A perfect formal attire having soft 80’s combed cotton, the intricate jacquard thread borders, with unique tie and design in the borders and pall. Moreover, the coarse and rustic 60’s cottons makes them a comfortable wear and also provides a good drape. The Paramakudi sarees are weaved by a community known as the Saurashtrians who migrated to the region of Tamil Nadu about 900 years ago. The Puthinam variation has a contemporary touch which gives it a new and modern touch, making it a saree for everyone.
QWhich community weaves Paramkudi sarees?
The Paramakudi sarees are woven by a community known as the Saurashtrians who migrated to the region of Tamil Nadu about 900 years ago.
QWhat is the history of Paramakudi sarees?
Nobody knows the beginnings of the weaving occupation in Paramakudi.The most important direction for understanding the history of these sarees is by understanding the history of those who make these sarees- The Saurashtrian community. They are the community of people who had their original homes in Gujarat and presently are settled almost in all major towns of Tamil Nadu with their concentration in Madurai (their cultural headquarters) and other neighbouring areas like Paramakudi. The origin of the name dates back to the time when the ancestors of these people inhabited the kingdom of Saurashtra in Gujarat State.
QWhich are the commonly seen designs in Paramkudi sarees?
Some of the designs that are commonly observed on the Paramakudi sarees are,
Single and double stripes in contrasting colours
Abstract diamond patterns
Paisley motifs, floral paisley buttas, floral buttas, leaf motifs, floral creepers
QWhat makes Paramakudi sarees exclusive?
the intricate jacquard thread borders, with unique tie and design in the borders and pallu. The designs in the sarees may be used in combination with each other or separately. The designed usage depends entirely on the purpose for which the saree is being created. The more elaborate the function, the more complex the design of the saree.
QIs paramakudi famous for cotton or silk saree?
Cotton Sarees –The quality of cotton saris is highly sophisticated. Weavers utilize different types of lines to create layouts. In between two lines very fine repetitive motifs are filled. One sees an interesting blend of traditional motifs like peacock, mango or elephant with modern patterns.
Initially, around the 1960s-70s, when the Paramakudi sarees were designed, they featured simple colours and designs. As a result, these sarees were mostly used for daily wear for women.
Since the cotton fabric is strong, these sarees were able to withhold the daily wear and tear as well.
At that time, these sarees came within the price range of 25-50 rupees.
However, gradually, the patterns became more detailed due to the usage of the jacquard and the colours expanded to include many others from the colour wheel, therefore, these sarees became more elaborate and extravagant.
In today’s world, these sarees can be used not only as daily wear but also for special festivals and occasions and fall between the price range of 2000-6000 rupees.
The borders of the saree include motifs that replicate the temple architecture and design further contributing to their specialty.
They are worn for both formal as well as semi-formal occasions. The latter one has contrasting colours and simple yet attractive zari work. It creates a contemporary as well as casual look.
The usage and significance of the Paramakudi sarees are inextricably linked. The reason for their significance is their usage -not only in India but all over the world.
Earlier about 9 yards of the saree was made and these were extremely popular in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
These sarees have been given the ‘Handloom mark’ that was launched as a government initiative in 2006 to offer a guarantee to the consumers that the product they are purchasing is a genuine handwoven product and not something out of a power loom or mill. This also provides an exclusive identity to the Paramakudi saree and contribute to their significance not only in India but also abroad. This scheme is being implemented by Textile Committee, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India.
In Tamil Nadu, Primary Weavers’ Co-operative Societies, Tamil Nadu Handloom Weavers’ Co-operative Society Ltd. (Co-optex) and individual /master weavers /exporters have been registered under Handloom Mark Scheme for using the Handloom Mark Labels.
The fact that these are lesser known, also works in the favor of these sarees as it makes them one of a kind and intriguing for the buyers.
Many companies that sell Paramakudi sarees today guarantee the handloom mark, India handloom brand, fair trade and silk mark to depict authenticity and ensure that counterfeit products do not take over the market.
This Paramakudi cluster is gaining more acclaim and appreciation over the years and is becoming increasingly popular in Tamil Nadu. Various designs like the 1000 butta and Pudinam find themselves being particularly trending and popular amongst Tamil women. With the significant strides that are being taken by the government and the weavers, these sarees, with their different colour shades and patterns, hold the potential to become as popular as the Kanchipuram saree. Therefore, the Paramakudi sarees offer a promising future market and sale.
Myths & Legends:
According to one folk story, a love-stricken weaver created the first saree after he dreamt of a beautiful, sensuous woman. He spun long drapes of fabric to mimic the woman’s flowing hair, and infused vibrant colors in the saree to match her personality and warmth. Overwhelmed with how beautiful the garment was, he didn’t stop draping until the fabric stretched to 9 yards. The weaver left the midriff bare, reflecting the Hindu belief that the navel is the ultimate source of creativity and life.
