BARGARH: Bargarh's Jhilminda village was once home to 100 weavers' families. Though many quit the vocation in the last one decade due to lack of government patronage, there are a few others who have taken it upon themselves to keep traditional Sambalpuri designs and Bandha Kala (tie and dye) alive. One such family is of Murali Meher.
Murali's craftsmanship is unparalleled when it comes to handlooms of Sambalpur. While he has been using traditional motifs like Shankha (shell), Chakra (wheel), Phula (flower) - all of which have deep symbolism in Odia culture - to recreate new designs for Sambalpuri sarees, his entire family is engaged in translating his designs onto the yarn.
Apart from that, he has also been training young girls and boys of his village in tie and dye. The village, in the last three decades, has given 19 national awardees to the State. In Murali's family, five members are national awardees including his wife Devaki, two sons and a daughter.
He is now engaged in training girls of the village in tie and dye and weaving under the Guru Shishya Parampara scheme of Government of India. This is the second time he is training youths under the scheme, the last time being in 2010-11.
"All these years I have seen the craft, designs evolve. There are problems galore in the sector including lack of marketing and government support and COVID-19 pandemic only made things worse. Despite these hurdles when I see the young generation taking interest in weaving, it gives me hope that there is scope to save the craft and its age-old designs," says Murali.
While both Murali and Devaki are involved in training the youths, his sons Bichitra and Sesadev are helping their father in keeping the family vocation alive and recreating traditional designs. Around 35 weavers are now working for them.
Currently, the Meher family is working on creating Kalaputni saree, Puruna Mangasaju, Panchphulia Bhagwat saree, Dusphulia Saar Bandha saree and Bhulia saree.