Thirubuvanam, Tamil Nadu, India...
All the requirements of government run institutions or organizations in the state as well as the country are served by this craft cluster. The following products are woven here:
– Bedspreads, sheets and other fabric requirements for hospitals.
– Binding cloth strips for files in government offices.
– Bedspreads for the railways.
– Fabric for blazers.
The initial designs appeared in checks and lines and in colors which were mellow. These days the designs have also evolved to suit contemporary tastes and brighter colors and variations are also used.
The work happens in commissions where the artisans can purchase the raw materials from government outlets, weave according to specifications given to them and then return with the final finished product. This arrangement aids the craftsmen immensely in not having to worry about procuring raw material of good quality, reliable supply source and the price fluctuations. The craftsmen are able to completely concentrate on the finish and quality of the product. Most of the craftsmen are women working from the looms in their homes. The men help in the subsidiary activities.
In the year of 1946 AD, like in many parts of India, unemployment was rampant in Mandsaur. So, the local community influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s Khadi movement proposed setting up of hand looms in the cluster, thereby providing employment to the local masses. The cluster ever since has been thriving on weaving cotton for various government uses.
Khilchipura was a small weaving cluster, during India’s independence; Khadi was introduced in 1920 as a political weapon and as the best instrument for giving concrete expression to the Swadeshi Spirit to boycott foreign goods. Khadi rendered an opportunity to every man, woman and child to cultivate self discipline and self sacrifice as a part of the non cooperation movement.
“I have only one message to give and that concerns khadi. Place khadi in my hands and I shall place Swaraj in yours. The uplift of the Antyajas (the untouchables) is also covered by khadi and even Hindu- Muslim unity will live through it. It is also a great instrument of peace. This does not mean that I do not favor boycott of Councils and law-courts, but in order that people may not have a grievance against those who go to them, I desire that the people should carry on work concerning khadi even with the help of lawyers and members of legislatures. Keep the Moderates highly pleased; cultivate love and friendship for them. Once they become fearless, that very moment they will become one with us. The same holds good also for Englishmen.”
(Gandhi ji In an interview to Indulal Yagnik, which was published in Navajivan on 19-3-1922; 23:86-87)
Inspired from Gandhi’s Swadeshi ideologies, this mutually beneficial tie-up of the government and the craftsmen took shape. In 1946 the village set up a cooperative and has been weaving table and bed linen, towels, fabric for blazers and other clothes. Most of the craftsmen are women, who weave from the looms in their homes.
“A woman is adorable, not for the jewelry she wears, but for the purity of her heart. I therefore urge you, if you believe that khadi will solve all the distress of India, to a certain extent, to part with the money that you have brought and your jewelry also, if you can give it to the cause. If you will go a step further, I would ask you also to spare some time to turn the spinning- wheel. It is a fine occupation for women in their leisure hours and it would be much better for you to pass your time in this useful occupation than idle talk. Now, you will give what you can to the volunteers who will go in your midst.”
(Gandhi ji’s Speech at women’s meeting in Trichinopoly on 20-9-1927; 35:11.)
The Madhya Pradesh Hastshilp or the Hathkargha Vikas Nigam Ltd has been working tirelessly over the years to provide craftsmen of the state with the tools to continue practicing with profit and dignity. The Nigam has established several Craft Development Centers and Common Facility Centers across Madhya Pradesh. It has initiated meticulous surveys and documentation of the various handicrafts being practiced in the state. To keep in tune with the changing times and modern tastes, the Nigam also provides skill-trainings, product designing and diversification programmes. It has also been actively supporting the artisans of the state through participation in various national and international exhibitions. Now, about 600 craftsmen work in this organization, often involving designers to help the artisans incorporate changing trends into their designs. The Corporation provides them with the raw material and also buys the manufactured products from them. The hand-woven articles are becoming increasingly popular as mill made products are now losing business to these villagers. In 1999-2000 the village sold goods worth Rs20 – 30 lakh. Khilchipura is becoming famous as the ‘village of charkhas’, when hand spinning on charkhas is almost extinct or has now become obsolete in other parts of the country.
With the intervention of involving designers and the craftsmen’s explorations, the designs have become more minimal and contemporary, with geometric patterns and a color scheme spanning bright and pastel colors. But the older patterns are still in demand, which are mostly checks and lines in a body of muddy colors.
The hand woven textiles are facing the same challenges which were being faced in 1940’s, during Khadi revolution. The emergence of mechanized mills has pushed the handloom industry in oblivion. The cost of fabric produced industrially is far cheaper and it thus creates an unjust competition for hand-woven textiles. There is a need to generate awareness among people about the age-old craft of hand spinning and weaving, not just for the skill to live but also because there are still many people dependent on it for their livelihood.