In the Indian mythology, Lord Brahma is shown seated on a lotus that sprouts from Lord Vishnu’s navel. The navel is hence considered to be the creative wisdom of the Supreme Being. Hence the midriff is left exposed by this drape. This is also shown in the Silappadikaram.
Though the ‘Dharmashastra’ contradicts this by mentioning that the saree should be worn in a modest way, by covering the midriff and the navel.
An individual’s life in a particular society when compared to another individual’s life residing in a different society reveals several differences and contrasting imagery. Life in Paramakudi, however, is a well-balanced composition of ironies and similarities.
Paramakudi is divided into two parts by the river Vaigai but it has a strong bond that works as a bridge between the two shores. The yarns of cotton and silk move parallel just like the river waters, one shore for each.
The history of this place is a mystery, you can see the connections and linkages but it is hard to discern from where it all started. Nobody knows the beginnings of the weaving occupation here, although they do say that the ends of these threads are as old as the river Vaigai itself.
The Paramakudi sarees were initially worn and made without blouses, that is, women simply used to drape the cloth around their bodies. However, the arrival of the British in India transformed this practice and blouses were introduced.
A loom which could weave three clothes at the same time, just like a fly-shuttle pit loom, was invented here in the 19th century by a weaver named Ramaneswaram. He was skilled at making looms and sold his invention to the local weavers for around three rupees per loom. Though they opposed this idea of buying the loom for such a high price and also despised the design. In their outrage they burned Ramaneswaram’s house as well as the only model of the loom invented by him.
Paramakudi had around 50,000 looms in the mid-20th century, manufacturing both ordinary cotton and silk clothes. They were mostly used by the locals. Though the high-valued clothes were exported to the regions of the Straits, Burma and the West Asian ports.
The most important direction for understanding the history of these sarees is by understanding the history of those who make these sarees- The Saurashtrian community.
Sourashtra or “Sourashtras” refers to a community of people who had their original homes in Gujarat and presently are settled almost in all major towns of Tamil Nadu with their concentration in Madurai (their cultural headquarters) and other neighbouring areas like Paramakudi. The origin of the name dates back to the time when the ancestors of these people inhabited the kingdom of Saurashtra in Gujarat State. The Tamil name by which these people is known in Southern India is Patnūlkarar, that is silk-thread workers or weavers who speak “Pattunuli” or “Khatri”, a dialect of Gujarati.
Oral tradition states that they have migrated on the fall of Somanath Temple when Gazni Mohammed invaded and plundered Hindu Temples. It is said they lived for about two centuries in Devagiri and later moved to Vijayanagar Empire at the invitation of the Kings. They manufactured fine silk garments for the use of Kings and their families and were engaged in the Silk trade.
When Nayak Kings started to rule Madurai, they were invited by the Madurai Nayak Kings and were given accommodation around Thirumalai Nayak Palace, Madurai, where even now there are many Saurashtra families living. The migration might have taken place in various groups at different times and they settled in many places in Tamil Nadu.
Later Hyder Ali invited some families from Thanjavur to settle in Srirangapattanam in Karnataka. Those people are now in Bangalore after the fall of Srirangapattanam and they are called ‘Jamkhaanadavaru’. Similarly, some families went to Andhra and settled in Tirupati. The majority of people are settled in Madurai.
In history they are referred to as Patkar, Pattegar, Patvekar and Patnulkarar. In Tamil, the weaving community is referred to as ‘Kaikkolar’. In Tamil Nadu State they are called Sourashtra (Patnulkarar) or merely Palkar.
Since the 1960s, Saurashtras and Devangas have been engaged in the production of art silk and cotton fabrics.
They also produced Bemberg sarees which is made nowadays as well.
Before independence,Paramakudi weaving was famous for mainly 3 products- dhotis, sarees and Tawdi or towels.
The sarees used to be either 6-9 meters long, with 80 by 60 thread and plain checks, the dhotis used to be 2-4 metres in length, all white with zari borders and the Tawdi used to be plain white and small in size.
In 1960, the weavers were exposed to the beauty of Jacquard which changed their visual language and that of their sarees. The old plain pallu got a new avatar which consisted of different colours and complexly designed motifs.
Today, motifs have expanded their area of coverage from the pallu to the whole body of the saree. With time, the complexity and finesse of these motifs placed their strong foothold in the world of art. After exploration of different motif designs, the artisans have opened their minds to more innovative and complex weaving.
Many weavers and societies find themselves to be extremely eager and keen for creating a new place in the market. Therefore, the weavers in this region have constantly updated their designs and try new things. Their ideas are heavily influenced by temple culture in motifs and the legend around the history of Ramanathapuram.
Rayon yarn is used in the making of shirting pieces and sarees. The 100D, 120D, 150D are the popular types of rayon yarn used.
Bemberg sarees are also produced with 60D rayon yarn on throw shuttle looms, alongside mixed sarees woven using 150D rayon yarn and 40s count cotton yarn.
