and Vellirikunnu Taluks, and Kasaragod and Manjeswaram Taluks by Kasaragod Taluks.
Kasaragod municipal town is situated 50km south of the major port city and 364 km north of the other major port city Kochi. The town is situated in the rich biodiversity of Western Ghats on the estuary where the Chandragiri River, the longest river in the district, empties into the Arabian Sea.
This municipal town has the maximum number of rivers in the state of Kerala: 12. Additionally, it is home to several forts including Arikady fort, Bekal Fort, Chandragiri Fort and Hosdurg Fort. This town experiences a tropical monsoon climate and receives around 3,825mm of rainfall annually.
The low lands surrounding the sea on the west, an undulating stretch of midland and the forest highlands on the east near the Western Ghats borders the beautiful landscape of Kasaragod. This region is considered as a nature lover’s delight as it is rich in water resources on account of 12 rivers that run across the Kasaragod. Many natural heritage tourists visit this town often. The town boasts of reserve forests like Eleri, Karudukka, Parappa, Muliyar and Adoor. These plants are rich in medicinal properties.
Kannur University is in charge of the Kasaragod district. The Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, which was first founded in 1916 as the Coconut Research Station, is located in Kasaragod. It is a part of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research's National Agricultural Research System. Kerala is at the heart of the major coconut farming areas of the country," the institute claims. It also serves as the location of the Indian Society for Plantation Crops, which hosts symposiums and publishes the Journal of Plantation Crops. Kasargod is home to the Central University of Kerala as well (Periya hills). Focusing more on transport facilities, the important coastal cities of Manjeshwar, Uppala, Kumbla, Kasaragod, Udma, Bekal, Kanhangad, Nileshwaram, and Trikaripur are connected by National Highway 66, which runs from Mumbai to Kanyakumari along India's western coast. The district is entered through Thalappady, and it is exited at Payyanur. At Kasaragod and Kanhangad, state highways begin and end. The district is served by stations run by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). The railroad runs along the coast. On the Mangalore-Shoranur line, Kasaragod Railway Station is located in the southern zone's Palakkad Railway Division. Three of Kerala's thirteen minor ports, Manjeshwar, Kasaragod, and Nileshwaram, are located in the Kasaragod district. The closest international airports are in Kannur (110 km) and Mangalore (65 km).
By creating a beautiful combination of different cultures and traditions, this town charms its way into every traveller’s heart. Kasaragod is known for its unique features to keep pace with the socio-cultural sphere. A devout town, the majority of houses in this region is built in typical Kerala style of architecture with tilted roof and white washed walls. Due to various ancient and historic structures situated in this town, it gives an aesthetic appeal to this town.
The richness of the heritage and culture of Kasaragod region can be seen in their arts and festivals. Different types of festivals are celebrated in this town with great enthusiasm like Onam, Vishu, Malik Deenar Uroos. These celebrations are inclusive of several kinds of cultural competitions and activities conducted by the local people of this town. The town of Kasaragod houses a number of exciting fantastic fantasies, major crowd-pullers like for instance, the Yakshagana, Buffalo race and Cock fight are some of the things that enchant the visitors each year. This town is a place where communities of Christians, Muslims and Hindus live peacefully together by adapting and accepting each other’s culture. Religious tolerance and communal harmony are some of the two remarkable characteristics of the locals of the town of Kasargod. Different types of languages spoken by the people are not considered as an obstacle. One can easily find temples, churches and mosques all together in this peaceful town.
The predominant communities that dominate the Kasaragod district are Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. The inclusion of Kasaragod with Kerala state has been a contentious challenge as there is a predominant population which speaks Tulu and Kannada. During the 1951 Census of India, 72% of the district’s population chose their mother tongue as Malayalam, 6.3% chose Kannada while 14.2% chose Tulu language. However, according to 2011 census report, 4.2% 8.8% of the total population of the district speaks Kannada and Tulu languages as their mother tongue respectively
Kasaragod, often called the land of seven languages and several cultures, is a place of harmonious coexistence of Muslim, Hindu and Christian religions. This town is most popular for historical Bekal Fort and its beach. Majority of tourists are attracted to this town rich in natural heritage. The town is a beautiful combination of beautiful hills, lengthy sandy beaches which evokes an enthralling moment to the visitors.
List of craftsmen.
Baral B., Divyadarshan C., Lija M.G., “Saree Weaving, Kasaragod”, D’source website.
Anonymous, “Kasaragod Cotton”, isha.sadhguru website.
Anonymous, “Ethnic Weaves”, Kerala Tourism website.