BHAWANIPATNA: Habaspuri saree of Kalahandi is popular among handloom connoisseurs for its unique designs but there are not enough weavers willing to carry the weaving tradition forward. Mostly woven with cotton and silk, these sarees were originally produced by members of Kandha tribe in Habaspur village of the district during the 19th century.
When the dynastical rule declined, the tribals stopped weaving the sarees but later on, the saree was revived by master weaver Ugrasen Meher in Chicheguda. Weavers of the village then began producing the saree that is considered unique in the textile tradition of the State because of designs like Kumbha (temple), fish and flowers that are woven into the sarees. Subsequently, the Government formed the Chicheguda handloom cooperative society to look after the training of weavers and marketing of the final products. It got a Geographical Indication tag in 2012-2013.
However, when Government support began dwindling, the number of weavers also started declining. While the saree is not woven in Habaspur village anymore, some weavers in Chicheiguda, Palas, Baldiamal, Pundkul, Limser, Punjia, Handakhalpada and Jayantpur villages carry on the tradition. According to reports of the Textile and Handlooms Department, there are 11 primary weaver cooperative societies. While in 2016-17, there were 1,445 weavers and 110 looms, the number came down to 1,353 weavers and 106 looms in 2018-19.
The production value of Habaspuri sarees and fabrics was Rs 28.55 lakh in 2016-17 but it came down to Rs 18.89 lakh in 2018-19. Sources in the department attribute the declining trend to weaving being labour intensive and time-consuming work with poor returns.
They said young members of the weaving community in the district are now opting for farming, construction work and small business opportunities that fetch them daily wages. Income from weaving, on the other hand, is not timely.
Meanwhile, the Textile and Handlooms Department in its bid to draw young weavers into the craft has started training them in Habaspuri weaving. Assistant Director of Textiles, Indramani Kandi said they have started training 20 youths from the above-mentioned villages at Handakhalpada in skill development, tie and dye and producing products in Habaspuri design like bedspreads, table mats apart from saree.
The training will continue till December and after completion, the youths will be given looms and raw materials for weaving the sarees and other fabrics in Habaspuri designs. Also, a special training programme for 20 experienced weavers will be held shortly in Punjia village.