Cotton Sarees –The quality of cotton saris is highly sophisticated. Weavers utilize different types of lines to create layouts. In between two lines very fine repetitive motifs are filled. One sees an interesting blend of traditional motifs like peacock, mango or elephant with modern patterns. Weavers also use checked patterns as the whole layout of the saree. Sometimes, these sarees may have contrasting colours such as orange and blue, other times, they may have complementary shades like pink and magenta.
Silk cotton Sarees-Weavers also weave sarees that use a combination art silk., cotton and zari. These are simple sarees that prove to be fit for any occasion. They come with 6-8 inch borders and the zari usage is also minimized in comparison with the zari in the traditional sarees. Traditional motifs such as butas are used on the body of the saree and different colours are experimented with.
Jacquard weave– These are heavy work sarees that speak volumes about the culture & traditions of the region. They usually involve replication of the patterns in the temple architecture and designs in combination with traditional motifs and floral patterns.
The use of art silk and art gold zari makes these sarees one of a kind and cheaper in comparison to the real zari and real silk saree. These sarees are usually worn at weddings or on special occasions due to their extravagance and flashy appearance.
Some of the designs that are commonly observed on the Paramakudi sarees are,
The 1000 buta sarees and Pudinam sarees are some of the very popular designs from here that are widely bought and worn by Tamil women.
Thousand Butta Sarees – These traditional designs called as “Ayiram Butta” sarees have fine checks alternating with Mayil (peacock) and Chakram (rudraksha) motifs, intricately weaved in cotton-silk fabric. These sarees display grace and beauty, leaving a lasting impression. These timeless sarees are recreated in Tamil Nadu’s handloom clusters once again.
These designs may be used in combination with each other or separately. The designed usage depends entirely on the purpose for which the saree is being created. The more elaborate the function, the more complex the design of the saree.
There are a large number of challenges that are faced not only by the weavers of Paramakudi sarees but also by the overall handloom industry over there.
Just like every other industry, the handloom industry in Paramakudi also comes with its own set of problems. In an interview with The Hindu, a weaver revealed that he had to toil every day for 12-14 hours to weave a saree that would only fetch him 600 rupees. He talked about his journey and how he had to give up education in class 8th to become a full-time weaver. He pointed out that the low wages in combination with the rising prices of the raw material were further worsening the situation. Many of the children are also shifting to professions in the field of Information Technology which turn out to be more high paying. The condition of women is also highlighted since they experience a form of role conflict since they are not only required to dedicate a certain number of hours to weaving but also in managing the house and household chores.
However, in comparison to weavers from other Tamil Nadu clusters, the Paramakudi weavers have shown more positive experiences and integration with government and cooperative societies. At present, it is essential to note that these government initiatives have played a big role in the flourishment of the Paramakudi cluster.
A timeline of government initiatives and that of other organizations can be created to understand how efforts have been made to enhance the lab our conditions and facilities of the weavers in Paramakudi.
Since 2004, ten sari weaving clusters have been undertaken by NID (National Institute of Design) for a strategic design intervention. One of these clusters includes the Paramakudi region. These design projects aimed to mobilize the intrinsic strengths relating to weaving traditions and culture and connect them to the needs of contemporary markets by developing innovative designs through value addition strategies.
Around 2015, the government launched an Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS) wherein 100 handloom weavers from Paramakudi, Virudhunagar, Nagercoil and Tirunelveli clusters were offered training for 50 days. During the training, the weavers were also given a daily stipend of Rs. 150 each. The training imparted to the weavers in the center helped them in developing new designs and coming out with diversified products with improved quality to meet changing market needs and enhance their earnings.
In the year 2018, the Government of India has approved the project for setting up of Design Studio at Paramakudi in Virudhunagar Mega Handloom Cluster (VMHC) under the Comprehensive Handloom Cluster Development Scheme (CHCDS) at a project cost of Rs.25 lakhs. Consequently, the Design Studio was set up at Paramakudi with required paraphernalia.
The government has also introduced a savings and security scheme under which eight per cent of the wages of a member weaver are deducted as savings and deposited in the government treasury with an equal contribution by the government. The deposit would earn nine per cent interest and the weavers, on completing the age of 60, could draw the matured amount. In the event of the death of a weaver before the age of 60, the family would be given the insured amount of Rs. 60,000 plus the savings deposit amount with interest. After a weaver turned 60 years, he/she would be entitled to an old-age pension. Around 2,951 weavers have joined the scheme and they have a total deposit of Rs 6.4 crore. This scheme has proven extremely beneficial in ensuring the financial security of these households.
Some positives that ensure the continuation of the weaving tradition in this region are- the setup does not require a big investment, there is minimum power usage and Eco-friendly processes. The societies where the weavers are working are open to creativity and allow the weaver to express their freedom in design. Moreover, it has been noted that Paramakudi has a good opportunity for creating its own identity by undertaking specific work directions.