The raw materials sourced from National Handloom Development Corporation are as follows:
– Cotton yarn – 2/40s, 2/20s, 20s counts.
– Chemical dyes – from Ujjain.
– Polyester yarn – PV 26s 8NM count.
The only waste generated by this craft is left out cut yarn.
– Fly-shuttle traditional loom: The whole loom rests on a frame of four vertical posts. In this loom, the sleigh carries a race board and two shuttle boxes, one on either side. The weft yarn is wound onto a bobbin, which is put in a shuttle. This is placed in one of the shuttle boxes on either side.
– Taana Machine
– Charkha or the spinning wheel
– Shuttle Box
– Gittas or small reels around which threads are wound.
– Fly Shuttle Loom
The dyed cotton yarn is woven using the traditional fly shuttle loom, mostly in the weavers’ homes. The varieties of products are woven as per requirement and innovation.
Design :The organizations usually provide the designs to these weavers, if something different from the traditional work is expected out of them. The master weaver refers to the required design, to prepare the warp and the ‘Raach’ (the vertical comb-like wires through which the warp yarn passes).
Dyeing : Color selection for dyeing the unbleached cotton threads depends on the colors present in the design. The dyeing process is usually given out to specialists called ‘Rangrez’. Two basic types of dyes are commonly used for durries: Direct dyes and Vat dyes. Direct dyes are cheaper and are not colorfast. Mostly direct dyes are used for making fly shuttle durries. As they bleed on washing, retail houses recommend dry cleaning for these durries. For dyeing, the yarn is stocked in the form of loose bundles knotted at the center. These are put in a tank (usually a rectangular container of size 5 x 4 x 4 ft) that contains boiling water, to which the desired color of dye is added. The yarn is kept dipped for about 10 minutes and then taken out and dried. This process is repeated again to give the yarn lot a uniform color.
Yarn Opening for Weft
The dyed cotton threads come to the weaver in the form of bundles. This form of yarn needs to be stretched and reeled to make it free from tangles. This is done on the Charkha. The loose bundle of yarn is put over the larger wheel of the charkha and the other end of the thread is tied to a small reel called Gitta, which effectively works as the smaller wheel of the Charkha. The Gitta is then wheeled, so the yarn is pulled from the larger wheel to the Gitta. This form of the yarn is tighter, uniform and tangle free.
Warping : The master weaver now prepares the ‘Rula’ (log) with the warp, to be used by the weaver to make the Durries. For this purpose he uses a Taana or warping machine. A Taana machine is a much larger version of the Charkha principle. The thread rolls or Gittas are put on the vertical frame of the warping machine. This is a movable frame that resembles an abacus. The ends of the thread are taken from the rolls, passed through another, smaller, grid like frame, with vertical metal wires that guides the thread and are wound on the big wooden cylinder of the machine. This process starts from one end of the big octagonal cylinder and goes on till the entire cylinder is covered with yarn.
The craftsman uses a special visual measurement scale that consists of a spring with a small weight hung over it. The small weight slides over the spring, covering one coil of the spring with every revolution that the wooden cylinder takes. Normally, the entire length of the spring scale can take 50 revolutions of the wooden cylinder. Once the desired length of yarn is wound around the cylinder, the log upon which the Taana is to be wound is fitted into the blocks between the cylinder and the frame. Then the craftsman puts a heavy weight across the cylinder. This is tied to the end of a rubber tube at one end of the wooden cylinder. The tube rests over the circumference of the wheel. This is done so that when the thread is pulled over the Rula log, it comes over the Rula in a very tight fashion. The tightly wound yarn on this log is then provided to the weaver, who uses it for the warp on the loom frame.
Weaving: As mentioned, fly shuttle durries are commonly woven on the pit loom. The weaver sits at ground level and his legs rest inside a pit that contains the pedals. For weaving, the warp from the Rula (log) is bound on the two beams of the loom. It loops over another log called Kharag. The warp is then guided in two layers by a flat vertical metallic reed till it reaches the Hattha (the moveable frame used to beat the weft, which also carries the fly shuttle reel). The reed is a comb-like structure of metal wires. It maintains the distance between the individual warp threads. The design of the reed (Raach) frame varies with each design and is made by an outside specialist. Making the correct Raach is very important to get the weave as desired. For plain durries, the loom has two frames, but the number of frames can go up to a maximum of four depending on the complexity of the design.
The weaver uses the beater (Hattha) to push back the loose thread that tails the shuttle into the system of weft threads. As the weaving progresses, he adjusts the tension of the warp using the tightening screws on the two loom beams.
List of craftsmen.