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In Dedication To The Keepers Of Our Heritage—Vastrabharana

In Dedication To The Keepers Of Our Heritage—Vastrabharana

   Annshu Juneja

Every weekend we see thousands of people rush to pop-ups that are happening in and around the city. While Facebook and Instagram are flooded with images of food, music and the latest fashion trends, there are few who attend the event we’re here to talk about today.

On Thursday 13th April, came to Mumbai the ‘Vastrabharana’, completing twenty-five years, an exhibit of weavers.  From hand-woven saris to Maheshwari  jacket-blouses and waist-coats, the Coomarswamy Hall at the CSMVS Museum, Colaba, Mumbai  was a handloom-enthusiast’s heaven.

We had little knowledge of what we were getting into until we stepped foot into a buzzing hall. Women, mostly between ages of thirty to fifty were seen flooding the exhibitors’ stands purchasing meters of material to saris, dupattas, stoles, sari blouses and jackets.

In salt and pepper hair, towering over most stood Pallavi Datta, the organiser of the event looking her magnanimous self in an off-white linen sari paired with her cheery and sprightly personality. When approached, the blogger told us of how over the years this weaving industry has come to be and about its deterioration. When the Council of Karnataka approached her about this exhibition she jumped at the thought of it and entertained it to the fullest and well, today here we are. “We are fast losing our heritage. In front of my eyes, Venkatagiri cottons and the quality we had then, now isn’t available”, she told us. “I needed to channel my passion I felt for weavers and I started working around it”.

You’ll also be surprised that the Lakme Fashion Week, Day two saw many of these weavers walk the ramp with their handloom materials and Pallavi had a big role to play in it too. The handloom part of the fashion week overshadowed the other days and has even led to a fad with Khadi materials and handlooms.

Let us take you through what a few exhibitors had to say and you’ll be surprised at the stories they had to tell us.

Roshan Chippa, an exhibitor said that the work he displays is the work of the ‘Chippa’ community that has been going on for nearly four hundred years. From a small district named Bagru, a few kilometers away from Jaipur, Roshan has been part of the Crafts Council that has gotten him here today. With no retail business or outlets, Roshan manages to sell his handcrafted material to stores and display them at exhibitions. His son, who studies in Jaipur too, stood proudly at the store helping his dad.

Here was one more story that was deeply touching. Ravi Kiran, a BSA Electronics Engineer tells us how he has adopted a small village in Shirahatti, eighty kilometers from Hubli. “Most of the weavers are women and we employ them. We started making plain fabrics but today we make hundred-count Khadi Muslin, the softest thinnest fabric in Khadi – form. My aim is ‘anti-migration’, we want the youth to stay in villages and help develop them instead of moving to the bigger cities”.

Manish Patel, a National Award winner for Maheshwari carpets stood there with his wife with a table full of hand-woven materials and saris to choose from. From Indore, the husband-wife duo have a manufacturing business that employs several local Karigars (artisans). “Our customers range from wholesalers to fashion designers like Manish Malhotra and we sell to stores even, like Fab India”, Manish tells us.

‘Asal’, meaning original, was one more exhibitor that caught our attention. Started in 2001, ‘Asal’  is a store in Ahemdabad with no electricity and kaccha flooring that is dedicated to selling  handcrafted materials . “My aim was to revive Indian traditional fabrics and its industry”, the owner told us. “We get our silk in completely non-violent ways too”.

We left feeling a new-born love for Indian fabrics and with complete respect for the people who have dedicated their lives to the revival of this fast depleting Industry. The event saw a handful of young buyers and we hope that in the coming years the youth realise the importance of this indigenous industry and the hard work that goes into it. Speaking from solely a fashionable point of view, there is no better time than right now to go in for handloom styles. Being championed by most A-listers today, handloom and hand-woven fabrics are today’s fad. Hope to see you at the next exhibition soon!