Some suggestions that have been made for this industry are- colour combinations of the warp colour, weft colour and their interacting motifs need improvement, greater product diversification is needed to tap into the elite from the big cities and further expand the market, advertisements need to target the contemporary people across the country to increase the consumer base, different mercerized cotton, Resham and zari can bring a new sense of freshness and texture to the sarees.
The first step in the weaving process is that of design conceptualization. 2-3 local designers usually sit down either with the master weavers or with the cooperative society to conceptualize the design and colour for the saree according to the market demands. After this is finalized, the process of weaving the saree begins. The design chosen might be a traditional one or one that is specifically requested by a customer.
The following raw material is used in the process of weaving the Paramakudi sarees-
Cotton – 80s combed 3200 CSP and 2×100, 80×100 mercerized cotton is for pallu and border
Art silk- 75 Denier warp, 150 Denier Extra warp in border
Zari- Gold, silver and copper zari (½ point)
Chemical Dye – These saris are locally wet dyed from approved dyers
Natural Dye- For azo-free vegetable dying, they are also sent to Pollachi.
Beetroot and turmeric are also used to make natural dyes.
The Department of Handloom office located in Paramakudi has a special responsibility for the supply of yarn and other raw materials to the Weavers’ Cooperative Societies.
In 2016, an initiative was taken up by Co-optex to supply organic cotton sarees that only made use of natural dyes. Under the range of organic sarees came the indigo-dye sarees. Weavers from Paramakudi were expected to deliver about 300 of these type of sarees in the first month. Later, it was concluded that the weavers largely benefited from the usage of natural dyes and this initiative was labelled successful. However, in the market today, these natural dyes still face heavy competition since chemical dyes not only allow for an intermixing of different shades but also ensure that the colours on the saree turn out to be more vibrant and bright as compared to the ones made with natural dyes.
The weavers also have shade cards that allow them to select the colours for the sarees. Usually, the master weavers or the cooperative societies sit with the weavers to make decisions about the colours of the saree.
The weavers in Paramakudi are experimenting with sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics to reduce the amount of waste produced in the weaving process.
A weaver named T. A. Kumaran in Paramakudi made fabrics using banana fibers, which along with being sustainable, also curbed the waste and looked elegant and alluring.
He also used bamboo fibre to make eco-friendly saree. They became an instant hit amongst the consumers. This ranges from around 1,000 to 1,280.
Tools & Tech:
The following tools and technology are used in the production of Paramakudi Sarees,
• Looms– Double jacquard looms have been used for weaving the sarees since the beginning. One jacquard is used for the border and the other one is used for the pallu. Jacquard border is of 120 hooks and the pallu as well is of 120 hooks. There is an 80s reed and 1:1 ratio harness.
• Paddle– Every loom setup has about 4 paddles attached to it.
• Shuttle– Every loom setup has about 3-4 shuttles attached to it.
• Warping Machines– These machines are huge and used while preparing the warp. The prepared warp is loaded into the warpers beam before the weaving process.
• Huge containers– These are used for dyeing and boiling water.
• Reel and Charkha – Reeling is done using a charkha machine. The women of the household usually take up this task.
• Computer-generated punch cards– These punch cards are loaded in the jacquard machines to create the motif patterns for the sari, border, and pallu. In the present day, the local designer makes these designs on the computer and transfers them into punch cards using simple machines. These punch cards are made out of thick paper boards.
The weaver smears his loom with sandalwood and also places the photographs of deities near it.
Before starting the weaving, he worships the loom and takes the blessings from the gods and goddesses.
As the sandalwood is known to bring prosperity, wealth and abundance.
The first step in the process is that of design conceptualization.
2-3 local designers usually sit down either with the master weavers or with the cooperative society to conceptualize the design and colour for the saree according to the market demands.
After this is finalized, the process of weaving the saree begins.
The design chosen might be a traditional one or one that is specifically requested by a customer.
Dyeing: This is the first step in the process of weaving the saree.
The colours are decided as per the available shade cards or market demands.
These saris are locally wet dyed from approved dyers.
After finalizing the design, society or master weavers take care of the dyeing process.
This dyeing process can take up to 10-12 days.
Both silk and cotton yarn has different dyeing process.
The arrangements for the dyeing process are entirely dependent on the colour, design and material of the saree.
Various coloured dyes are used for the cotton threads. Some of them are- green (pachai), pink (rose), yellow (manjal), magenta (vada mali), black (karaf), red (sindupu), white (velle), and blue (neelam)
Warping: This step follows after the dyeing of the yarn.
The yarn is now handed over to the weaver with pre-processing until the warping is completed.
The weaver along with two other people undertake the beaming process.
The warp is stretched in the streets (allu neetradhu) and rolled onto the beam with equal tension while checking on yarn damages.
The metal comb is used to distribute the yarns evenly while being wound into the beam.
The warp is then wound onto the beam by rotating the same with a stick and carefully distributing the yarn equally.
The loaded beam is then taken to the loom.
Artisans attach a new yarn with the previously finished saree and pass it through the reed (72 to 75 threads /inch) After attaching every yarn, the loom is made ready for commencing the weaving process.
