A Life without Zari for Kuthampully's Weavers
By Dhinesh Kallungal | Published: 10th November 2014 06:02 AM |
THRISSUR: Many women, on the day of wedding prefer to be draped in the kasavu sarees they craft, but the weavers of Devanga community from Kuthampully, are finding it increasingly hard to guard their tradition and the art. And one of the major reasons is diminishing value of those who choose the weaver’s profession when the time comes for striking a marital alliance.
Vivekanandan, a 45-year-old skilled weaver in the handloom unit of the Kuthampully Handloom Industrial Cooperative Society, has stayed a bachelor not by choice. “Weavers do not get good brides and the respect they deserve,” says Vivekanandan. For men like him, from the village of Kuthampully in Thiruvilvamala, Thrissur, weaving was everything, an art they learned from their parents. “I had a strong passion for weaving since my childhood. But I don’t want to see younger members of the community following the tradition,” he said. The story of 28-year-old Sreedevi (name changed), Vivekanandan’s colleague, is not much different. She too does not want her peers to follow her profession because of the diminishing value of those who follow the traditional career in the ‘marriage market’.
According to the office-bearers of the Kuthampully Handloom Industrial Cooperative Society, the number of weavers in the famed handloom community is fast dwindling owing to various reasons. The weavers comprise of members of Devanga community who migrated from Karnataka.
The sarees woven here received exclusive Intellectual Property Rights through a Geographical Indications tag three years ago, but the reduction in number of weavers point towards the crisis in the handloom sector. K Saravanan, secretary of Kuthampully Handloom Society, said the community has around 6,000 members but only less than 600 are now actively pursuing this profession.
The exodus of weavers, especially young handloom weavers, from their traditional occupation is apparent if one looks at the dwindling number of designs. “Kuthampully could boast of 2,500 saree designs in the 90s, but now this has come down to around 600,” he said.
The weavers, according to him, now encourage their wards to join professional courses. “We are certain that if the trend persists, the industry will face a premature death,” said A Nagarajan, president of the society.
Ironically, even as weavers are leaving the trade, the society has recorded a turnover of Rs 2.5 crore in the last fiscal. Even though the weaving profession fetches the weaver a sum ranging from Rs 400-600 per day, most are reluctant to pursue it.
The members of their community spread in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, considered as prospective brides and bridegrooms for young men and women here, are not interested in the tradition.
“They are far better off when compared to the members of the community here,” a weaver said.
The government has to urgently interfere in the sector by upgrading skill and technology, developing entrepreneurship and infrastructure and promoting the product in order to woo the younger generation into the profession, said Dr C R Elsy, convener of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Cell, Kerala Agriculture University.