Weaving the history of Balaramapuram

Balaramapuram is known for its famous handloom industry that makes stunning sarees and mundus fit for a king.
Weaving the history of Balaramapuram

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Balaramapuram is known for its famous handloom industry that makes stunning sarees and mundus fit for a king. In fact, Balaramapuram itself is named after the king under whose rule the place became a hub of handloom weavers.

Maharaja Avittom Thirunal Bala Rama Varma took over the throne from his uncle, Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma, in 1798 at the age of 16. His rule was marked by unrest and problems within and outside the kingdom.

“The young ruler was immature and was manipulated by corrupt nobles such as Jayanthan Sankaran Namboodiri (the diwan after Kesava Pilla), Matthoo Tharakan and Sankaranarayanan Chetty. Velayudhan Thampi — famous for his protest against the British rule — later became diwan after Jayanthan was removed from the post following an uprising started by the former against. The Britishers then replaced Velayudhan Thampi with Ummini Thampi, who had helped the British capture him,” says historian M G Sasibhooshan.

Ummini Thampi is credited with setting up a separate police force, then called ‘kaval’. Until then, there had only been armed forces in the state. He also brought in weavers from Kottar in Nagercoil to Thiruvananthapuram. The weaver colony comprised people belonging to Shaliar or Chaliyan community.

“It was only towards the end of Dharma Raja’s term that the capital was shifted from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram. Whenever the king had to offer gifts to the Brahmins who partake in the festivities at the Padmanabaswamy temple, he would gift them a mundu and money. And every time such handloom clothes were required, they had to be transported by bullock carts from the handloom centres. So it was probably easier to set up a weaver colony near the temple,” adds Sasibhooshan.

The place now known as Balaramapuram is a junction where four main roads meet. This probably made transporting the handloom goods much easier. The place was also a halting place for bullock carts carrying ‘karipetti’ from Nagercoil.

Later on, the cloth made by the weavers became popular among the royals and the nobility. The ‘kasavu mundu’ stitched by the weavers was popular for its use of gold-plated silver zari thread for the border. Soon, the place was named after the king during whose reign the weavers came to bless Thiruvananthapuram with the iconic golden ‘kasavu mundu’.

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The New Indian Express