Punch card making: The design is developed on a computer by a local person who is known as a ‘designer.’
Due to the jacquard limitations at Paramakudi, the maximum size for the motif or the border is 6 inches.
Local designers use their creativity by repeating and mirroring the motif. They also have good knowledge about the local looms setup.
Sometimes buyers may give them a printout or digital image to convert.
The designers also utilize a simple machine to make these cardboard punch cards.
Two jacquard are used for weaving these saris. One is for weaving border design and the other is used for weaving designs in the body of the saree and its pallu.
Punch cards are loaded in the jacquard machines to create the motif patterns in the body, border and pallu.
After attaching every yarn, the loom is set ready for the beginning of weaving.
Artisans use paddles to lift the specific warp threads in the loom.
Each thread of the warp can be lifted by a hook connected to a rod.
After lifting the specific threads with the help of a rope, artisans pass the shuttle by hitting it.
A pattern is then created on the fabric by lifting the warp threads and changing the choice of threads to lift from step to step.
The weft yarn is then inserted using Chakra.
Through a single wrap, ten saris are made in about a month. 7-8 warps are made per design with different colour combinations.
At Paramakudi, artisans usually get 800-1000 rupees per saree. If 2 members from a family are working on the loom, they will make up to 12-15 thousand rupees per month.
Moreover, their occupation also gives them the freedom to work from home.
The artisan has to use 2-3 punch cards to make a saree. Here one set is for the border, one set is for the pallu and one set is for the body. This process is entirely dependent on the design and colour of the saree.
A weaver takes around 3 days to finish one sari.
One day is given specifically to pallu and intricacies on the silk take a weaver approximately 2.5 days to complete.
About 2-2.5 metres of a saree can be weaved in one single day.
When a saree is weaved, the societies mark off the names of the weavers in their registers and accounts. A track is kept on exactly how many sarees a weaver is supposed to weave and till when he is required to make the final delivery. This ensures that the process is systematically carried out and there is no room for confusion.
The sound of the clicking looms, the aroma from the incense sticks, the vibrant colours from the cotton and silk sarees, the gentle breeze blowing away the saree threads, the intricate temple architecture inspiring the saree motifs, the pastel tones of the decorative flowers, and the festive fervor- all these elements culminate into the richness and grandeur of a small urban town, situated on the banks of river Vaigai, in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, called Paramakudi. A municipal town which is covered by 4 sections, namely- Paramakudi, Emaneswaram, Kattuparamakudi and Ventheni. It has become an increasingly significant town in recent times and is the booming handloom cluster that contributes to the town’s popularity along with being an amalgamation of modernity and tradition that are embedded in its heart and soul.
The origin of the word ‘Ramanathapuram’ comes from ‘ramanath’ meaning ‘one who is lord of Rama’ and ‘nath’ meaning ‘abode or town.’
The history of this district takes us back to the legend of Ramayana.
It is believed that after killing the almighty Ravana, Lord Ram, with his beloved wife Sita, first set foot in India by stepping on the shores of this city.
In order to expiate himself from the dosha of killing a brahmin (Ravana) Lord Ram immediately went to offer his prayers and worship to Lord Shiva in Rameshwaram, which was 50 kilometres away from Ramanathapuram.
Since there was no shrine in the island, he had requested Hanuman to bring an idol of Shiva from the Kailash mountain.
However, there was a delay in Hanuman bringing the idol. Therefore, Sita decided to mould sand into a Shivalingam and offer worship to that. When Hanuman returned with the Kailash Lingam, both Lingams were placed next to each other and worshipped in order to appease Lord Shiva.
The history of this town includes the reign of several kingdoms and dynasties who left a mark on the city in their own unique ways.
In 1063 AD, this city was under the reign of king Rajendra Chola of the Chola dynasty.
In the late 12th and early 13th century, this province was ruled by Hazrat Sulthan Syed Ibrahim shaheed of Ervadi. Later on His heirs were ruling the province following a peace treaty with the sethupathis.
From then, in the early 15th century the present territories of Ramanathapuram district— comprising the taluks Tiruvadanai, Paramakudi, Kamuthi, Mudukulathur, Ramanathapuram and Rameswaram — were included in the Pandyan Empire or the Pandiya dynasty
However, in 1520 AD, the rule shifted from the Pandiya’s to the kings of Vijaynagar, Maravar chieftains or Sethupatis who had been subordinate to the Pandiyan Kings who ruled over this city for a period of two centuries.
However, in the 17th century, the rule shifted over to the Marava chieftains-Sethupathis who were Lords under Pandiyan Kings reigned over this area.
The early part of the 18th century experienced a rise in familial disputes over the succession and this resulted in the division of Ramanathapuram. In 1730 AD, with the help of Thanjavur’s king, one of the chieftains deposed Sethupathy and became the Raja of Sivaganga. Acting upon the weakness of the Nayak rulers, the local chieftains (Palayakarars) became independent; the Raja of Sivaganga and the Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram were prominent among them. In 1730, Chanda Shahib of Karnataka captured Ramanathapuram.
