Drawing inspiration from life: The Tie and Dye of Sambalpuri
Following the lineage of the Mehers, the pioneers in Bandha weave, Prahlad Meher is a weaver in dharma and by karma. Coming from a community of renowned weavers, some of whom are receivers of the prestigious padmashree award, he himself has been honoured by the former president Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam for his skills in weaving bandha sarees. Weaving to him is not merely a profession, it is his passion. His belief is that among the many treasures of India, the heritage derived through a Handloom is one of the most exquisite, a tradition that has been celebrated in the past by kings and commoners alike, in particular, the craftsmanship of the ‘Bandhakala’.
‘Bandhakala’ or ‘Baandha’ is an original style of craft reflected on the Sambalpuri sarees fabrics using the tie-dye technique. Tie-dye technique is a technique where the yarns are tied according to the desired patterns to prevent absorption of dyes, and then dyed. The unique feature of this form is that the designs are reflected almost identically on both sides of the fabric. This versatile technique enables a craftsman to weave colourful designs, patterns and images into a fabric capable of inspiring a thought or conveying a message.
In a profound chat with him, Prahalad interestingly drew similarities between his work of the tie and dye with the four stages in Human life as recognized in Hinduism, they being Brahmacharya, Grihasthashram, Vanaprastha Ashram and Sannyasa. He compares cutting the thread and putting it on a loom, to Brahmacharya. The tie and dye’s ‘Baandha’ is comparable to Grihasthashram; the way a man is bound with responsibilities in Grihasthashram, the threads are bound into a design at this stage. Then the third stage of tie and dye which is colouring the threads is like the Vanaprastha Ashram where one renounces worldly duties and prepares to be coloured in the colours of God. And finally the tying of knot – the last stage of tie and dye is like Sannyasa where man in his last stages is trying to build an eternal connection with God. His interpretation of the textile not only portrays his love for the profession but his deep understanding of our traditions, our culture and life in general.
When asked what he thinks of the future of this art, he says, the art of weaving a Sambalpuri ikkat is a painstaking process, one that calls for lot of time, patience and dedication. While this legacy was being passed on from generation to generation in the past, the future looks sadly uncertain as weaving has lost its pride among the new generation within weaving families who prefer to move to simpler vocations that promise higher remuneration. However, he is positive that the way he regards his passion, his love for his profession and his desire to carry on the legacy over money, there are other handloom connoisseurs as well who will not let this heritage die.
Shatika salutes Prahlad Meher for his undying spirits and vows to make an effort, however small it may be, to realise his dreams.
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