Meet 97-year-old handloom hero Sangappa Mante
From padayatra to trekking, freedom fighter Sangappa Mante from Kodekal village is trying everything to revive the industry
KALABURAGI: At the ripe age of 97, Sangappa Mante is on a mission: to save the handloom industry. For more than two decades, the warhorse from Kodekal village of Hunasagi taluk (Yadgir district) has been fighting to protect traditional handloom weaving. He took up a padayatra twice in the past decade, and three years ago, trekked 300km from Kodekal to Kottur in Davanagere district.
Mante, whose family continues traditional handloom weaving, has joined hands with Charaka Movement founder Prasunna, well-known theatre artist-director and activist. Mante has always been a restless soul, having fought for the liberation of erstwhile Hyderabad state from the then Nizam, who had declined to merge with an independent India on August 15, 1947.
Hyderabad state, comprising 17 districts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, along with Bidar, Kalaburagi and Raichur districts, were part of the erstwhile kingdom and continued to be part of the Nizam’s kingdom after 1947.
In the heady days following Independence, Sardar Veerupakshappa Gowda of Rajankollur village near Kodekal, was a leading figure in the fight against the Nizam’s army (razakars) to liberate erstwhile Hyderabad state. Gowda was soon killed.
Sangappa Mante, Gowda’s close associate, adopted the Gandhian style of resistance against the Nizam, walking around Kodekal village in khadi attire and carrying the national flag to raise awareness on the happenings in the country. His aim was to ignite a sense of patriotism among the villagers.
He and his friends would shelter activists of liberation movement and place hurdles on the road to prevent the razakars from entering Kodekal village.
The Nizam government arrested Mante in 1948 and put him in Kalaburagi Central Jail for three months for waging war against it. He was released a few months before liberation of erstwhile Hyderabad state, on September 17, 1948.
Ever since, Mante has held khadi dear, and is continuing the fight to revive the dying handloom industry. Yadgir district administration said that Mante is the only surviving activist of erstwhile Hyderabad state liberation movement from Yadgir district.
“The government should do everything possible to protect traditional industries. Instead of giving free grains, money etc, the government should double or treble the wages of artistes, provide materials at subsidised rates, and provide a good market. The government should take steps to popularise products of traditional industries. It will not only save the traditional industry, but also increase employment opportunities and keep youngsters in good health,” he said.
Family bond with handlooms
Sangappa Mante was born on June 25, 1926, in a weaver’s family at Ikkalaki village of Aland taluk in Kalaburagi district. His family later shifted to Kodekal in Yadgir. He started working on handlooms at the age of 16, when his family had only two handloom units.
“There was a lot of demand for khadi and handloom back then, and we used to get sufficient cotton,” said Mante, who went on to increase the number of handloom units from two to 20, from 1942 to 1946.
Until 1960, his family had 22 units. There were 300 families in Kodekal which were involved in weaving, Mante recalls.
After 1960, the number of handloom production units started declining, and now his family has only two units, which are operated by Mante’s three sons. There are hardly 7-8 families who are still involved in traditional weaving, says Mante.
Mante, who is state unit president of the Federation of All-India Handloom Associations, had been invited by the President to participate in a reception for freedom fighters and activists at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 9, 2015.
‘Working on loom better than yoga’
Asked whether he was did yoga or exercise to maintain his health at the age of 97, Sangappa Mante said working on a handloom is a better exercise. We have to use our hands, legs, eyes and mind in coordination, which is a great exercise, he felt.
Roll of honour
Mante received the state-level Deshi Rastriya Kaimagga Prashasti (National Handloom Award) for 2012-13 on December 21, 2014, and Nekara Ratna Award instituted by Karnataka Rajya Nekara Samudayagala Okuta (Federation of Karnataka State Weaving community) on August 7, 2022
A few weeks ago, Yadgir Deputy Commissioner Sushila visited Mante’s house and felicitated him on behalf of the district administration. Sangappa has received an invitation from Kalyana Karnataka Amrit Mahotsava Samiti to receive an award on September 17 in Kalaburagi for his contribution to the liberation movement