In 1741 AD, the area came under the rule of the Marathas and then under the Nizam in 1744 AD. Nawab’s created a sense of displeasure in the mind of chieftains which made them declare the last Nayak as ruler of Pandiya Mandalam against the Nawab in 1752 AD. By that time, the throne of Carnatic had two rivals- Chanda Sahib and Mohamed Ali, and this district was part of the Carnatic. The British supported Chanda Sahib, however the French supported Mohamed Ali. This paved way for a series of conflicts and turmoil in the southern part of the continent.
In 1795, the British deposed Muthuramalinga Sethupathy and took control over the administrative responsibilities of Ramanathapuram.
In 1801, Mangaleswari Nachiyar was made the zamindar of Sivaganga. After the Queen passed away, the Marudhu Brothers took charge by paying regular revenue to the East India company.
In 1803, the Marudhu Brothers of Sivaganga revolted against the British alongside the Kattabomman of Panchalamkurichi. Colonel Agnew captured the Marudhu Brothers and hanged them. Consequently, Agnew appointed Gowri Vallbaha Periya Udaya Thevar as the Zamindar of Sivaganga. After the fall of Tippu Sultan, British took the control of the Nawab and imprisoned him.
In 1892 the Zamindari system was abolished and a British Collector was appointed for the administrative purposes.
Ramanathapuram was then formed in 1910 by clubbing areas of Madurai and Tirunelveli, with J.F. Bryant as its first collector. During the rule of the British, it came to be known as Ramnad and till date, this name is used sometimes due to the significant popularity it gained.
Later, it was renamed as Ramanathapuram to be in conformity with the Tamil Name for this region. Ramanathapuram is also known as Mugavai or face, as the River Vaigai ends it journey here in the Palk Strait.
Ramanathapuram was trifurcated in 1985 as:
Sivagangai District which consists of Thiruppattur, Karaikudi, Devakottai, Sivaganga, Manamadurai and Illaiyankudi Taluks.
Virudhunagar District which consist of Sriviliputur, Virudhunagar, Thiruchuli, Aruppukottai, Sathur and Rajapalayam Taluks.
Ramanathapuram District which consists of Tiruvadanai, Paramakudi
The town of Paramakudi consists of two formerly separate settlements- Paramakudi and Emaneswaran, which merged to form the present municipal town in 1964.
Paramakudi is a town under the Ramanathpuram district.
It is located at 9.544°N 78. 591°E.
It has an average elevation of 41 m (135 ft.).
Ramanathpuram city is the district headquarters.
This district is bounded on the Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Sivagangai, Virudhunagar and Pudukkottai district, on the east by the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Mannar.
It is situated on the two banks of river Vaigai and it comprises of Paramakudi, Emaneswaram, Kattuparamakudi and Ventheni.
It occupies an area of about 13.4 square kilometres and is distanced at 75 kilometres from the famous town of Madurai which is of great significance since various raw materials and substances are bought from the Madurai market for sale and production of the Paramakudi sarees.
Paramakudi can be defined as municipal town since it presents a perfect blend of the weaving tradition and modern infrastructure facilities.
The municipal town of Paramakudi is known to be well developed and offers different facilities for health, education and entertainment.
Being an important commercial center, the infrastructure of Paramakudi is highly developed and a strong connectivity to other neighboring cities, towns and villages has been established through road, rail and air.
The town is located in the south east area of Tamil Nadu and connected by NH 49 to Madurai from Rameswaram.
There are private and public bus facilities which serve the function of carrying passengers to and from the nearby areas.
The railways also play an important role in establishing connectivity.
The nearest railway station is the Paramakudi Railway Station which is located at a distance of 1.3 kilometres and Manamadurai Junction Railway Station which is located at a distance of 23 kilometres from Paramakudi.
The main airports near Paramakudi are- Madurai Airport (70 kilometres), Tuticorin Airport (122 kilometres), Civil Airport (152 kilometres) and, Trivandrum International Airport (243 kilometres).
The major cities located close to Paramakudi are Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Bangalore.
Paramakudi has a large number of KG and middle schools that are supported by different communities.
There are two government schools and four aided school that serve the purpose of providing secondary and senior secondary education to students.
There is one government arts college, two evening colleges and one polytechnic college that offers diploma courses.
For higher studies, the students can also go to the nearby towns and cities.
There are also 9 hospitals in the town which provide adequate medical and health facilities to all residents.
In case of serious emergencies, the strong connectivity through road, rail and air ensures that patients can be moved to other cities with more developed medical facilities.
Apart from this, there are excellent infrastructural facilities such as spacious buildings, fully equipped laboratories, workshops, computer labs with broadband internet connectivity, and well-qualified, experienced and dedicated instructors.
The infrastructure of the town supports its status as a commercial center and further facilities connectivity and movement between neighboring areas.
This infrastructure has supported the growing significance and popularity of the Paramakudi sarees.
The origin stories of Ramanathpuram are connected to legend of Ramayana and its history is linked to the rule of several different kings; the architecture of this town is an emblem of this historicity and diversity.
Architecture in the households of Paramakudi, Ramanathpuram is noteworthy and representative of the major occupation of the people.
Since a large portion of the population is engaged in weaving, looms are present at the entrance of every household.
As one enters these houses, multi-colored cotton threads fall towards the entrance forming a canopy-like structure that makes the individuals bend before entering.
Moreover, the equipment, tools and raw materials for saree weaving are spread out over the entire house creating a sort of organized chaos that echoes their profession and dedication towards their job.
This imagery is juxtaposed to the perfectly designed intricate motifs that are weaved onto the sarees by these weavers.
The architecture of the households convey that weaving is not simply a job for them, it is a way of life.
Temple architecture of Ramanathpuram is especially given more significance since the people of this town harbor deep sentimental values towards religion and celebrate different temple festivals with immense joy and pride. These temples contain intricate architecture, fine sculptures and revered deities. Some of these temples are as follows-
Adanainathar Temple at Tiruvadanai
This is one of the most famous temples in Ramanathapuram that has been dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple deities are Lord Adanainathar and Goddess Ambayiravali. The Sthala Teertham is Suryavaruna teertham.
Saint Sambandar is known to have contributed significantly in praise of the lord. The temple lies close to Paramakudi and is one of the most visited temples of Ramanathapuram district.
Kumaraian Temple, Melakodumalur
This is one of the most reputed temples in Ramanathapuram.
The temple deity is Lord Subramanya who is represented with a 6-foot high idol, in a standing posture under a tree. Javvaduppulavar and Nallamuthu Pillai have sung in this temple.
Panguni Uthiram is the major festival celebrated in this temple.
Adi Jagannatha Temple, Tirupullani
This temple in Ramanathapuram is visited by hundreds of pilgrims.
It enshrines the idol of Lord Vishnu in resting posture. Padmasini and Kalyanavalli Thayaar are also worshiped here.
There is a sacred peepal tree located inside this temple and people believe childless parents performing Nagaprathishtha under this tree would bless them with long-living children.
This tree also helps in washing away of all sins.
This is one of the well-known temples of Ramanathapuram district.
It is considered to be a delightful shrinededicated to Lord Ram,Sita, Lakshman, Lord Hanuman and Vibhishana.
Myth states that this is the place where Lord Ram performed the coronation of Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana.
According to legend, Lord Ram worshipped Shiva and the Navagrahas (the nine celestial bodies) at this place.
This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh (Vinayaka).
It has a huge gopuram, which depicts the different stories of Hindu mythology.
These inscriptions are done in oil paint.
The main festivals of this temple are Vinayaka Chaturthi and Maha Shivratri.
The temples of Ramanathapuram district are considered to artistic marvels of this region and special care is taken to maintain them.
The culture of Paramakudi has been shaped by years of different dynasties, communities, ethnicities and festivals.
Just like a bouquet carries the fragrance and colours of several flowers to create a symphony of aroma, beauty and blossom, the culture of this municipal town is coalescence of distinct elements and past realities.
The richness and depth of this culture give us a glimpse into the soul of South Indian people and their everyday norms.
The people of this town are deeply religious and sentimental. This is not only corroborated by the temple inspired motifs on the Paramakudi sarees worn by the women but also by looking at the vigor with which these individuals celebrate temple festivals.
The most commonly celebrated temple festivals are-
Paramakudi Muthalamman Temple
This is one of the main temples in Paramakudi that celebrates a variety of different festivals.
The most important festivals in the temple are Panguni Brahmotsavam, Aadi and Masi festivals and Navratri.
The Masi festival of showering flowers attracts thousands of people.
The murti of Goddess is completely covered with flowers in the ritual.
The Panguni Brahmotsavam is also of great significance.
In the Brahmotsavam, Muthalamman gives darshan to devotees riding on a Rishabha.
The temple also has murtis of Nagas, Marthandi Amman, Pothiraja, Karuppaswami and Hanuman.
Apart from this, there are also two main temples in other regions of Ramanathapuram which have an immense influence on the temple culture of Paramakudi. These are,
There is an ancient Shiva temple, also known as Mangalanadha Swamy temple, in Uthirakosamangai.
This is the only Shiva temple where one can observe a 6 feet idol of Lord Nataraja carved in Emerald (Maragatham).
This idol kept inside the temple and smeared with sandal paste.
Arudhra darshan is held on Thiruvathirai day in the Tamil month of Margazhi every year.
During this festival the sandal paste is removed and the devotees are allowed to worship the Maragatha Nataraja idol after performing abishekams.
This festival attracts a large number of devotees from Ramanathapuram district and other districts of the state.
The ErvadiSanthanakoodu Festival is a festival held in Ervadi Dargah, to observe the anniversary of Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Badhusha Oliyullah as a symbol of religious harmony.
It is a month long festival and celebrated in the Islamic month of Dhu al-Qi’dah.
Every year a huge gathering of people from all community within Tamil Nadu and elsewhere throng Ervadi on this day to witness the festival.
Chitra Festival is the event of Perumaal visiting Vaigai river on the full moon day of the month of Chithirai (around May). On this day, Sri Sundara Raja Perumaal in the form of Kallalagar (god who blessed the thieves) visits the river Vaigai in a 1000 wheeled golden chariot. Thousands of people from the neighbouring villages and towns gather to welcome the Lord and share their love and affection for him. This is a unique festival for the people of any caste, group and culture. This celebration spans for 10 days and starts on the day of Meenakshi Kalyanam.
The dress and attire of the individuals in Paramakudi and Ramanathapuram also play an essential role in modelling the culture.
The food of Paramakudi is also considered to be an integral part of its culture- the harmonious blend of flavors and mouth-watering South Indian dishes leave individuals smacking their lips and licking their fingers. The most commonly available food items are that of Idli, Dosa, Sambar, and Rasam. A thali or platter is also very popular.
Cinemas play a vital role in provision of recreation facilities for the masses.
Children living near the river bank (Emaneswaram, Melachathiram, Manjalpattinam) spend their evenings at the river or Children's Park.
Cricket is played by the children at the Government school grounds on weekends.
The culture of Paramakudi also involves significant amount of tourism which promotes its identity and values.
According to the Census of 2011, the population of Paramakudi was 95,579 with a sex ratio of 966 females for every 1,000 males.
This was significantly above the national average of 929.
The literacy rate of Paramakudi is 81.44% as opposed to the national average of 72.99%.
The town has 23,504 households.
The majority of the population, that is, 85% of this town is Hindu who mainly believes themselves to be Saivaites and Vaishnavites.
The remaining population comprises of Muslims (9.2%), Christians (4.11%), Sikhs (0.01%) and others (0.12%).
The major ethnic caste groups are composed of Scheduled Castes, Mukkulathors (Kallar, Maravar and Thevar community) and the Yadavas.
The population also comprises of the Saurashtrian community of weavers.
The most commonly spoken languages are Tamil.
A sizeable portion of the population also speaks Hindi in order to cater to tourism demands brought about by the North Indians who visit this region.
Traditionally, Veshti (White fabric with simple line border) is the most common bottom-wear formen in Tamil Nadu. It is wrapped around the legs, tied at the waist. It is the traditional dress worn by men in marriages too, however, the material may be silk for special occasions.
This rectangular shaped cloth is generally made with cotton for daily usage. It is mostly worn with a shirt or Angavastram on top.
With time, more and more people are switching to the cotton lungi as their daily outdoor wear, specially the fishermen or labour community.
Lungis are available in different colors and check patterns very easily.
They are made of lesser quantity of fabric and mostly cotton fibre, which makes them cost effective.
When worn above the knees it gives the wearer more flexibility to move around.
While most of the native crowd can still be seen in traditional wear, the younger ones and the office going men have also taken up t-shirts with the lungi, although denims and pants are quite popular.
Men apply Sandalwood tilaks on their forehead in various formations.
In the Brahmin community by observing the tilak, one can identify their belief in Shaivism or Vaishnavism.
Women generally wear a draped form of fabric 6 to 8 yards in length.
This is first tied round the waist with pleats gathered in front and then brought over the right shoulder, which is then brought in front along the waist.
Most of the women wear synthetic fabric sari with bright colours and bold patterns.
Apart from the sari, younger and unmarried women can also be seen wearing stitched salwars and Kurtas.
Ornaments like “Pambadam” (earrings) and ‘Thandgai’ (bangles) andnose pin are common to this place.
Some popular designs of nose pins may have a circular metal ring around the nostril, a large metal disc sitting, and spiral like metal ring etc. along with the traditional sandalwood women also wear synthetic bindis on their forehead.
The comparatively smaller size of the population also ensures the existence of strong bonds between the people and a tight knit community.
It is believed that the bonds between different generations here are significantly strong since most of the employment activities undertaken by the people require a shift in responsibility from the older to the younger population. For example, weaving, dairy farming, pottery, blacksmith, carpentry, basket making, rope making, and synthetic gem-cutting.
Therefore, the people here are mostly employed in activities that are passed down from one generation to the next and are largely employed in the primary sector.
Despite having a tremendous amount of diversity, not only in the occupations but also in the language and religion, the people from this town adopt a cosmopolitan attitude towards each other and display affection and respect.
This town evidently imbibes the gist of India’s ‘Unity in Diversity.’
Thus, on a micro-level, the community and people of Paramakudi give us a sense of the true essence of Indian collectivism and plurality.
Apart from the weaving of cotton and silk sarees, Paramakudi is also famous for its temple festivals, culture and diverse community setting.